DAVOS, Switzerland — Facing down the skeptics, Mexico’s president urged governments and companies on Friday to cough up the cash to fight climate change and avoid a repeat of the failure at Copenhagen to set binding targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
With a worldwide shaky economic recovery under way, Felipe Calderon pleaded for aid and investment from executives and political leaders at the World Economic Forum, hoping to unite the world on a firm blueprint to slow the warming of the planet.
This year’s big U.N. climate change meeting — being held Nov. 29-Dec. 10 in the Mexican resort of Cancun — will be challenged to succeed where the 2009 meeting in Copenhagen failed.
“We need to try to learn from our mistakes in Copenhagen,” Calderon said. “If we can find an economic mechanism … we will be on track.”
Calderon spoke a day after the United States took an important symbolic step by submitting targets to the U.N. climate body, pledging to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent by 2020 — using 2005 levels as a standard. But the commitment must be approved by Congress, which is not guaranteed.
U.S. Congressman Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts who has pushed sustainable development policies, said he expected Congress to pass climate legislation by the end of the year.
“The reason that I believe that will happen is that it is in our national security and long-term economic interests,” Markey said at Davos.
China and India — key to any final accord — have yet to submit their targets.
Calderon said governments and the private sector should build cleaner energy plants in developing countries, make more efficient transport systems and support other projects to help poor nations reduce emissions as they grow and deal with the effects of global warming.
Dan Esty, director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, said Calderon was “setting a high bar,” warning of a general “climate fatigue” after Copenhagen.
“There’s really a question about whether the Congress will put forward a serious climate action plan,” he said.
Rich and developing countries clashed at Copenhagen over how much money each should contribute and how to spend it, but Calderon said the “economic costs associated with trying to tackle climate change” are central to the challenges facing governments.
The Copenhagen Accord fell short of expectations, but included commitments by developed countries to provide billions of dollars in emergency funds to help poor countries adapt to climate change. It also invited countries to formally list their nonbinding targets to cut emissions by Jan. 31 — or even later.
U.N. climate change chief Yvo de Boer told The Associated Press on Friday that he was confident the business leaders in Davos would do more as profits bounce back after a rough couple of years.
“Energy sector investments that were put on hold because of the crisis are beginning to be made again,” he said. “I think people will take future climate change policy into account.”
De Boer insisted that a climate change accord was “feasible” in Mexico. But as countries shakily emerge from recession, a key challenge is ensuring that progress is environmentally effective but also won’t break the bank.
“In the private sector, we need clear targets,” said Renault-Nissan head Carlos Ghosn, who has championed electric cars. He also encouraged closer co-operation among governments and the private sector.
Meanwhile, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said he fears governments might take funds away from health issues to fight climate change — and says that could lead to many childhood deaths that otherwise would be prevented.
“It would be a mistake on many fronts, because the health money not only saves lives but it reduces the population growth,” he told a news conference in Davos, where he and his wife Melinda announced that their foundation will donate $10 billion over the next decade to research new vaccines and bring them to the world’s poorest countries.
Gates said the commitment more than doubled the $4.5 billion the foundation has given to vaccine research so far, and the foundation said it could save up to 7.6 million children through 2019 as a result.
From an unknown location, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden issued his own prescription for fighting climate change, calling Friday for a boycott of American goods and the U.S. dollar as he blamed the United States and other industrialized countries for global warming.
Bin Laden said the way to stop climate change was to bring “the wheels of the American economy” to a halt. The authenticity of his latest audiotape could not immediately be confirmed.
He did not mention China, which has surpassed the United States as the world’s largest emitter of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
The forum at Davos also honoured Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for his “global statesmanship,” but he could not attend the ceremony for health reasons. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim received the award on Silva’s behalf, saying the president viewed the honour as an “award for Brazil.”