Not surprisingly, the global financial and economic crisis is dominating discussions here. Climate change deserves at least equal attention, not just because of the enormity of the problem, but because solutions to the economic crisis must be environmentally sustainable.
Climate change is not just an environmental issue. It has deepening economic implications and is a contributing factor to the background conditions that give rise to conflict. Competition for resources is intensifying and more people are forced to move. Our addiction to fossil fuels is not just bad for the environment but determines the political landscape—both internationally and within countries.
Also Read Kofi Annan’s first two columns on Davos
Instead of competition for access to oil and gas fields, we need competition to harness renewable energy—wind, thermal and solar. The technology exists and is getting better all the time. But the market is still too small and investment levels are hostage to the volatility of oil prices.
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Also See Africa Progress Panel
It is crazy that as the world heats up both politically and literally, and evidence mounts of the negative impact of fossils fuels on life, health and food security, we are still fumbling around. We need nothing less than a global green equivalent of the Marshall Plan.
This must include support—financial and technical—to support poorer countries to adapt to the effects of climate change. Without such support, there cannot be a fair solution. Any lasting agreement at Copenhagen must recognize that while the poorest 50 countries are responsible for less than 1% of emissions, they will suffer the worst impact.
In the morning ,Al Gore said that in meetings with advisers, US President Barack Obama is always “the greenest person in the room”. Nothing could be more encouraging and the hopes vested in him are enormous. This is a time for decisive political leadership.
But business leaders and financiers, who after all need to re-legitimize their profession as so many have said here, could do much more. The visionaries are still lone voices. We need serious commitment; I hope we hear it before Davos ends.
Kofi Annan is a former secretary general of the United Nations.
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