Monaco- Agencies:(20/2/2008): Problems connected with climate change, such as the melting of the permafrost and extreme weather events, are increasingly changing the attitudes of leaders from a number of areas, but especially in business, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in its Year Book 2008, presented Wednesday in Monaco.
Climate change is "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," UNEP said in a press statement.
In addition, a so-called green economy appears to be developing "as growing numbers of companies embrace environmental policies and investors pump hundreds of billions of dollars into cleaner and renewable energies," UNEP said.
This green economy is driving inventions and innovation in a great number of fields and "on a scale perhaps not witnessed since the industrial revolution of more than two centuries ago."
An example is the growing interest in geo-engineering projects such as giant carbon dioxide collectors, or "artifical trees," that absorb greenhouse gases from the air.
At a press conference in Monaco, Marion Cheatle, deputy director of UNEP’s Early Warning and Assessment Division, said that the number of major companies engaged in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting, including environmental concerns, has grown from a "handful" in 1993 to 2,771 in 2007.
In addition, CSR reporting is now found among corporations in over 90 countries. According to the report, in a survey of managers of some 150 companies with CSR strategies in the United States, France, Germany and Britain, 54 per cent of respondents said that reducing greenhouse gas emissions and boosting energy efficiency was their number one priority.
However, tough challenges remain to be overcome, UNEP said, including the subsidies that favour fossil fuels over cleaner energies, trade policies that make clean technologies more expensive and "risk-averse lending patterns of banks and other financial institutions when it comes to solar and wind power loans for poorer communities."
UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: "Hundreds of billions of dollars are now flowing into renewable and clean energy technologies and trillions more dollars are waiting in the wings looking to governments for a new and decisive climate regime post-2012 alongside the creative market mechanisms necessary to achieve this."
The UNEP Year Book 2008, the fifth in the series, was presented on the first day of the three-day UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, held under the theme "Mobilizing Finance for the Climate Challenge."
The meeting was attended by some 100 environment ministers as well as senior figures from the worlds of business, organized labour, science and civil society.