Scoring a Goal for Clean Energy

Valerie Jaffee, NRDC
Posted on Friday 2nd July 2010

With the eyes of the world glued to the World Cup, there’s no mistaking that one sport can bring together people across the globe. But beyond the soccer field, this year’s World Cup is showing how a global clean energy future could unite us in an even more powerful way.

For the first time ever, people in Kenya’s Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, are watching the heroes of their favorite sport on television – solar-powered television. Kibera lacks running water, electricity and other basic facilities, but thanks to new solar technologies, children who cannot even afford to play with real soccer balls are seeing the World Cup games with their own eyes.

In Africa, one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change, people are witnessing firsthand how clean energy can not only improve the environment, but can also create opportunities for progress and poverty-reduction.

With the global demand for energy rapidly growing, clean energy companies around the world are looking towards large-scale expansions. Each day it becomes more apparent that the economic opportunities that a global clean energy revolution would bring are absolutely thrilling.

Yet here in the US, where we generate a large portion of the world’s global warming pollution, our leaders have dragged their feet. Time and again, they have failed to commit to a binding global climate agreement that would spark clean energy job growth out of fear of what other countries would do.

So what have other countries done in the meantime?

Our biggest competitors have made massive investments to jumpstart their clean energy economies. While investment in clean technologies declined 33% in 2009 in the U.S., it soared 37% to $39 billion in Asia. From 2005 to 2009, China invested $34.6 billion into wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. During the same period, the U.S. shelled out a dismal $18.6 billion.

All reports show that the U.S. is falling behind in the clean energy race. That doesn’t have to continue.

The U.S. Senate is now considering a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill that would give investors the assurance they need to expand and create clean tech companies and the jobs that come with them, while also cleaning our air, ensuring a healthier future for our children and creating pathways out of poverty.

Passing climate legislation here at home would empower our leaders to carry an example with them to Cancun, Mexico where world leaders will meet in November to again attempt to reach a global climate agreement to reduce global warming pollution.

With a commitment from the U.S., the world could come together behind a global climate agreement that would benefit all nations and ensure a more prosperous, brighter energy future.

Even in Kibera, they are now enjoying the promise that new clean technologies can bring, benefits that could bring a better, cleaner future from Africa to Argentina to Arkansas.

Progress towards clean renewable energy is inevitable. The question is who will score the first real goal.

This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard.

Valerie Jaffee is a Communications Program Assistant for the Natural Resources Defense Council. NRDC is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the environment, people and animals. NRDC was founded in 1970 and is comprised of more than 300 lawyers, scientists and policy experts, with more than one million members and e-activists.

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