(Adds Yvo de Boer, Shell CEO, WEF report, Piebalgs)
By Ben Hirschler and Jonathan Lynn
DAVOS, Switzerland Jan 30 Denmark's prime
minister called on rich and poor countries alike to commit to
big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of key year-end
talks on a new climate treaty he will host in Copenhagen.
Hopes that a deal may be possible have increased since the
election of what many see as a "green" U.S. president and
business is increasingly enthusiastic about the opportunities
thrown up by climate change.
"It is essential to engage heads of state and government
stronger in the whole process to ensure a positive result in
Copenhagen," Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the annual meeting of
the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday.
Business leaders meeting in the Swiss ski resort this week
have called on governments to create certainty on the climate
issue, so they can plan for the future.
"What I hear business leaders here in Davos say is: We want
clarity from governments on where they intend to go with
change. We need a clear investment perspective," the U.N.'s top
climate official, Yvo de Boer, told Reuters.
In a statement released on Thursday, the forum said clean
energy investment needs to more than triple to $515 billion a
year to stop planet-warming emissions reaching levels deemed
unsustainable by scientists.
This changing business environment would create
opportunities for firms, said Royal Dutch Shell Chief Executive
Jeroen van der Veer.
"This is the best opportunity that could come for Shell
because we claim to be good at technology, we have an
international mindset, we can invest in it and we happen to
something about it," he said.
However, some have warned the temptation is to switch to
cheap, polluting fuels, notably coal, in times of economic
hardship and there was a risk that would offset the effects of
lower industrial energy use.
"It's bad news for the long term. Many renewable, nuclear
and efficiency projects are being postponed," said Fatih Birol,
chief economist of the International Energy Agency, which
advises 28 industrialised nations.
"The long-term impact is that emissions will go up if
governments don't do something," he told Reuters.
European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs agreed that
recession potentially made it difficult to push through the
ambitious environmental plans, and could complicate the process
of getting a deal in Copenhagen this year, but said events this
month had made him feel more optimistic.
The European Commission this week announced funding on
carbon capture and storage and, in addition to the boost
provided by Obama's backing for the environment, he said more
unlikely supporters had included Russia and China.
"I am optimistic about what I have heard from leaders...
There is a new chance for green growth. It is important to see
the silver lining," he told Reuters.
Rasmussen said world leaders should agree on a long-term
goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent by
with industrialised countries cutting by 80 percent.
By 2020 -- a timeframe more relevant to political cycles --
the rich world should cut by 30 percent versus 1990 levels and
developing countries by 15-30 percent against current trends,
Leading industrial nations agreed at a G8 summit in Japan
last July to a "vision" of cutting world emissions of
gases by 50 percent by 2050. The European Union wants all
developed countries to cut greenhouse gases by 25 to 40 percent
"READY TO LEAD"
Valerie Jarrett, President Obama's adviser on
intergovernmental relations, earlier told the Davos meeting
the United States was "ready to lead" in the fight against
global warming, which threatens droughts, floods, disease and
That has raised hopes among those pushing for action.
"For the last eight years a few countries have been hiding
behind the U.S.," said Steve Howard, head of Britain's The
Climate Group, a non-profit group working to combat climate
"Now there is no place to hide because the U.S. is assuming
a leadership position, so the politics took a fundamental
The recession now gripping the world is set to slow
industrial emissions in coming years, which could dim pressure
to commit to cutbacks and divert attention from the issue.
Some economists estimate emissions fell 35 percent in the
great depression of the 1930s, and might do so again.
But de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework
Convention on Climate Change, said countries from the United
States to the European Union to China had been announcing plans
and targets since the crisis broke.
(For full coverage, blogs and TV from Davos go to
(Additional reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Simon