Elliot Morley | BBC News
The world’s focus is rightly on the turmoil in the financial markets and the global economic slowdown.
Some commentators, indeed some politicians, have used the deteriorating economic circumstances to argue that tackling climate change through the transition to a low-carbon economy is a luxury item; saying it is too expensive, could damage competitiveness, and should be a secondary political objective.
This is an understandable view but, in my opinion, it is short-sighted.
The global economy and the climate system are linked and the current slowdown represents a unique opportunity to use public sector investment to kick-start the economy and build the low-carbon infrastructure we need for our long-term prosperity.
The low-carbon economy is an integral part of economic recovery, not an optional bolt on.
Some economists are arguing that in order to kick-start the economy, governments will need to invest in major infrastructure projects to help stimulate demand in the economy, increase investment and create jobs.
This presents us with a unique opportunity to create the low-carbon infrastructure we need for our future prosperity, such as more renewable energy generation, better public transport networks, smarter and more flexible electricity grids, “retrofitting” buildings to increase energy efficiency, and a network of pipelines to carry captured CO2 from fossil fuel power plants to storage sites under the North Sea.
This investment in infrastructure, together with policies to structure financial and industrial markets to deliver social and environmental goods, would help reignite the economy, reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels and improve energy and climate security.
The political will has been found to stabilise the banking crisis. Now we need that same political will to tackle the economic slowdown to tackle the twin challenges of climate and energy security.
So, what are the building blocks required to generate the political support to drive economic investment into a low-carbon future?
Firstly, we need a global political agreement on how to tackle climate change beyond 2012. Most eyes are focusing on the UN meeting in Copenhagen in 2009 for a settlement.
However, if negotiations are to be successful, the political conditions must be created beforehand. The Italian G8 Summit next July is a key milestone.
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