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China, South Korea lead in green stimulus investment

South Korea and China lead the world's 20 largest economies in the percentage of economic stimulus money they invest in environmental projects, the UN Environment Program reported on Thursday.

Other members of the Group of 20 leading economic powers, including the United States, trail behind in percentage of green investment from stimulus money, the agency found.

Almost exactly a year after the global financial crisis began, the UN agency found that about 15% of the estimated $3.1 trillion in global stimulus funds are “green” in nature.

But only 3% of stimulus funds committed to environmental projects were actually disbursed by the middle of this year, and the total in committed funds is still below 1% of global gross domestic product, the amount economists recommend to reduce dependence on carbon and fuel the transition to a greener world economy, the agency said.

The level of funding for renewable energy is not enough to cut carbon emissions and limit average global warming to 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C), the increase above which some of the most severe effects of climate change are predicted.

The UN agency's executive director, Achim Steiner, called on the G20 leaders to have stimulus packages that double their green investments in sustainable energy to $500 billion a year to keep the global temperature rise below this threshold.

The report also noted that global stimulus commitments include some $250 billion in what the agency called “perverse subsidies” for fossil fuels and agriculture that can actually add to climate change are operating in the G20 economies.

Pavan Sukhdev, project leader of the UN agency's Green Economy Initiative and director of the current report, said this study does not address climate negotiations focused on crafting a follow-on agreement to the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol at a December meeting in Copenhagen.

However, he said, the report does show that there is significant greening investment - about $512 billion - commitment already, pegged to some hope of a carbon market after this phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

“So it would of course be a huge disappointment if Copenhagen did not make headway toward a new 2012 agreement, as that would reduce if not defeat business interest in 'greening' processes and energy use,” Sukhdev said in answer to emailed questions about the report.

In order of the percentage of stimulus money committed to environmental projects, South Korea was first with 79%; China had 34%; Australia 21%; France 18%; United Kingdom 17%; Germany 13%; United States 12%; South Africa 11%; Mexico 10%; Canada 8%; Spain 6%; Japan 6%; Italy 1%. (Reuters)