‘The mother of all recessions’

Just how serious is the danger to the environment? Sir Richard Branston, founder and chairman of the Virgin Group, puts it this way:

The world will face even greater recessions – unless much more is done to encourage the development of renewal energy.

Speaking to the third annual Six Senses’ SLOW LIFE Symposium at Six Senses Soneva Fushi in the Maldives, Dr. Richard said governments need to provide additional incentives to support the adoption of renewal energy sources.

“If we don’t have alternative fuels, we’re going to have the mother of all recessions … and the way to kick start the revolution is to have no tax on all clean energy while slowing increasing the tax on dirty energy.”

In his own case, he noted that Virgin has been diverting its profit from its airlines into developing fuel for aircraft that won’t damage the environment. He called on European aviation authorities and airports to do more to reduce the aviation industry’s energy emissions, calling the climate change battle “the biggest entrepreneurial opportunity of our lifetime”.

“Every single ecosystem is in decline. We must revalue now how we value our natural assets and how we reduce our consumption patterns. But it is important for all of us to stay positive. Martin Luther King did not get his message across by saying I have a nightmare.”

Other Symposium speakers included President Nasheed of the Maldives, Hollywood actors and environmental campaigners like Daryl Hannah and Edward Norton.

Mark Lynas, climate change adviser to President Nasheed, described the       Maldives as the “perfect test bed” for cutting-edge technologies and said that the country was perfectly placed to lead the world to a low-carbon future, adding that companies from all over the world were coming to the Maldives to test renewable technologies.

The Maldives, he went on, “intends to be the master of its own destiny –  from victim to victor – that going carbon neutral is good for the economy. It is the engine of growth.

The Maldives has made significant progress since last year in beginning the move towards becoming the world’s first carbon neutral country, said President Nasheed, who outlined several areas in which the Maldives government has made substantial progress.

These include: Publishing the new carbon neutral electricity plan online and inviting ‘crowd-sourcing’ comments from experts worldwide.

Committing to a new target to generate 60% of electricity via solar power by 2020, and reducing electricity emissions by 80% without putting up the cost of power to consumers.

Signing the first contract under the new ‘feed-in-tariff’ between the state electricity company and a Male’ hotel chain to supply solar power onto the grid.

A new import regime by the Transport Ministry to ensure that in future electric cars will be a third of the price of conventional petrol cars.

New policies to encourage the uptake of renewable energy and marine transport.

The pledge to spend 2% of national income on renewable energy deployment in the country.

“We know a low-carbon growth trajectory is possible and we are going forward to do it . . . It is financially and economically viable.”

He added that what the Maldives is doing should be a model for others. “Interest in new technology is a blessing for the Maldives. We won’t save the world by becoming carbon neutral – we emit nothing compared with other countries – but if we can demonstrate a low carbon development strategy that can be copied elsewhere, it will be a step in the right direction.”

Sonu Shivdasani, CEO and chairman of Six Senses, said that Soneva Fushi would be decarobonizingby 2013, with the remaining six Senses resorts following by 2020.

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