Page last updated at 00:47 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 01:47 UK

UN 'stunned' by scale of bail-out

By Steven Duke
Editor, One Planet

Achim Steiner
Achim Steiner is executive director of the UN Environment Programme

The UN's head of environment has been left "stunned" by the billions of dollars pumped into ailing companies following the global financial crisis.

Achim Steiner told the BBC One Planet programme that he had fought for years to secure much smaller sums to tackle poverty and climate change.

"We waited perhaps a decade to get $5bn ($3.3bn) to accelerate development of renewable energy," he said.

We now see $20bn (£13.3bn) paid [to] a car company simply to keep it alive."

He said he was surprised that such huge amounts had "suddenly been found" to tackle the crisis.

'False story'

Vast sums of money have been spent on bank bailouts in the UK and the US alone.

Billions more has been promised in aid for struggling industries, such as automotive manufacturers.

But Mr Steiner, who is based in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, warned we are passing the bill to the next generation, and stressed that if extra investment is not found to tackle climate change, the bail-outs would be "a terrible waste of money".

Are you really that worried about paying three cents more per litre of oil in order to reverse global warming?
Achim Steiner, UN

Despite the urgency of governments to ensure financial institutions do not collapse, Mr Steiner urged the public not to be "sold the false story" of banks having to be fixed before worrying about other issues such as environmental protection.

If that did happen, Mr Steiner believes it would represent "the greatest political tragedy of the last five decades".

In the interview, the Brazilian-born UN director also suggested the world's richest countries could make huge inroads to tackling climate change by adding $5 (£3.30) to the cost of a barrel of oil - which he estimates would raise over $100bn (£66.5bn) to invest in new technology.

"Are you really that worried about paying three cents more per litre of oil in order to reverse global warming - what would be the debate if we put it in those terms?"

But when asked which governments he thought would be prepared to put such a surcharge on oil, Mr Steiner admitted, "Not a single one, right now".

The full interview with Achim Steiner can be heard on the 7 May edition of the One Planet programme on the BBC World Service.

Print Sponsor

EU climate package explained
09 Apr 10 |  Europe
Have bail-outs worked in the past?
03 Oct 08 |  Business
'Green' energy spending on rise
01 Jul 08 |  Business
Solar loans light up rural India
29 Apr 07 |  Science & Environment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2016 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific