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This Week in PubHub: The Environment and the Clean Energy Economy

April 22, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center’s online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she wrote about global public health initiatives.)

BlueMarble Today's the 40th anniversary of Earth Day -- what better time to look at a handful of reports that deal with aspects of the emerging clean energy economy?

Investment in the clean energy industry worldwide has grown 230 percent since 2005 and is forecast to reach $200 billion in 2010, according to Who's Winning the Clean Energy Race? Growth, Competition and Opportunity in the World's Largest Economies: G-20 Clean Energy Factbook (Pew Charitable Trusts). Among the G-20, China, Brazil, the UK, Germany, and Spain all have strong domestic policies aimed at reducing global warming and all offer healthy incentives for renewable energy production and clean energy job creation. Without a similar policy framework to stimulate investment in solar, wind, bioenergy, and energy efficiency, the report warns, the United States risks falling behind in the race to lead the global clean energy economy.

What actions should the U.S. be taking? The Clean Energy Economy: Repowering Jobs, Businesses and Investments Across America (Pew Charitable Trusts) offers a state-by-state analysis of clean energy jobs, businesses, and public and private investments across five categories — clean energy, energy efficiency, environmentally friendly production, conservation and pollution mitigation, and training and support — as well as policies to promote clean energy. According to the report, financial incentives, renewable portfolio standards for electricity providers, energy efficiency standards, regional initiatives, and vehicle emissions standards, combined with federal stimulus spending, are all needed to spur further growth.

What barriers do policy makers face in adopting such policies? One concern is that the adoption of cap-and-trade or a carbon tax would make carbon-intensive U.S. industries less competitive with China and other emerging economic powers. China, the U.S., and the Climate Change Challenge (World Resources Institute) suggests that such concerns can be addressed by including a domestic allowance in U.S. cap-and-trade legislation as well as through coordinated bilateral and multilateral action. The report also examines China's energy policies and argues that a comprehensive U.S. climate policy could strengthen recent environmental advances in that country by making clean technologies cheaper and easier to adopt.

Meanwhile, it seems that many industrialized nations are working at cross-purposes when it comes to climate change. World Bank Energy Sector Lending: Encouraging the World's Addiction to Fossil Fuels (Bank Information Center) looks at how the World Bank's approach to energy-sector lending encourages a reliance on fossil fuels in developing countries at the expense of a rational, measured transition to a low-carbon economy. According to the report, lending for fossil fuel projects increased by 102 percent in fiscal year 2008, compared with only 11 percent for renewable energy projects. What's more, the carbon emissions over time from projects funded by the bank in 2008 will amount to more than twice the annual emissions from Africa's entire energy sector, further impeding the bank's efforts to help the very people it is trying to lift out of poverty.

So what do you think our environmental and climate change priorities should be as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day? Next week's roundup of reports will focus more on what U.S. cities and corporations are doing. Until then, feel free to share your thoughts and comments below. And don't forget to check out PubHub, where you'll find annotated link to almost two hundred and seventy reports related to the environment.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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