Ban Ki-moon: World's economic model is 'environmental suicide'
UN secretary general tells Davos panel that an economic revolution is needed to save the planet as he shifts his focus from climate change to sustainability
|Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia’s president, said his country was trying to plant 1bn trees a year. It is often called the keeper of one of the world's last major rainforests. Photograph: Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images|
- guardian.co.uk, Friday 28 January 2011 15.06 GMT
The world's current economic model is an environmental "global suicide pact" that will result in disaster if it isn't reformed, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, warned today.
Ban said that political and business leaders need to embrace economic innovation in order to save the planet.
"We need a revolution," he told a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, 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." The Guardian revealed yesterday that Ban is ending his hands-on efforts to reach a global climate deal through UN negotiations, and move to focus on a broader sustainability agenda.
His words received a mixed reception from other panelists, including Felipe Calderón, Mexico's president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia's president, Walmart chief executive, Mike Duke, and Microsoft's Bill Gates.
Jim Balsillie, co-chief executive 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 that a new model was needed to hold businesses to account for their impact on the planet.
Yudhoyono, whose country is often labeled a keeper of one of the world's last major rainforests, said Indonesia was trying to plant 1bn 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 Gates, who said that "you cannot have a just world by telling people to use less energy than the average European". One way to cap the world's consumption and carbon emissions would be to invest in family planning said 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 New York Times 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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