The US needs to unleash “the greatest concentration of economic activity since we mobilised for World War II” by embracing new energy technology and regulatory incentives to tackle global warming, according to former US president Bill Clinton.
Speaking to the Financial Times on the eve of the Clinton Global Initiative – the annual New York conference of the ex-president’s global business philanthropy group – Mr Clinton strongly disputed the view that tackling climate change would reduce economic growth.
He contradicted a recent United Nations report that said tackling global warming would involve a sacrifice in economic growth. Mr Clinton also sided with China and India, which he said could not fairly be expected to cut their carbon emissions un-less wealthy countries such as the US first took the lead.
Later this week, George W. Bush is to host a Washington summit on global warming, which will include the leaders of India and China. The CGI is also focusing on climate change in addition to global health, education and poverty alleviation. Mr Clinton will host his first Asian CGI – in Hong Kong – next year.
“There’s way more economic opportunity than cost here, and I think unless we take the lead in the United States, we’ll never get the Indians and the Chinese to do it,” said Mr Clinton.
“But we will never be able to persuade them of that until we put our money where our mouth is . . . There’s money in this. This is economically smart.”
Citing a recent CGI initiative in which Mr Clinton persuaded five banks to stump up $5bn (€3.5bn, £2.5bn) to refit urban buildings that would be paid back by utility savings over time, Mr Clinton said the US should move rapidly to upgrade its regulatory targets to improve energy efficiency.
He cited the UK and Denmark as having created new jobs through new technology investments that had enabled them to avoid the stagnation in median wages that had affected America’s middle classes since 2000.
“In this decade, the UK has had rising median incomes and no increase in inequality because they’ve found a source of new jobs.”
He said Europe’s better focus on energy efficiency explained why it had created 13m new jobs between 2000 and 2005 compared with 8m in the US. More in Financial Times