The CEO of one of the largest wind power plant builders called on G20 leaders to meet with him for an hour so he can help them leave fossil fuels behind.
Ditlev Engel, CEO of Vestas Wind Systems, a Danish maker of wind turbines, said if all of the G20 leaders set aside an hour in their calendars, he can give them a plan that will work, and will fit the requirements of the individual nations.
The idea, he said, came out of meetings with other business leaders who are participating in the G20 Business Summit. In order to create green jobs, governments need to be transparent about rules, plan for the long term, and offer certainty that the rules will remain the same. In a press conference, Engel said the private sector can adapt. Business can tolerate anything as long as the rules are transparent and long term, he said.
He added that the way to create sustainable solutions is not only to have an overarching policy recommendation, but an individual approach depending on local conditions.
Engel said the cost of moving to wind energy does not need to be too great. He noted that in Denmark, the government conducted a study to find the cost of moving completely away from fossil fuels by 2050, and found it would be 0.5 percent of gross domestic product. In Korea, he noted, the amount of GDP spent on research and development is 4-5 percent.
There are also added costs with using supposedly cheaper sources of power. Engel said Colorado, in which Vestas has a number of wind plants, was once a coal-driven state. But when the state government looked at the health costs of using coal compared to the cost of wind, it turned out that wind was actually cheaper.
Engel's proposal is part of a four-point program put forward at the G20 Business Summit by the Working Group for Creating Green Jobs. The Working Group is asking leaders of the G20 to put a high price on carbon, scale up research and development, eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and allow free trade in environmental goods and technologies.
Engel didn't name particular fuel subsidies that he would like to see eliminated. He did note that fuel subsidies add up to $557 billion worldwide and that at the last G20 conference in Pittsburgh participants agreed they should be reduced or phased out. Now, he said, he hopes that the G20 will at least result in a timetable to attack the problem.
He also discussed free trade, and was asked about the current disputes over rare earth minerals, which are used in some wind turbine designs. Much of the world's supply of rare earths comes from China, and though the Chinese government has said it won't cut export quotas, there are reports that exports to Japan were halted earlier this year.
Engel said that trade in various minerals and technologies should be as unfettered as possible, and that free trade rules need to be enforced. He added that even though rare earths appear in direct drive turbines, Vestas has made efforts to reduce its use of rare earths by building turbines out of replaceable and recyclable materials.