Concern about environmental degradation is beginning to impact the global economy, according to a new report by an international environmental research group. The Worldwatch Institute details a lengthy and distressing list of environmental problems caused by the global economic system, but finds some evidence that the world is taking small steps toward a sustainable future.
"There are early signs that a vibrant, new sustainable economy is just beginning to be created," Worldwatch president Christopher Flavin told reporters Wednesday at the launch of the organization's annual "State of the World" report.
The report details how the conventional economic system is inherently self-destructive, failing to take into account the damage done to the environment by a wide range of human activities that create wealth.
But it suggests that is beginning to change.
The world's leading corporations and investors are beginning to realize "the tremendous risks" that environmental degradation and climate change pose, Flavin explained, and starting to respond to growing demand for greener policies and technologies.
The report estimates that more than $100 billion of annual investment is directly related to environmental concerns.
The report notes that major corporations have taken significant steps to improve their environmental performance - largely because they have realized it is a way to save money.
"Reducing wastes typically means reducing costs and companies are increasingly finding this out," said Gary Gardner, one of the report's lead authors.
Clean technology is now the third largest recipient of venture capital, the report says, and new renewable energy laws and climate policies in China and Europe will "ensure these kinds of investments will continue to flow for many years to come."
The 2008 State of the World report is Worldwatch's 25th annual assessment of global environmental conditions. Although it offers an upbeat message about green innovation, much of the report presents a sobering and worrying assessment of the state of the world's environment, highlighting how economic indicators currently fail to adequately consider environmental degradation.