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Sustainability

Clean energy, food and carbon tax

Thailand and the rest of Asia faces a huge challenge to achieve sustainable development, Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs said yesterday, advising countries to invest more in clean energy, food supply and water management - and to implement carbon taxation.

Asia is vulnerable to climate change, as suggested by the "Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2012", Sachs said at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap) in Bangkok.

Countries needs to investment more in clean energy, such as solar and wind power, he said, adding that nuclear power is also an option as long as safety can be ensured, said Sachs, a world-renowned professor of economics, leader in sustainable development and senior UN advisor.

Effective food chains are also crucial for the region, due to high population density. He said Asia needed to investment more in agricultural research to develop new varieties of seed that could withstand severe weather conditions such as fierce storms, floods and drought.

Countries in the region also need to introduce carbon taxation in order to force market participants to change their behaviour, said Sachs.

Asia, led by China, has become one of the biggest global polluters, with the continent's share of carbon-dioxide emissions set to reach 50 per cent in the coming years. "It [pollution reduction] is a huge challenge politically, economically and socially," he said.



GOOD GOVERNANCE CRUCIAL

Sachs called for good governance in both the public and private sectors as a crucial contribution to sustainable development.

He cited tax havens in many parts of the world that do not support economic activity but serve only the interests of rich people, and also the low level of tax in the United States. The US faces a financial crisis because it is does not generate enough in taxes, he said.

The economist also expressed his disappointment with the US political system, which he said allowed private funds to finance election campaigns, resulting in powerful companies effectively writing policy for their own benefit.

He said that during the second live televised debate between President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney, the two spent about 10 minutes on energy issues without either of them mentioning climate change.

This is because oil and gas firms have lobbied the two candidates for the presidency, he added.

He also urged the US to invest more in infrastructure that could link economic recovery to sustainable development.

Meanwhile, Noeleen Heyzer, UN under-secretary general and Escap executive secretary, called for a new paradigm of economic development, as the old one - getting rich first and having a clean environment later - no longer works.

She also urged Asia to prepare for the increased possibility of natural disasters that will have a high economic cost.

She pointed to the devastating floods in Thailand and natural disasters in other Asian countries last year, which together caused economic losses estimated at US$294 billion (Bt9 trillion), representing 80 per cent of the world's losses due to disaster during the year.


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