"New Deal" needed for climate change

LONDON (Reuters) - The world should take a leaf from U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s playbook for tackling the Great Depression and fund a “Green New Deal” to fight climate change, a U.N. agency proposed.

Construction cranes are seen over buildings in Marseille, October 14, 2008. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

A two-year United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) initiative launched Wednesday would promote research into marketing tools, such as Europe’s carbon emissions trading scheme initiated in 2005, to aid the environment.

This is because political efforts to curb pollution, protect forests and avert climate change have proven “totally inadequate,” UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said.

He noted that a huge banking bailout had been mobilised in just four weeks, while the response to climate change was slow.

From 1981 to 2005 the global economy more than doubled, but 60 percent of the world’s ecosystems -- for example fisheries and forests -- were either degraded or over-used.

“That’s the balance sheet of our planet right now,” he said.

A successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the pioneering global pact to fight climate change, set to be agreed in Copenhagen by the end of next year appears more remote than a year ago, Steiner said.

“We’re further from a deal in Copenhagen than we were at the end of the Bali conference,” he said, referring to the launch of talks on the successor pact last December in Indonesia.

“But does that mean we will not have one? No.

“The difficulty is that there is no deal based on national interest alone. Quite frankly the levels of financing being discussed right now are totally inadequate to allow such a deal to emerge.”

Environment Minister Hilary Benn, hosting the launch, said the UNEP proposal was right in tune with the thinking of Roosevelt, from whom he quoted approvingly:

“‘The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.’”

Reporting by Gerard Wynn, editing by Michael Roddy