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Economic Crisis Threatens Carbon Gains

COPENHAGEN—The climate conference here has shifted focus from the underlying—and increasingly upsetting—climate science picture to efforts to solve the problem by cutting world emissions of greenhouse gases. Yesterday in a plenary session, speakers laid out how difficult the challenge is becoming, for a variety of economic and clinical reasons. The first hurdle, the deepening world recession, is only getting worse, said professor Nebojsa Nakicenovic of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.

"The deeper the [economic] crisis becomes, the more difficult it will be to resolve this paradox," he said. Some $3 trillion has recently been committed by governments to stimulate wounded economies around the world, he said. And although roughly "20% is for the greener, leaner new [energy] technologies," that's still far too little to combat the scope of the climate problem, Nakicenovic stressed. 

Private-sector lending has also been slashed precipitously: In 2007, the World Bank recently reported, banks around the world lent $260 billion to emerging markets, but last year that number dropped by $100 billion. The portion of that investment dedicated to energy dropped from roughly $100 billion to $80 billion, though figures were collected only through September 2008.