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Speech by Mr. Achim Steiner at the Opening of the Global Business Summit for the Environment

Singapore, 22 April 2008 - Distinguished guests, members of the global business community, ladies and gentlemen.

We meet here in Singapore for the B4E after 12 months of quite extraordinary developments in terms of climate change and the global response.

In December last year, governments set aside- in quite dramatic ways- narrow national differences in agreeing the Bali Road Map.

This is the two year negotiation to realize a deep and decisive climate regime by the climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in late 2009.

There are many milestones on this route. The meeting in Singapore this week is one of them. It needs to make a contribution to both the greenhouse gas cutting agenda, but also the adaptation one too.

For while a path has been laid out for emissions reductions, we know that even our best efforts will still lead to some measure of climate impacts which will fall hardest on the most vulnerable economies and communities.

The ultimate goal and prize is delivering Green Growth and Green Economies?ones that fundamentally shift the way we all produce and consume the Earth's natural resources from a wasteful path to one that is sustainable.

We are already glimpsing the elements of Green Growth and I would like to congratulate here the work of the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific for making an important contribution to the policy dialogue in this region.

The greening of growth that is now emerging is being propelled by the existing climate agreement and by the prospective of even tighter rules and regulations on carbon-based pollution.

Driven too by the continuing evidence from scientists?not just on climate change but also on the wider range of sustainability challenges from ever diminishing fish stocks to loss of top soils and biodiversity.

Green Creativity

Creativity is one tangible expression?companies are looking at technical and scientific problems in new ways and with new eyes.

Take the case of IBM and its plans for cooling computer servers announced at the recent CeBIT electronics exhibition in Germany last month.

It may come as a surprise to some but data centres world-wide consume about 120 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

Collectively they produce around two per cent of global C02 emissions, equal to those from aviation.

Many data centres are also intolerable places to work ?they are simply so hot that only a fraction of the people that could work there do.

The solution being proposed are micro filaments that will run water through computer chips, pass the liquid through a heat exchanger and use the harvested heat to for local homes.

And what about cement, a ubiquitous substance in the modern world which few of us even think about despite living in buildings and driving on roads made out of the stuff.

Global cement production and its transportation emits about five to 10 per cent of global C02 emissions and this, as with the computing industry, is set to rise?or is it?

Engineers and scientists are now looking how to produce concrete differently?one might say more intelligently.

Substituting natural wastes such as sugar residues and rice husks for some of the cement is one avenue. Others are looking at human bone.

Cement and bone are molecularly similar. Yet it takes temperatures of 1.200 degrees C to make cement while bone is made by the body at 37 degrees C.

Meanwhile, research centres in Kenya and in the United States are trying to isolate the enzyme that termites produce to dissolve woody wastes into sugars.

It could become the basis of a new and perhaps less controversial second generation biofuels industry.

Green Markets

Green Growth and Green Creativity is also emerging in the financial markets and via new and innovative market mechanisms?indeed the mobilization of finance in order to meet the climate challenge is also a new and defining development of the past 12 months or so.

The Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol may deliver up to a $100 billion of investment into cleaner energy and forestry projects in developing countries.

The decision to include Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation within the Bali Road Map at the climate change meeting in Indonesia, alongside Norway's announcement of $2.7 billion to provide tangible support, is also transformational.

An estimated 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation. And in providing economic incentives to conserve standing forests, we can also do a tremendous amount towards reversing the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010 and beyond.

Indeed, if we had a breakthrough in Bali then we also need a breakthrough in Bonn, Germany, next month at the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting.

For while we may be turning the corner on climate change the same cannot be said for biodiversity and the economically important ecosystems of which it is an integral part.

Perhaps some of the emerging market mechanisms in relation to energy and climate could be applied to the world's nature-based assets.

Let me cite a few further examples and pardon me if I dwell somewhat on what UNEP is doing?because our role in this transformation may, like the emissions from computer servers, surprise you.

? The Principles for Responsible Investment, facilitated by UNEP's Finance Initiative and the Global Compact in 2006, now has 300 financial institutions on board, with assets of $13 trillion.

? UNEP's Sustainable Energy Finance Initiative (SEFI) is emerging as a thriving network of financiers. SEFI's report last year underlined how capital is mobilizing towards these low-carbon sectors, with total transactions surpassing the $100 billion milestone in 2006 and reaching nearly $160 billion in 2007.

? UNEP will, in 2008, launch a new Sustainable Energy Finance Alliance that groups together leading public finance agencies investing in clean energy sector development.

? In collaboration with the United Nations Foundation and Shell Foundation, UNEP has helped two of India's largest banking groups?Canara Bank and Syndicate Bank?create a credit market for helping rural villages finance the purchase of solar lighting systems.

? 100,000 people in southern India have benefited and the initiative is now self-financing, with some 20 banks involved. The Programme was awarded the prestigious Energy Globe Award in 2007.

? In Tunisia a similar initiative has created a credit market for bank financing of solar hot water systems. Over 20,000 systems have been financed, increasing annual market volume more than 700 per cent since 2004.

? The positive results have led the Tunisian government to enact legislation aimed at decreasing the country's reliance on using Liquid Petroleum Gas for water heating by instead helping homeowners make the shift to solar.

? UNEP and partners such as UNDP and the World Bank are also building the capacity of some 30 developing countries to access the carbon markets for financing climate-friendly infrastructure.

? These multi-million dollar initiatives, including ones under the Nairobi Framework, fall under the umbrella of the CD4CDM programme (capacity building for the Clean Development Mechanism)?the largest initiative of its kind.

There are other ways to address the constraints and risks of a renewables revolution. The geothermal electricity potential in Africa is estimated at 7,000 megawatts.

? With funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNEP and the World Bank are just about to launch the African Rift Geothermal Facility (ARGeo). The $17 million project will underwrite the risks of drilling for steam and in doing so build the confidence of the private sector to build geothermal power stations from countries such as Kenya up to Djibouti.

? UNEP/GEF's Solar and Wind Resource Assessment Partnerships have 'found' 10 million megawatts of solar and wind energy in 26 developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, thereby facilitating public and private sector development.

? With $20 million in GEF and UN Foundation support, UNEP is also working with the Asian and African Development Banks to leverage private sector financial flows towards clean energy entrepreneurs. Over 50 entrepreneurial businesses specializing in clean energy technologies and services have been financed to date in Africa, Brazil and China.

? We are working to boost energy efficiency in a sector using 40 per cent of the world's energy and generating a third of the global greenhouse gas emissions?I refer to UNEP's Sustainable Buildings and Construction Initiative.

? We are also developing, in partnership with the insurance sector, new weather derivatives and other instruments that help renewable energy developers to manage project risks such as low wind speeds and uncertain biomass fuel supply.

? In 2007, UNEP was also invited to join the board of the Corporate Sustainability Index of BOVESPA?the Brazilian stock exchange which, along with South Africa, is championing environment, social and governance issues in developing world markets.

? Carbon markets are also expanding including the Chicago Climate Exchange and the Asia Carbon Market here in Singapore.

These examples, among hundreds of others are vital proof that investing in the transformation of our economies is both viable and scaleable.

So we have Green Growth underway, we are witnessing Green Creativity and Green Markets emerging in the areas of science and technology and in the financial sector.

Green Jobs

We also have the emerging phenomenon of Green Jobs. UNEP is compiling research on this in collaboration with International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Congress of Trades Unions (ICTU).

Currently there are now more people employed in the renewable energy industries than in the oil and gas industry?2.3 million versus 2 million.

? Hansen, a wind power gear box maker owned by the Indian company Suzlon is building a new factory in Coimbatore which will supply up to 3,000 gear boxes and employ 800 people. A second factory just built in Tianjan, China, will employ 600 people.

? The Indian city of Delhi is introducing new eco-friendly compressed natural gas buses which will create an additional 18,000 new jobs.

Green UN

The UN itself is part of the transformation. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has not only made climate change among his priority issues, but has also initiated action on greening the institution.

Last year, heads of UN agencies and programmes including UNEP adopted a decision to work towards climate neutrality. The UN spends about $15 billion a year, meaning that such a move can have important repercussions on the greening of national and regional economies.

Green Grassroots

We are also witnessing the mobilization of all sectors of society. Let me mention the Billion Tree Campaign, an initiative coordinated by UNEP and the World AgroForestry Centre under the patronage of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai and His Serene Highness, Prince Albert II of Monaco.

It was launched at the climate convention meeting in Nairobi in 2006 and has surpassed all our initial expectations with now over two billion trees planted.

Heads of state including the presidents of Indonesia, the Maldives, Mexico, Turkey and Turkmenistan to businesses; cities; faith, youth and community groups and individuals have enthusiastically taken part.

? In a single day in Uttar Pradesh, India, 10.5 million trees planted

? 35 million young people in Turkey mobilized

? 500,000 schoolchildren in sub-Saharan Africa and the United Kingdom engaged.

Proof, if proof were needed, that the global public want tangible action on climate change and are prepared to roll up their sleeves by the millions in order to demonstrate their commitment.

We have now set our sights even higher with the aim of planting over six billion trees?one for each person alive on the planet by the climate convention meeting in 2009.

Hurdles to the Green Economy

Ladies and gentlemen, the question is will all this formal and voluntary activity persist and become embedded in the economic development paths of all countries over the coming few crucial years.

It is important to recall that during the oil crisis of the late 1970s, one billion dollars was invested globally in photo voltaic research.

It triggered a 50 per cent improvement in photo cell efficiency, but then petered out as the crisis receded and the oil price came down.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is every chance that the transformations underway are possible in the short, medium to long-term but this is not guaranteed?there are still many hills to climb and hurdles to leap-frog.

In February, UNEP hosted it annual gathering of environment ministers at our Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum in the Principality of Monaco with the Green Economy and the challenges to fully realizing it central to the debates.

Several key papers outlined some of the current institutional barriers but also some of the benefits that may arise by breaking those down.

Let me cite a few.


Currently, fossil fuel subsidies amount up to $200 billion a year versus support for low-carbon technologies of an estimated $33 billion annually. Removing fossil fuel subsidies could reduce C02 emissions by five to six per cent annually.


Currently the pace of investment in research and development is insufficient. The International Energy Agency estimates that R+D for low emission innovations such as renewables and energy savings declined by 50 per cent between 1980 and 2004.

In order to achieve a C02 stabilization target of 550 parts per million, support for innovation needs to rise from just over $30 billion to $90 billion by 2015 and to $160 billion by 2025 according to some experts.

Energy Savings

Over recent years, advances and investments in energy savings in transport and power generation, industry and households, have been reducing the intensity of energy used by 1 to 1.5 per cent a year.

Experts say, if the annual rate of improvement in energy efficiency could be doubled to 2.5 per cent worldwide, it might be possible to keep carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere below 550 parts per million (ppm) through the end of the century.

These should be supported by policies including stronger energy savings building codes for new and existing structures; penalties or disincentives for builders to choose the cheapest, least energy efficient designs, materials and gadgets.

Other actions could include policies that promote mass transit especially rail and international minimum performance standards for industrial and household appliances.

Other measures include the promotion of utility pricing that favours energy efficiency; promotes combined heat and power and improves energy savings in existing power plants and electricity transmission infrastructure.


Policies that increase the uptake of renewables may include 'feed-in laws' that guarantee a fixed price for each unit of renewable electricity generated alongside regulations that boost access to the Grid.

Government agencies and donors need to develop and deploy new forms of 'end-user' credit schemes to assist consumers to purchase climate mitigation technologies and systems.

New approaches are needed to assist small to medium-sized enterprises innovate including enterprise development services and seed capital.

Attention needs to be paid to new financial and regulatory solutions that address the lack of local currency financing in least developed economies-this is effectively shutting out such economies from low C02 emitting infrastructure developments.

Harnessing the 'green procurement' potential of local authorities through financial incentives that stimulate voluntary low carbon investments.


Public investments are needed to mobilize finance for adaptation given that market mechanisms are in their infancy.

Other actions for adaptation include regulations to limit the vulnerability of new investments and infrastructure such as bans on building in flood prone areas and new, labour intensive, programme to 'climate proof' rural areas that improve resilience of local populations; address poverty; boost incomes and increase the skills base.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The private sector is moving?moving down the Bali Road Map. It is time to accelerate that mobilization. Here in Singapore is a good time.

Your contribution to building a global atmosphere of confidence in the art of the possible will play a central role in empowering political leaders to meet the deadline of 2009 and assist in putting in place a new regime, operational post-2012.

The alternative is unconscionable and made clear from the latest assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?established by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organisation.

From the melting away of the Himalayan glaciers to the loss of up to a third of the infrastructure of the African coastline, the prospects for business; for communities and for the poor and the vulnerable are indeed bleak.

Indeed, the boom and bust cycles of the past will to my mind be as nothing to those of the near future in a climate constrained world.

These will be some of the heavy costs of inaction. But what of the costs of action?the IPCC estimates these at perhaps 0.1 or 0.2 of one per cent of global GDP a year for 30 years.

This is an average: Different economies will benefit or bear the burden in differing ways?this is among the challenges that could lead to detours and dead ends during the path along the Road Map.

However, ladies and gentlemen one of the central achievements of Bali was that both developed and developing countries acknowledged that climate change is everyone's challenges and everyone's opportunity.

This is mirrored in a more modest way by a new initiative, launched by UNEP in February that is catalyzing a global interest in not just emission cutting but the inspirational notion of a zero emission world.

Five countries- Costa Rica, Iceland, Monaco, New Zealand and Norway alongside several cities and companies including Senoko Power here in Singapore?were the founding participants of the Climate Neutral Network.

And I would urge you to look at the web site www.unep.org/climateneutral and consider joining with others on this truly exciting journey.

The comments of Roberto Dobles, Minister of Environment and Energy for Costa Rica who supported the idea from conception to birth, are perhaps the most poignant and the most relevant for everyone in and outside this room.

"Costa Rica seeks to be climate neutral in 2021, unilaterally, because even though our emissions are small, we believe there is a common yet differentiated responsibility. The successful economies of the future will be those that are decarbonized and climate friendly?we are not part off the problem. But we will be part of the solution".

Thank You.




Further Resources

Global Business Summit for the Environment (B4E)


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