World must rethink resource efficiency – Bill Clinton

Global cooperation is the only way to solve the world's future resource challenges such as energy, water and waste, former US President Bill Clinton has warned.

He called for business and political leaders across the world to rethink the ways they value the “competing claims” of private gain and common good, cooperation and conflict and the past and the future.

The important decision of the 21st century, he said, is whether the human race can learn to share its scarce natural resources for the common good.

Clinton was speaking at the Re|Source 2012 event held last week at Oxford University, where he underlined the misconception that growth is predicated on the use of natural resources.

Instead, he argued, resource efficiency and renewable technologies will be essential growth drivers in the years ahead and urged politicians to prioritise the management of finite natural resources.

His speech reflected a key theme from the conference about the need for greater cooperation between governments, businesses and other organisations to meet the resource challenges of the world.

In particular, the private sector has the commercial leverage and influence to drive significant changes – and can create new models in finance to support these changes.

This same principle applies internationally too, according to Clinton.
“Either we have a policy of shared benefits and responsibility. Or we act as though each struggle is a zero sum game.”

“The only strategy that makes sense is the one that says we are going to share the world with other human beings and we will share its natural resources.” This, he added, “is the fundamental decision of the 21st century.”

In tackling issues of sustainability, Clinton advised delegates to pick the low hanging fruit, beginning with becoming more efficient in the use of natural resources, and secondly the development of solar power as an alternative energy source

He also told the audience to buy time against climate change by going after the rapidly dispersing greenhouse gases which are entering the atmosphere at the moment, such as methane.

Clinton pointed out the strong economic advantages of sustainability. While 870 jobs are created for every $1bn invested in building a coal-fired power station to meet increased energy demand, you could create 7,000-8,000 jobs by spending the same amount retrofitting buildings with more energy efficient measures, he said.

Maxine Perella

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie