Green dreams: a Moon Race for the 21st Century

Steve Sedgwick
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FORTY years ago today Neil Armstrong jumped off the ladder of his Eagle landing module as the US finally won the decade long battle with Russia to put the first man on the moon. <br /><br />NASA won, not by luck, but because it put in place a countrywide programme costing over $100bn (&pound;61bn) in today&rsquo;s money &ndash; a programme that mobilised hundreds of thousands of people from thousands of US companies. The Space Race started because a US President &ndash; John F Kennedy &ndash;&nbsp; galvanised a nation into action amid fears Russia had stolen a march on the Western superpower.<br /><br />Forty years later and another US President, Barack Obama, is looking to spend another $100bn-plus figure on meeting a new challenge &ndash; climate change. Obama is, of course, not fighting the Russians this time, but is fighting to convince a nation battered by the biggest recession since the 1930s that a green economy is the same as a growing economy. That, as far as the White House is concerned, &ldquo;green&rdquo; is intricately linked to &ldquo;growth&rdquo;. In fact, Obama and the rest of the G8 leaders have also yet to convince the world that their green roadmap is the right path to follow.<br /><br />China, India and the rest of the big emerging market players aren&rsquo;t playing ball and the doomsayers seized upon the events of the recent G8 in Italy to augur a gloomy prognosis of up-coming climate talks in Copenhagen later this year.<br /><br />And yet environmental consciousness is growing irreversibly, unlike green shoots in the global economy, which are yet to sprout convincingly. There is an evolution based on a growing sense that climate change, or at least declining hydro-carbon resources, are realities that mean action will be taken. <br /><br />CNBC, with partner Allianz, is putting its money where its mouth is and has put up a prize worth over &euro;250,000 (&pound;215,900) for a &ldquo;Good Entrepreneur&rdquo; who can come up with an environmentally sound new business plan. <br /><br />For many, though, the twin challenges of fighting off the recession and leading a global energy revolution may be just too much. Undaunted, the UK government last week did its bit and unveiled a blueprint for Britain to generate a third of its energy from renewables by 2020.<br /><br />Sounds expensive for all of us, from individuals to companies. In fact, if Obama is America&rsquo;s 21st Century Kennedy, then is Gordon Brown our modern day Harold Macmillan? If yes, perhaps the present incumbent of Downing Street can help us find the money to go green by reminding us that under Labour, as Macmillan used to say about life under the Tories, we&rsquo;ve &ldquo;never had it so good&rdquo;.<br />&nbsp;<br />Steve Sedgwick is a presenter on Squawk Box Europe each morning on CNBC.