BRUSSELS – The need for clean energy has returned to the top of the global economic agenda. China’s new leadership now seems to recognize that the thick, hazardous smog that has come to define Beijing and other cities is more than a pollution problem; it is a result of an excessive emphasis on short-term economic planning.
Likewise, in his second inaugural address, US President Barack Obama discussed climate change more than any other issue, saying, “We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries.” At the World Economic Forum in Davos, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim surprised business and government leaders with their warnings that genuine economic recovery would be impossible without serious action on climate change. And, at the most recent EU summit, leaders agreed to commit at least 20% of their entire common budget to climate-related spending.
These developments suggest that global leaders are finally beginning to understand that, beyond the global economic crisis, the world is experiencing a social and employment crisis, as well as a climate and resource crisis. And none can be resolved without addressing the others.
Moreover, Europe’s main commercial competitors have begun to recognize that pursuing short-term development policies, while ignoring long-term threats to the global economy, is both irresponsible and a strategic mistake for those who aspire to global leadership in the twenty-first century. Although Europeans have known this for decades, in the wake of the recent economic crisis, immediate goals took priority over – and often at the expense of – long-term objectives.