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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
UNEP discusses breaking down barriers to a green economy in new Yearbook
Article Type: Features From: Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal, Volume 19, Issue 5
An emerging Green Economy is glimpsed in the latest United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Yearbook as growing numbers of companies embrace environmental policies and investors pump hundreds of billions of dollars into cleaner and renewable energies. Climate change, as documented in the Year Book, is increasingly changing the global environment from the melting of permafrost and glaciers to extreme weather events. But it is also beginning to change the mind-sets, policies and actions of corporate heads, financiers and entrepreneurs as well as leaders of organized labour, governments and the United Nations itself.
Increasingly, combating climate change is being perceived as an opportunity rather than a burden and a path to a new kind of prosperity as opposed to a brake on profits and employment, the new report shows. The UNEP Year Book 2008 says the emerging green economy is also driving invention, innovation and the imagination of engineers on a scale perhaps not witnessed since the industrial revolution of more than two centuries ago.
It includes the growing interest in novel “geo-engineering” projects such as giant carbon dioxide (C02) collectors that absorb greenhouse gases from the air rather like trees do during photosynthesis.
“Based on technology used in fish tank filters and developed by scientists from Colombia University’s Earth Institute, this method called ‘air capture’ can collect the C02 at the location of the ideal geological deposits for storage”, says the report.
Meanwhile, scientists in Iceland and elsewhere are looking at injecting C02 into that country’s abundant basalt rocks where it is claimed the pollutant reacts to form inert limestone. Similar “sequestration rocks” exist in geological formations across much of the world and may provide a safe and long term disposal option for the main greenhouse gas emissions.
Elsewhere, scientists are helping to unravel both the uncertainties and the opportunities posed by the enormous quantities of methane trapped in the seabed and in arctic permafrost. As a greenhouse gas methane is 25 times more potent than CO2 so the possibility of dramatic increases in methane emissions from these deposits is a global warming “wildcard” – a growing source of concern. At the same time, methane hydrates are a potentially large stockpile of clean-burning fuel, if ways can be found of mining them safely and economically.
Despite a great deal of activity and action, formidable challenges remain if all these fledgling transformations are to be sustained and embedded in the global economy over the coming years and decades. The Road Map is the climate negotiation agreement scheduled to be completed by the climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in 2009 in order to deliver a post 2012 climate regime. Further details on the Yearbook are available at: www.unep.org/