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Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to the Global Alliance on Banking for Value

Zeist, 3 March 2009 - Zeist, 3 March 2009?Her Royal Highness, Princess Maxima of the Netherlands, our hosts Triodos Bank, members of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

In my work as Executive Director of UNEP, we try to understand what it is that makes society act in one of two ways - on the one hand completely irrationally, and on the other hand with great courage, daring, intelligence and vision.

At the beginning of the 21st century it appears as if the former is carrying the day as humanity behaves in strange, irrational ways in the face of some of the most startling and sobering scientific information - information covering the impact of ozone-depleting substances and greenhouse gases up to chemical pollution and phenomena such as atmospheric brown clouds.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I myself was stunned last year by reactions to the oil price shooting up; our economies and the grand captains of our industry didn't say "well maybe now is the time to try and switch to low carbon alternatives - quite the contrary".

Indeed the reaction to news that Arctic ice is melting away was not to stop and pause but to scramble to look for more oil there as the oceans opened up.

When the price of oil went above $50 a barrel - which was supposedly that magical, impossible threshold when renewable energy could become a great competitor - what also happened here?

Some leading oil companies actually disinvested from renewable energy and invested in the oil sands in Canada. This isn't just irrational behaviour - it is worse than that.

It's a signal that those who have the means to invest, explore and supply us with energy are continuing to head in the wrong direction.

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