UNITED NATIONS, Sept 24 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday the world needs a revolution on energy that transcends oil, gas and coal to prevent problems from climate change.
“Ultimately, we must develop and bring to market new energy technologies that transcend the current system of fossil fuels, carbon emissions and economic activity. Put simply, the world needs a technological revolution,” Rice told delegates at a special U.N. conference on climate change.
A landmark report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this year said human activities such as burning fossil fuels and forests are very likely causing climate change that will lead to more deadly storms, heat waves, droughts and floods.
The Bush administration’s position on climate change has evolved from skepticism to agreeing to work with other large emitters to forge international goals to reduce greenhouse gases. Rice will host a two-day meeting this week for the world’s biggest greenhouse-gas emitters.
President George W. Bush opposes mandatory caps on greenhouse emissions, preferring voluntary goals.
He believes the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases unfairly exempted rapidly developing countries and that ratifying it would have hurt the economy of the United States, the world’s largest emitter of heat-trapping gases.
Addressing climate change requires an integrated response that encompasses environmental stewardship, energy security and economic growth and development, Rice said.
“How we forge this integrated response has major consequences, not only for our future, but also for our present and especially for the millions of men, women and children in the developing world whose efforts to escape poverty require broad and sustained economic growth and the energy to fuel it,” she said.
Since 2001, the U.S. government has invested nearly $18 billion to develop cleaner sources of energy, Rice said. Those include technologies that run on hydrogen, permanently burying emissions of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, advanced nuclear energy, renewable fuels and greater energy efficiency.
As the world looks to form a new emissions-cutting agreement to succeed the first phase of Kyoto, which expires in 2012, many countries say only mandatory caps on emissions can effectively prod the private sector to cut emissions.
British Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said earlier on Monday the United States and other large emitters must take on binding reduction targets on greenhouse gases.
“It is inconceivable that dangerous climate change can be avoided without this happening,” he told reporters at a meeting at the British mission.
Backers of mandatory emission caps say they promote low- carbon technology by, in effect, making polluters pay for emitting greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.
Rice did not mention greenhouse gas-cutting goals, but said one of the biggest challenges is encouraging private sector investments to bring about a low-carbon energy future while ensuring continued economic growth.