THE BLOG

The Route to Economic Recovery Lies in Climate Recovery

05/29/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

President Obama has invigorated the debate on climate action and clean energy both in the United States, and internationally.

This isn't just good news for our planet and energy security, but for our economic recovery and future prosperity as countries the world over fight the global recession.

In Britain and in the US, tough economic times led some people to say that we should row back on tackling climate change and delay any moves to a low carbon economy.

But now we know that the route to economic recovery lies in climate recovery.

As President Obama, Britain's Prime Minister Brown, and other world leaders have recognized, a green and sustainable economy is a vital component of the world's economic upturn.

The move to a low carbon economy is not just a way of preventing ecological disaster some years in the future, but it is also an opportunity for now.

Progressive business groups, including energy companies, recognize that business opportunities and jobs are to be found in green technology, manufacturing and energy supplies.

Our approach in the UK, and the approach we hope will succeed here in the US, in China, India and in all the world's major economies, is simple: we will turn the challenges of energy security and climate security into opportunities for businesses to become leaders in clean energy and low carbon technologies.

Here in the US, the opportunities for wind, wave and solar power to be harnessed in places from Texas, to Virginia, to the Northwest, could create millions of jobs, and billions of dollars of investment. To give businesses certainty, we need all the world's economies to agree that they will do their part to reduce emissions too.

And also take the issue of energy generated from coal. The future of coal poses the starkest dilemma we face: it is a polluting fuel, but is used across the world because it is low cost and it is flexible enough to meet fluctuations in demand for power.

To square this circle, last week I outlined to the British Parliament our plans for the biggest demonstration of carbon capture and storage technology in the world.

This includes:

  • A major push on the technology: up to four new projects to demonstrate carbon capture and storage, each one ten times bigger than the largest currently running in the world, and together meaning we are doing more than any other country.
  • The end of unabated coal: I proposed a new rule that no new coal power station will get consent without demonstrating carbon capture from day one, on about 25 per cent of its output. Applications that don't demonstrate carbon capture and storage will be turned down.
  • And a clear commitment to low-carbon coal once it's proven: there will an independent judgement about when the technology is proven, and once it is, power stations will have to fit it not just on a part of the plant but on 100 per cent of their output.

A solution that can -- with the right strategic lead and investment from government -- once and for all settle this issue. I've already had discussions with Energy Secretary Chu as to how we can work together on CCS.

The issue of how we can radically accelerate the spread of cleaner technology -- for the benefit of the climate and for a permanent green recovery -- will be discussed at an international meeting taking place in Washington today.

The Major Economies Forum will bring together elected officials from every continent of the world to assess how we can break through the deadlock that has characterised climate talks.

Success at the Forum, and crucially at the international climate negotiations that will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark in December will help unlock these green opportunities and set the world on a clear path that protects our environment, and promotes a green recovery.

There are big issues we still need to resolve. Agreeing how money and technology should flow from one nation to another and how we put a value on rainforests, is a lot harder than agreeing that climate change needs action. Actually getting economies to move towards low carbon, with all the investment and new rules that will be needed, is a harder task still.

If governments and our businesses and citizens want it enough, a global deal to prevent climate change further damaging our environment, and our economies, is within reach. And one which once and for all will tie together our economic prosperity, energy security and the protection of our climate.