Many feared that a recession would undermine the growth of sustainability, current events appear to indicate otherwise. It is well known that difficult economic times encourage greater efficiency, but the woeful state of the economy is also the reason why economists and others argue that massive Green infrastructure investments are the right prescriptions for our ailing economies.
In the US President Obama plans to invest $150 billion in clean energy and hopes to create 5 million new jobs. The Obama stimulus package now in the Senate reflects the wisdom of Green investment on a massive scale. The bill as it stands will provide $20 billion in tax cuts for wind, geothermal, and bioenergy. Electric grid infrastructure will get $32 billion and $16 billion has been allotted for energy efficiency building retrofits. This stimulus will create a 21st century infrastructure and represents the biggest construction project in US history.
Europe is investing in Greener cars led by the economic engines of the UK and Germany. The UK government has announced funding of GBP250m (€275m) to help the car industry invest in the development of low-carbon vehicles. German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised a $67 billion (€50 billion) subsidy for the country’s car industry tied to the development of world-leading green vehicles with the lowest greenhouse emissions.
In Asia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and China have announced that they will invest billions of dollars in green projects to create jobs and spur economic growth. According to an Environmental News article, Japan has announced that it aims to create up to 1 million new jobs, and offer interest free loans for Green companies. South Korea will invest 38 billion dollars in eco-projects over the next four years with the aim of creating 960,000 new jobs. “The 36 projects include the creation of Green transport networks, the provision of two million energy-saving ‘green homes’ and the clean-up of the country’s four main rivers.”
According to an article in China Dialogue, China announced that it is investing at least 350 billion yuan (US$51 billion) for biological conservation and environmental protection. China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection announced that the stimulus will “not be spent in the energy and resource-intensive industries or high-pollution industries” and will benefit the renewable energy and pollution-control industries.
In October, the UN Environment Program launched the Global Green New Deal and Green Economy Initiative “as both an antidote to current economic woes and as a springboard to a low carbon, low impact, high job generating and better-managed global economy. UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, said: “Investments in clean-tech and renewable energy; infrastructure such as railways and cycle tracks and nature-based services like river systems and forests, can not only counter recession and unemployment but can also set the stage for more sustainable economic recovery and growth in the 21st century.” The UN Secretary-General also outlined a Global Green New Deal as the best chance for securing a ‘sound and solid’ climate agreement in Copenhagen in late 2009.
It is fitting that in the Chinese language, the symbol for crisis is also a symbol representing opportunity. Without the global recession we would not have seen the kind of Green stimulus packages we are seeing. As indicated by the UN Secretary-General, the recession also provides a powerful incentive for international agreement on climate change.
The economy of the future will reward nations and businesses that have low emissions and use resources efficiently. A Green stimulus fosters a more competitive economy that is able to meet the challenges that loom before us.
Rather than causing people to abandon Green, the economic crisis seems to be galvanizing action from governments around the world. The International Energy Agency projects that renewable energy will be by far the fastest-growing part of the global energy sector over the next decade. Wind energy alone is expected to see more than $1 trillion in new investment. The rapid growth of clean energy, fuel-efficient cars, and other green sectors make it clear that the world is moving toward a low carbon economy. Led by renewable energy, this trend will continue and Green markets will keep growing.
An economic stimulus package is about more than addressing a serious economic problem; it is about seizing the opportunity to increase the viability of the human race by making our economies less destructive to our environment.