Leading experts on low carbon economies this week urged governments across the globe to adopt a joined up approach to tackling climate change.
Speaking at the World Forum on Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University’s Smith School, former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev urged all nations to come up with an international plan.
“Of course corporate and national interests will always remain. But priority has to be given to global interests,” said Gorbachev, now president of energy lobbying group Green Cross International. “Jointly we can do this and the consensus is that this is the only way we can do this.”
European environment commissioner Janez Potočnik agreed that the biggest obstacle to the creation of low carbon economies was to create a single purpose.
“The challenges we face are simply calling for joint action,” he said.
The forum was being held this week to outline a vision for sustainable mobility for people and freight and as a call for urgent action following the limited success of the COP15 talks in Copenhagen last year.
Smith School founder and former government chief scientific adviser Sir David King said regions and countries needed “matching frameworks” that set out how to mitigate against climate change.
“Whenever we delay, we lose. History does not forgive those who delay”
“Copenhagen was a wake up call and clearly showed we need to rethink how we move to a defossilised economy,” he said.
“Low carbon growth is potentially the biggest stimulus to our economy,” he said.
Gorbachev added that there could be no delay. “Whenever we delay, we lose. History does not forgive those who delay,” he said. “A reasonable alternative to sustainable development does not exist, but little is being done.”
Potočnik and United States energy secretary Steven Chu stressed that the while there were pressures created by relying on fossil fuels, there were also opportunities.
“Investing now will generate new income opportunities,” said Potočnik. He added that he hoped that economy and environment would become interlinked.
“I hope to see environment ministers begin to talk about the economy and economic ministers begin to talk about environmental issues,” he said.
Chu said that the US was becoming more and more aware of its over-reliance on oil.
“The price of oil will be higher in the coming decades,” he told delegates, although he added that a shift to find more sustainable sources of fuel was being witnessed. “President Obama and his administration are very motivated for this,” he said.
“The role of technology innovation is constantly underestimated.”
Chu added that he saw innovation in biofuels as one of the best solutions to decarbonising transport in the US. Other speakers said that still more can be done by governments to acceleratethe low carbon transition.
Shell International Trading & Shipping director Jan Kopernicki said market incentives were “urgently needed” to force the shipping industry as a whole to innovate on low carbon. He added that carbon trading had not gone far enough to create the “regime change” that is needed and that there was virtually no such trading going on now.