Tang Prize laureate calls for fossil fuel divestment

2014/09/22 18:14:00 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland (right) and Nobel Prize laureate Lee Yuan-tseh, who convened the panel of judges for the Tang Prize .

Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland (right) and Nobel Prize laureate Lee Yuan-tseh, who convened the panel of judges for the Tang Prize .

Taipei, Sept. 19 (CNA) Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, the winner of the first Tang Prize in Sustainable Development, on Friday urged Taiwan and other countries to reform their policies on fossil fuel subsidies as part of efforts to achieve a sustainable world.

Brundtland, the "godmother of sustainable development," said that public policies are needed to stimulate markets, remove barriers, level the playing field, and establish clear objectives and targets for renewable energy and efficient energy.

"At the same time we need to undo old-fashioned policies that create the wrong incentives and keep us locked in unsustainable ways of doing business," she said at the Tang Prize Laureate Lectures in Taipei.

A good example is fossil fuel subsidies, which still exist in many countries including Taiwan, the 75-year-old laureate said.

In fact, annual subsidies for established fossil fuels are estimated to cost around US$500 billion worldwide, Brundtland said.

"These are resources that could be channeled to clean, low -cost, sustainable energy technologies, as well as to social programs to benefit the poor," Brundtland added.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the world's premier watchdog for financial and economic stability, has illustrated that abolishing fossil fuel subsidies would reduce global carbon emissions by up to 13 percent, according to Brundtland.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), an autonomous organization that works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 29 member countries and beyond, has also shown that elimination of fossil subsidies is one of four climate actions that do not reduce economic growth, she said.

"Due to the large present gap of at least 6 billion ton carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents between the global ambitions for reductions by 2020 and the reality of what countries are so far planning for, reforms on fossil fuel subsidies will be a high priority contribution," Brundtland said.

Brundtland, who chaired the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) from 1984 to 1987, was awarded the first Tang Prize in Sustainable Development Thursday for her work in the sector.

The 1987 "Brundtland Report" by the WCED defined the term "sustainable development" as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." The concept supports economic and social development, while also highlighting the importance of protecting the environment and natural resources.

The Tang Prize was established in 2012 by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin to honor leading lights from around the world in four fields: sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, sinology and rule of law.

Winners of the award are selected by panels of judges convened by Academia Sinica, Taiwan's top research institute. The panels comprise prominent researchers and scholars from Taiwan and abroad, including Nobel laureates.

(By Jeffrey Wu)
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