Climate, Vaccines and Haiti in World Economic Forum Spotlight


DAVOS-KLOSTERS, Switzerland, January 29, 2010 (ENS) – U.S. Congressman Edward Markey told the World Economic Forum today that President Barack Obama has committed himself to passing climate legislation. Markey said the President “fully expects” the Senate and House of Representatives to place a completed bill on his desk for signature by the end of the year when Mexico will host the next Conference of Parties to the UN Framework on Climate Change.

“The reason that I believe that will happen,” said Markey, “is that it is in our national security and long-term economic interests.” A large part of the U.S. deficit, Markey said, results from importing oil from countries to which the United States should not be sending its capital.

Markey was speaking as a member of a panel entitled From Copenhagen to Mexico: What’s Next? that examined What immediate steps governments, businesses and civil society might take towards a long-term climate path that is both environmentally effective and economically efficient.

Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts co-authored, with fellow Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman of California, the clean energy bill that passed the House of Representatives in June 2009.

He told the audience in Davos that “a Republican coalition is working with the White House to produce the final bill.”

If Congress cannot arrive at a comprehensive energy bill, Markey explained that President Obama has the executive authority to regulate greenhouse gases without legislation.

“If we have legislation, it allows us to moderate the impact on consumers and industry,” Markey said.

Panel member Mexican President Felipe Calderon said U.S. Congressional approval of a clean energy bill could open new opportunities such as solar energy farms along the U.S.-Mexican border which would provide electricity to the United States.

President Calderon said that it is important to learn from the mistakes at the recent climate summit meeting in Copenhagen. While that meeting left many people disappointed, President Calderon said that it had managed to get a political commitment to the necessity for action.

A major problem at Copenhagen was that many states have different reasons for being concerned about the climate. “The idea is to hear everyone,” Calderon said. The meeting in Mexico, he added, will need to set targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases.

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of automakers Renault and Nissan, stressed the need for an integrated approach to climate change among the auto, oil and chemical industries.

Ghosn said, “If we don’t push for an integrated approach, the public and governments will have difficulty understanding what the technology will allow you to do, because at the end of the day most of the solutions will come from innovation and technology. Governments need to have an objective image of what technology allows you to do.”

Within the framework of the World Economic Forum, four auto industry CEOs, representing a substantial portion of the industry, have signed a joint statement, committing to a vision of decarbonizing automotive transport.

But Khalid Al Falih, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco told the participants Thursday that fossil fuels are not going away any time soon. “We see long term energy demand rising, in fact doubling, by the year 2050. And we see fossil fuels in general still providing the predominant share of that energy within that time frame. Petroleum will continue to provide the energy for the mobility sector of the economy.”

Bangladeshi banker and economist Muhammad Yunus, founder and managing director of the Grameen Bank, said the world is facing “a bundle of crises, not one crisis, in the same period. The food crisis, the financial crisis, the global warming crisis.”

“They’re all, I think, rooted in the same cause,” said the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. “All of these crises have emerged from the misinterpretation of human beings in the conceptual framework that we have built around us.”

Today, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was given the first Global Statesmanship Award ever presented at the World Economic Forum.

“This award increases my responsibility as a leader, and my country’s responsibility as an increasingly present and active player on the global scene,” Lula da Silva said in a prepared text read by Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations Celso Amorim.

In his message to the Forum, President Lula called for decisive leadership from his fellow heads of state on issues such as climate change and efforts to address the fundamental causes of the economic crisis. “We were elected to govern and we have to govern,” he pointed out. “But we have to govern with creativity and justice. And we have to do this now, before it is too late.”

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting opened Wednesday and continues through Sunday.

In other news at the forum, Bill and Melinda Gates announced today that their foundation will commit $10 billion over the next 10 years to help research, develop and deliver vaccines for the world’s poorest countries.

The Gateses said that increased investment in vaccines by governments and the private sector could help developing countries dramatically reduce child mortality by the end of the decade, and they called for others to help fill critical financing gaps in both research funding and childhood immunization programs.

“We must make this the decade of vaccines,” said Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft. “Vaccines already save and improve millions of lives in developing countries. Innovation will make it possible to save more children than ever before.”

Bill and Melinda Gates made their announcement at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting. “Vaccines are a miracle – with just a few doses, they can prevent deadly diseases for a lifetime,” said Melinda Gates. “We’ve made vaccines our number-one priority at the Gates Foundation because we’ve seen firsthand their incredible impact on children’s lives.”

By introducing vaccines to prevent severe diarrhea and pneumonia, the Gates Foundation hopes to prevent the deaths of some 7.6 million children under five from 2010-2019. The foundation also estimates that an additional 1.1 million children could be saved with the rapid introduction of a malaria vaccine beginning in 2014, bringing the total number of potential lives saved to 8.7 million.

The new funding announced today is in addition to the $4.5 billion that the Gates Foundation has already committed to vaccine research, development and delivery since its inception in 1994.

In a special session on helping Haiti recover from the catastrophic earthquake of January 12 that claimed an estimated 150,000 lives and reduced much of Port-au-Prince to rubble, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, announced a partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative and the United Nations “to effect meaningful change” in Haiti.

Recognizing the former Prime Minister of Haiti, Michele Pierre-Louis, who traveled from her country to attend the Forum, Schwab said, “We are not here to try and to coordinate and to address issues related to the short-term disaster relief and recovery. There are many agencies already doing great work and here I know many of you have already generously contributed to that end.”

“We all have an obligation, being global citizens exercising global citizenship, to help Haiti, and in such a way to show the world that we are really committed to improving the state of the world,” Schwab said.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, founder of the Clinton Global Initiative, who also serves as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Haiti, said the World Economic Forum will work with him to increase private sector involvement in Haiti over the next several years.

Clinton acknowledged that Haiti faces enormous challenges. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere even before the quake, Haiti has suffered the loss of some 150,000 lives, with hundreds of thousands more left maimed, homeless and hungry. The country’s needs are immediate.

“I spent last weekend on toilets and trucks,” said Clinton. “I need a hundred trucks yesterday.” Food distribution centers, which now number just 15, need to be increased exponentially.

“They are virtually in shock now,” said Clinton. “But I still believe they have the same chance to escape their past and build a better tomorrow.”

“I believe a country can rise from the ashes in a very short time,” said Clinton, citing Rwanda’s growth, and Indonesia’s recovery after the tsunami. “Don’t tell me they can’t do this! This is an opportunity for the Haitian people to build a country that they want to become.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.

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