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Updated: January 31, 2011 18:51 IST

Economic model an environmental threat: UN chief

AP
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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressing a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Friday. Photo: AP.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressing a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Friday. Photo: AP.

"We need a revolution," the secretary-general of the U.N. told a panel at the World Economic Forum on how best to make the global economy sustainable. "Climate change is also showing us that the old model is more than obsolete."

The world’s current economic model is an environmental “global suicide pact” that will result in disaster if it isn’t reformed, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon warned on Friday.

Mr. Ban said that political and business leaders need to embrace economic innovation in order to save the planet.

“We need a revolution,” the secretary-general of the U.N. told a panel at the World Economic Forum on how best to make the global economy sustainable. “Climate change is also showing us that the old model is more than obsolete.”

He called the current economic model a recipe for “national disaster” and said, “We are running out of time. Time to tackle climate change, time to ensure sustainable ... growth.”

Mixed reaction

His words received a mixed reception from fellow panellists including Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Walmart CEO Mike Duke and Microsoft’s Bill Gates.

Jim Balsillie, Co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, said technology alone wouldn’t solve the problem of how to sustain economic growth while reducing its impact on the environment.

“We have to fundamentally rethink economics,” he said, suggesting a new model needed to be found to hold business to account for its impact on the planet.

Mr. Yudhoyono, whose country is often labelled a keeper of one of the world’s last major rain forests, said Indonesia was trying to plant one billion trees a year. But he pushed back against the suggestion that developing countries should give up on their aspiration to achieve the same level of wealth as the rich world.

This view was partly shared by Mr. Bill Gates, who told the panel that “you cannot have a just world by telling people to use less energy than the average European.”

Bill Gates' solution

His solution! One way to cap the world’s consumption and carbon emissions would be to invest in family planning said Mr. Gates, who has invested much of his fortune in health projects in the developing world.

The annual meeting of business and political leaders in Davos has been accused by some of producing little more than hot air.

The panel moderator, the columnist Thomas Friedman, said he hoped next year participants would return to the Swiss ski resort “and be able to say that a molecule of CO2 was actually affected by what we say and do here.”


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