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Seize the Sustainable Future

For the first time in years, a healthy dose of optimism seems to be in order, as the global economy recovers and becomes increasingly green. And yet the risk remains that recent gains will be frittered away if policymakers, business leaders, and investors focus on short-term concerns at the expense of long-term threats.

BEIJING – For the first time in years, a healthy dose of optimism seems to be in order. The global economy – a few trouble spots aside – is finally moving beyond the financial crisis. Technological breakthroughs have put renewable energy on a competitive footing with fossil fuels. And the international community seems poised to forge critical agreements on sustainable development and the fight against climate change.

And yet the risk remains that these gains will be frittered away, as policymakers, business leaders, and investors focus on short-term concerns at the expense of looming threats to the global economy. If we are to lock in our progress, we will need to address the failures of our financial system at their roots, putting in place standards, regulations, and practices that make it compatible with the long-term needs of a more inclusive, sustainable economy.

This year, the world has the potential to do just that. The transition to a green economy now seems to be a certainty, rather than a hopeful aspiration, as growing public acceptance and technological advances make investments in clean energy increasingly practical. In 2014, global investment in renewable energy increased by 17%, even as oil prices plummeted, according to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The trend was driven by a boom in solar energy in China and Japan and increasing European investment in off-shore wind power.

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