Dean Gus Speth on China and the Environment

James Gustave "Gus" Speth, is the Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and Sara Shallenberger Brown Professor in the Practice of Environmental Policy

From 1993 to 1999, Dean Speth served as administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and chair of the UN Development Group. Prior to his service at the UN, he was founder and president of the World Resources Insti-tute; professor of law at Georgetown University; chairman of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality; and senior attorney and cofounder, Natural Resources Defense Council.

Throughout his career, Dean Speth has provided leadership and entrepreneurial initiatives to many task forces and committees whose roles have been to combat environmental degradation, including the President’s Task Force on Global Resources and Environment; the Western Hemisphere Dialogue on Environment and Development; and the National Commission on the Environment. Among his awards are the National Wildlife Federation’s Resources Defense Award, the Natural Resources Council of America’s Barbara Swain Award of Honor, a 1997 Special Recognition Award from the Society for International Development, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Environmental Law Institute, and the Blue Planet Prize. Publications include The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability, Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment; Worlds Apart: Globalization and the Environment; and articles in Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Environmental Science and Technology, the Columbia Journal World of Business, and other journals and books.

  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Question: Does China pose a special challenge to the environment?

Gus Speth:   Well, the challenge of China is the sheer scale of the expansion that's occurring there and the way that it's being carried out.  I mean, you know, you think of China as a communist country, but this is capitalism at its rawest form.  And, you know, it's a serious question, I hope, of whether that system can-- you know, how to bring that system under some control.  We're going to have to help, to work with China to create some very powerful economic incentives to change their trajectory of their energy development, for example. Now, they have proposed that me--international community, that the international community effectively double international development assistance and that that increment be used to promote and incentives for de-carbonization, for getting rid of greenhouse gasses, for moving energy strategies into the right direction. And, you know, it's really not that much more money, frankly, because international development assistance is not that big. And, you know, so those are the-- but it gives you a sense to the kind of things that we will need to begin to work on.

Recorded: 3/23/08

 


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