It Will Cost $1.9 Trillion Annually To Create A New Industrial Revolution

To avoid planetary disaster, the global community is going to have to overhaul nearly all of its operations. That’s going to cost a lot of money, and no one knows who’s going to pay.



Companies and governments the world over are investing billions of dollars in transitioning to clean energy, more efficient agricultural production methods, and climate-proof city infrastructures–but is it enough? One study claims that we will have to invest $1.9 trillion each year for the next 40 years in these new technologies, or face a major planetary catastrophe. About $1.1 trillion of those investments will have to go to developing countries.

According to the UN’s annual economic and social survey, we need to radically overhaul our production and consumption processes or potentially destabilize the planet’s ecosystem. This means reducing resource and energy requirements in our daily lives, moving toward renewable and biodegradable resources, cutting down on waste, and protecting biodiversity and ecosystems.

These are admirable objectives, of course, but who will pay for them? Government incentives will be essential, as well as better international cooperation and investment, and “multilateral environmental agreements, trade and investment rules, financing facilities and intellectual property right regimes.” As if that doesn’t sound impossible enough, the UN also says that there will have to be radical societal transformations–including changing our consumption habits and living patterns to adapt to the changes “in the nature and packaging of products and modern conveniences.”

We saw how difficult it is to gain international traction on climate-related issues at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen two years ago; things have not gotten any easier since then. And over the past two years, the World Bank has only distributed $20 billion in climate change funds–a laughable pittance compared to the money the UN says we need to create the new industrial revolution.

But, as the report concludes, we don’t have much of a choice if we want to survive as a species: “Business as usual is not an option. An attempt to overcome world poverty
through income growth generated by existing ‘brown technologies’ would
exceed the limits of environmental sustainability.”

[Image: Flickr user Pink Poppy Photography]


Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.