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Thursday, December 10, 2009

TIME: Technology, Not Targets, Are What Matters Most in Copenhagen

Originally posted at the Breakthrough Institute

Addressing the global clean technology challenge should be the focus of climate negotiations in Copenhagen, not carbon emissions reduction targets, writes TIME's Bryan Walsh.

TIME's Bryan Walsh emphasizes the need for the additional investments in clean energy technology highlighting the International Energy Agency's call for $10.5 trillion between now and 2030 and citing a recent blog post by the Breakthrough Institute's Jesse Jenkins and Devon Swezey:

But there is one number that may not get discussed much at Copenhagen, even though it is as important as all the others: $10.5 trillion. That is the additional investment needed between now and 2030 to set the world on the path to low-carbon development, according to the International Energy Agency -- a number that is far above the pittance the world currently spends on clean energy research and development (R&D). As Jesse Jenkins and Devon Swezey of the think tank Breakthrough Institute wrote on Dec. 7: "Without measurable progress that dramatically increases global investments in clean energy, we can forget stabilizing global temperatures or atmospheric carbon dioxide at any level."

Walsh continues:

Beyond the policy wars in the halls of U.N. summits or on Capitol Hill, the battle against climate change requires better and cheaper forms of alternative energy, which will need to be deployed fast. Unfortunately, they don't exist.

Citing Breakthrough Senior Fellow Christopher Green and co-author Isabel Galiana's recent commentary in Nature, Walsh adds that improving clean energy technologies requires increased public investment in innovation.

Ultimately, however, we will need better renewable energy technologies -- and that will require increased spending on innovation, in the U.S. and elsewhere. "Energy technology research and development will be essential to decarbonize the global economy," write Green and Galiana.

The current emphasis, in Copenhagen and the U.S., on capping emissions is both politically and publicly unpopular "because they implicitly acknowledge that the world has limits." Walsh concludes by quoting Breakthrough's Michael Shellenberger:

But technology offers the promise that with the right breakthroughs, we can keep growing. "Investing in R&D to make clean energy cheap is the most popular energy proposal there is," says Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute. That may be a global deal everyone can embrace.

Click here to access the full article.

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