Former President Bill Clinton warned that the US needs to cut its consumption of natural resources to curb climate change and rising prices. He stated that by using our resources more sustainably that the economy would recover faster, thus ending the current recession.
“We can grow even faster if we use less energy,” Clinton told the Guardian. “We have studies that show this. All that we need to do is find ways to finance this.”
Our current financial system favors the building of large infrastructure, such as coal-fired power plants, and is impeding progress of renewable technologies. Investors have decades of financial expertise building coal-fired plants. They already know the time frame to expect a return on their investment. However, investors are leery of backing renewable projects because the financial models for such projects do not yet exist. Likewise, financing for energy efficient projects is more complex and the payback is spread out among several investors.
“This is the problem with going aggressively for efficiency, as we need to,” Clinton said. “If I want to finance efficiency savings, I need to go to lots of people and add all those savings together. But if I want to build a new coal-fired power station, I go to a few [backers] and I’ve done it.”
The former president also discussed the need for countries worldwide to work harder to cut greenhouse gases from sources other than carbon dioxide, such as methane. He called on individual citizens to assist by reducing their own environmental impact. He cited the work of biologist EO Wilson whose research shows that complex societies, such as the human race, prosper through co-operation or building networks among one another to solve a problem.
President Clinton’s above statements were spoken at a two day environmental conference this week at Oxford, attended by oversea leaders and representatives from business and finance. The conference aimed to find solutions to the problems that are associated with the loss of natural resources (i.e. water, energy, agricultural land and other materials).
The former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, Sir David King, had this to say about the problem of resource scarcity:
“We are nowhere near realizing the full impact of this yet. We have seen the first indications – rising food prices, pressure on water supplies, a land grab by some countries for mining rights and fertile agricultural land, and rising prices for energy and for key resources [such as] metals. But we need to do far more to deal with these problems before they become even more acute, and we are not doing enough yet.”
Other UK politicians called for an end to subsidies for fossil fuels that they say only encourage continued use of non-renewable resources and stifle the support for renewable technologies, thus impeding progress.
Parliament member, David Miliband, told conference attendees that there is a “moral imperative” for wealthy countries to use fewer natural resources.
To read the original article by Fiona Harvey of the Guardian, July 13, 2012, click here