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More sunshine, less talk needed at Davos

By Laurence Brahm | | Updated: 2020-01-23 14:21
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A woman passes by the World Economic Forum logo in Davos, Switzerland, Jan 20, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Divisiveness and anger seemed to be the real theme of this year's World Economic Forum.

While climate change tops the agenda at the World Economic Forum at Davos, there seems to be neither consensus nor action as an outcome.

One of the world's smallest and richest country's youngest activists, and one of the world's largest and richest country's oldest presidents, represent polemical arguments. But neither offers a credible solution.

Solutions for combatting our global climate crisis were not forthcoming at Davos.
Meanwhile, there has never been such a global demand for electricity with our capital market debt finance internet and social media addictions. And with it temperatures are rising. The hardcore reality that nobody at Davos dares to say is that the biggest cause of climate deterioration is turning on the lights and charging our computers and cellphones. Now it is time for a solution.

Solutions will only occur by shifting our grid from fossil fuel-based to renewable. This also involves a process of decentralizing electricity from one power plant to self-sufficient buildings. Imagine our great cities where all glass windows on buildings are solar panels. Where buildings are producing organic energy rather than consuming it. Imagine cellphones where the screens are solar panels, self-recharging while we place them on our desks or tables. Imagine electrical filling stations for our cars at every parking space. Imagine integrated ecological cities with smart transport, and water recycling and purification systems, vacuum toilets that do not use water. Imagine programs for re-growing glaciers and floating cities that farm algae and function with smart technologies. Sound unimaginable? It is happening in China.

Ironically, China is leading the largest single-nation campaign to correct the climate. It involves hardcore finance, infrastructure overhaul, and investment in education and technology. Emergence of the Ecological Civilization policy in 2015 has led to a massive restructuring of the industrial economy of China. A shift from emphasizing GDP (a Western-imposed economic concept) to one of a healthy balanced economy (an Asian approach).

The Ecological Civilization policy position paper adopted in 2015 by both China's State Council and Central Committee seeks a massive shift in the infrastructure grid support by shifting it from fossil fuels to green energy. However, this is not done so easily. In order for a city to make this infrastructure overhaul a bond may need to be issued in order to finance the overhaul. This is where finance comes in. China has become the largest issuer of green bonds and now leads the world in green finance.

Where does the finance go in making cities green? Technology is critical in supporting green energy. Big data and artificial intelligence are all aspects of operating green grids. Ironically, some of the most creative and innovative solutions are coming from youth entrepreneurs in China who are developing new technologies such as paint that can be applied to rooftops, turning them into solar panels. Where does the youth get their ideas? Not necessarily from dropping out of school and watching energy-consuming YouTube as some activists are now encouraging. China is investing heavily in the education of its own youth with enormous emphasis on science, materials and what's next. Quantum technology. Youth deserve to graduate from higher education without being bound into a life of debt indenture as in America. Youth are the greatest asset a nation can invest in. And that is what China is doing to shift the global game in technology and infrastructure from fossil fuels to green.

Finance and technology can offer the solution for our climate crisis. However, most of the finance and technology talk at Davos is about creating more addictive social media platforms to increase clicking, which has replaced actual shareholder value as the means of assessing a company's worth on a repose-debt finance capital market that depends on global military interventions to assure the supremacy of a currency that is now technically valueless. The new currency could be voltaic sunlight. Guess what? There is plenty of that.

The author is the founding director of the Himalayan Consensus and a senior international fellow at the Center for China and Globalization.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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