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Follow the leaders in clean energy technologies

By Darryl D'Monte

A new WWF report released at the Copenhagen climate summit puts Denmark and Brazil at the top of countries leading in clean energy technologies. Clean energy technologies will be the third largest industry by 2020, after automobiles and electronics

Copenhagen, December 10: Clean energy technology can become the third largest industrial sector globally with a rapidly increasing share taken up by China, predicted a WWF report released at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen today.

Clean Economy, Living Planet -- Building Strong Clean Energy Technology Industries is a first-ever worldwide country ranking by clean energy sales. It reports that relative to GDP, wind energy and insulation pioneer Denmark and bio-ethanol giant Brazil are leading the way. Germany, trading on a substantial manufacturing base and public support for wind and solar energy, is third.

Yesterday, President Obama’s Special Envoy on Climate, Todd Stern, pointed out at the summit that half the growth in carbon dioxide emissions in the next 20 years would come from China, and these would be 60% more than the US in 2020. China, like Denmark, has put out an unofficial document at Copenhagen, calling on industrial countries to bear the bulk of the financial burden of climate change.

The WWF report predicted that by 2020 the clean energy technology industry would be worth €1,600 billion a year, ranking behind automobiles and electronics as the third largest industrial sector.  In 2007, clean energy technology had a sales volume of €630 billion and was already larger than global pharmaceuticals.

Sale revenues from energy efficiency products in 2007 were more than five times the revenues from renewable energy products, but this will change significantly by 2020 with the growth rate for renewables at 15% a year being three times the still respectable 5% annually of efficiency product and process revenues.

“This is the clean economy growth happening now with only a partial Kyoto Protocol international framework supporting clean energy development, patchy national support for green energy and huge subsidies to fossil fuel use,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF’s global climate initiative.

“Imagine what is possible with a successful Copenhagen climate deal and the national mechanisms to deliver its outcomes – clean energy is where the money is going to be and this is where energy security is going to be.”

The report advocates that countries seeking to develop their clean energy technology sectors should “follow the leaders” with technology action plans to take technologies from research to demonstration and bridge the gap between research institutions and industry.

Countries which could benefit from such moves include the US, ranked 18 on the GDP weighted rankings and behind Germany even in absolute terms, and the UK, ranked 19.  Illustrating opportunities lost, Australia -- which squandered an early technical lead in solar energy – is ranked 28.

China is ranked fourth in terms of absolute sales, “Clearly, from a national perspective there is much to gain and nothing to lose from investing in clean energy,” said Donald Pols, Head of the Climate Programme at WWF-Netherlands.

Infochange News & Features, December 2009