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Climate Change and Capitalism

The world is in a frenzy mood to tackle climate change and halt greenhouse emissions. Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in December 2009 was flooded with government leaders, climate change negotiators, energy executives, environmentalists and advocates. The world is at a knife edge of history to discuss how we want to save the breath of the next generation. We are looking for an update on the Kyoto protocol and how developed countries and highly emitting countries will set targets to cut global emissions.

The world is inching for huge financial aid to the poor developing countries who feel the effects of climate change most. Announcements were made to help developing countries to mitigate against the adverse effects of climate change. We understand these are not moments for loud applause and vain oratory, we all demanded forthright action. Unfortunately, Copenhagen gave no binding agreements but that we all acknowledge we need to do better to mitigate against climate change.

With green the buzzword on every lip, the world is bracing up for a new revolution that will create jobs, raise fresh entrepreneurs, investment opportunities, ground breaking technology and highly competitive products. The growth of internet and computing in 1990s evolved large companies with huge influence around the globe. Google, Amazon, Apple, Twitter, Facebook are the few of leading examples that are products of the glorious era. As talks on cutting carbon emissions intensify, the growth of clean technologies is definitely the next field global ecosystem will interplay. We are bracing up for stellar innovations in materials efficiency, recycling, renewable energy, energy efficiency, conservation and so on. Corporate organizations are developing platforms to consider profit, people and the planet.

The atmosphere of incredible possibilities is definitely going to be led to private companies. Capitalism goes to test again as companies with use creativity, innovation and investment opportunities to harness all forms sustainable energy. We all expect to see an astronomical growth in green technology in the nearest future as the market is evolving and consumers more inquisitive about the ‘behind scenes’ of their products. We hope to witness better and economical wind farms, solar power panels, carbon capture storage systems, retrofitting homes, electric vehicles, biofuel solutions and so on. As we watch the looming dangers of climate change in desertification, droughts, higher temperatures, melting ice, lost homes, are we going to leave the growth of green energy to the wheels of the capitalist engines? Do these executive who see money as their savior care for the planet?

Capitalism as evangelized by America and its Wall Street managers has led to rapid trade exchange, knowledge transfer and labour mobility and so on. Capitalism has appreciated the ingenuity of innovative thinkers who brought about spectacular solutions to the world. We now understand that when the wheels are driven in a reckless fashion and the toxic fumes are bound exported across borders. A mortgage bubble created multiple effects on the world economy and led to massive loss of monetary value and unemployment. It only validates the overall effect of glottalization and global trade.

The perilous times had been rescued by government (the riled enemy of corporate executives) usually turns out save it from recklessness. We were all afraid the last financial crisis could cripple investment in green technologies even though it has had an effect, we have seen a huge rebound. The question lies in fact are leaving green technology developments to the hunger of capitalist? Or the government needs to step in boldly and smartly understanding the huge social cost of climate change. We understand the crude capitalism had the profit has the only end in mind. Consumers are gradually understanding on how we need sustainable technologies to save the environment.

Renewable energy has not been cost competitive to fossil fuel. The race to deliver carbon efficient technologies have begun and we believe massive collaboration will drive down costs and enhance quality of green products. This seems like explaining elementary economics whose effect will trickle down to the global populace. But in face of the looming dangers of climate change doesn't the corporate world see green technology more of social responsibility than profit making schemes or brand enhancement. Don't we need more cross-fertilization of ideas, knowledge sharing, open source technologies, global technology standards, global scientists and innovators collaboration of idea to accelerate green technologies? Nothing brings more understanding of how national borders are illusions than the fact deforestation in Amazon is melting ice in the Antarctica. We don't need to revel in protectionism, nationalistic tendencies and complex intellectual property now, when the bell is ticking for change. Governments have been playing huge roles through carbon credit schemes, carbon financing, Clean Development Mechanism of United Nations, carbon tax and subsidy understanding the social impact of inaction. This has gradually infused the understanding that capitalism without government oversight or their smart input leads the world on a path to wreckage. The animal spirits of Wall Street bankers cannot be left to tinker solutions with the government standing aloof.

In the race to fight climate change considering the lost swathes of the Sahara, disappearing tuna, rising tidal waves, declining agricultural and steep erosion, we will disappoint the future if the commit green surge to hands of capitalist. Governments around the world need better oversight over the green entrepreneurs. Governments need bigger roles in bridging skills gaps and producing effective carbon credit and renewable energy subsidy schemes.They should not stifling creativity but use antitrust policies and parliament legislations to foster rapid response to climate change effects.

The world needs better collaboration more than ever to save the breath of the unborn. The ingenuity of entrepreneurs in this clime cannot be imagined but we must watch bubbles which emerge after over investment and lax regulation as witnessed with dot.com crisis and US mortgage bubble. The world has been clamoring for better corporate governance and financial market complex instruments reform through the emerging Basel 3 procedures. We need to strengthen the rules of the green market, financing and use of complex instruments. We need to understand the advocacy of Climate Justice as we ponder, is capitalism on the green movement side? Government needs to tame its animal instincts of greed of capitalism and resurrect its social consciousness to save the future. Let's keep a vigil at switchboard; the next bubble might be green.

Oluseun Onigbinde is a climate change and green technology advocate. He is currently the Director, Green Acts Nigeria and writes on his blog http://greenactsgroup.org

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