Published online 30 March 2009 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2009.206


Stern message for G20 summit

Stimulus packages must focus more resources on clean energy and averting climate change, report says.

The global economic recession will probably cost tens of millions of jobs this year, but the crisis could also boost the transition towards cleaner and more efficient energy and transport systems.

That's the message of a report delivered to the leaders of the world's largest national economies, who will meet at the G20 summit in London on 2 April.

'Towards a Global Green Recovery', produced on behalf of the German Foreign Office, was written by Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK.

pie chartSome G20 nations are devoting huge amounts of their economic stimulus packages to green measures.Source:Towards a Global Green Recovery

They set out key measures, such as improving energy efficiency and developing carbon capture and storage technologies, which they say G20 countries must take to tackle the economic crisis and to facilitate low-carbon growth.

The report also includes the first comprehensive, if tentative, analysis of how economic stimulus money is being spent by the G20 nations. They estimate that almost US$400 billion of the total $2,610 billion in economic stimulus packages unveiled so far by the G20 nations have been earmarked for green measures such as renewable power generation, improved electricity grids and cleaner cars (see chart).

That green stimulus spending is at roughly the same level that would be needed to be invested every year to set the world on a low-carbon path, according to a recent analysis by global business consultancy McKinsey & Company. But green investment must outlast the current boom in public expenditure, warns Edenhofer. "Without the transition towards a low-carbon global energy system, the next economic crisis is pre-programmed," he says.

Edenhofer and Stern say that China, often perceived as the world's biggest polluter, is set to spend about $200 billion on green stimulus in 2009 and 2010, representing 4.8% of its gross domestic product in 2008.

That compares with $112.2 billion of investment in green projects by the United States, representing 0.8% of its gross domestic product in 2008, and 11.5% of its total stimulus package. Meanwhile, South Korea plans to spend more than 80% of its $38-billion stimulus package on green measures in the next four years.

More downturn blues at our Recession Watch special.

In contrast, the UK government has been criticized by a London-based think-tank, the New Economics Foundation, for spending too little of its stimulus package on efforts that would benefit the environment.

Meanwhile, on 28 March, President Barack Obama invited the world's 16 largest economies and the European Union to participate in a forum on energy and climate, to be held on 27–28 April in Washington DC. The meeting will "help generate the political leadership necessary to achieve a successful outcome at the UN climate change negotiations that will convene this December in Copenhagen", according to a White House news release.

And government leaders are due to meet again in July in La Maddalana, Italy, to discuss joint ventures in clean energy and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. 


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  • #59787

    wow! Even more evidence of an economic downturn.
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  • #60652

    The solution to climate change will come from the market. It is no coincidence that the suppossedly ‘evil’ corporate giants Shell have already built the first hydrogen fuel station in America and the multinational corporations have invested more time and money into a cleaner energy economy than all the governments of the world combined. Our hope lies with scientists and researchers into new fuels, not with politicians that Lord Stern clearly has too much faith in. lewisi

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