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Governments Must Lead Climate Action

John D. Podesta and other members of the Global Climate Network argue that low-carbon innovations have the potential to improve lives as well as cut greenhouse gas emissions, but this will be squandered unless governments step up and lead.

The fight against climate change will not be won without a technology revolution. In that, the former British prime minister Tony Blair is correct (L’Aquila summit needs to capitalise on global goodwill on climate change, 6 July). Mr Blair is also right to point out that many of the technologies we need to fight climate change are within our grasp.

However, if we are to seize this opportunity, a much better understanding of why we have not yet managed to harness the potential of even some of the most rudimentary low-carbon innovations is desperately needed. Our joint study of the barriers that stand in the way – published later this week – provides some important insights.

We asked more than 100 leading business people, government officials and academics in eight key countries what they thought stood in the way of a grand roll-out of low-carbon technology. They told us that while all of the governments represented at the G8 and Major Economies Forum in Italy this week are doing something to encourage low-carbon technology, not one is yet implementing a coherent low-carbon growth or development strategy.

They also told us that finance is woefully lacking. While the private sector may well be the main source of investment in low-carbon technology, governments have to lead to make new technologies cheaper and less risky.

Success at the climate summit in Copenhagen in December depends upon reaching consensus on several extremely divisive issues. One of these is technology. Low-carbon innovations have the potential to improve lives as well as cut greenhouse gas emissions, but this will be squandered unless governments step up and lead.

John D Podesta President and CEO, Centre for American Progress, USA
Dr Rajendra K Pachauri Director general TERI, India; Chair, IPCC
Professor Jiahua Pan Executive director, Research Centre for Sustainable Development, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China
Dr Rubens Born Director, Vitae Civilis, Brazil
Professor Manfred Fischedick Vice- president, Wuppertal Institute, Germany
John Connor Chief executive, Climate Institute, Australia
Lisa Harker and Carey Oppenheim Co-directors, IPPR, UK
Andrew Gilder Director, IMBEWU sustainability specialists, South Africa
Dr Ewah Eleri Director, International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development, Nigeria

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