We're now into Day 2 of the three-day Clinton Global Initiative's three-day annual meeting; today's opening plenary, moderated by NBC News' Tom Brokaw, featured Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the U.K.; Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and U.N. Special Envoy on Climate Change; Hank M. Paulson, Secretary of the U.S. Treasury; and Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
The overwhelming consensus from the speakers: This planet needs a binding global framework—tailored to each country's unique economic, population, and energy profile—that focuses on both adaptation and mitigation, while doling out market incentives for the private sector. "Business will take this far faster and further than government if they get the right mechanism to do so, in my opinion," said Blair, ever the diplomat.
"What the private sector has done is key, and market signals are important," said Brundtland. "It is impossible to solve this without technological development, impossible to solve this without engaging globally."Market incentives will allay commonly raised fears that climate-change mitigation will come at the cost of economic growth, especially in developing countries such as India and China. Meanwhile, available and upcoming clean technology will be able to allow developing countries to leapfrog across the first world's polluting stages of growth, said Paulson, while allowing those countries to flourish economically.
"We have the mechanisms to develop the science and technology as fast as possible," agreed Blair. "So you can say to [the developing world], 'Here are a series of choices you can make that will provide a decent standard of living and that will also help the environment."
And part of what that entails, emphasized each participant in turn, is a carbon cap-and-trade market. Ethiopia's Zenawi was the most vocal on this point, stressing that a carbon market was the only "realistic way" Africa could grow in a carbon-neutral manner. "
"[From] an African perspective," Zenawi added. "Africa contributed nothing to global warming, because it failed to developed the way the rest of the world developed. ... We have recognized that global warming, next to colonialism and slavery, is another of those shocks that could affect the future of the continent."
He pointed out that Ethiopia and the Republic of Congo could generate enough hydroelectricity to power the entire African continent, and that locally produced sugarcane could provide biofuels for transportation, but that the developing world had to "put the standards for [Africa] to use the technology," he said. "We can grow without polluting the environment, with some assistance from the developed countries."
Financing this growth would be the cap-and-trade mechanism, Zenawi stressed. "We have to have access to carbon trade as a matter of right. We did not pollute and we're being punished for what you did," he said. Divvying up the amount of carbon emissions the planet can absorb allows each person on the globe a certain amount of carbon-emissions rights, Zenawi said, calling access to the carbon-trade market a "matter of property rights."
"[Africa is] not part of the property allocation at the moment," he added. "We want to be part of it because we are part of this globe physically."