$7 Trillion could be saved
In a groundbreaking move, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has drawn up a visionary proposal that has been endorsed by a range of figures including Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Laureate.
It says an unprecedented outbreak of co-operation between countries, applied through six specific financial tools, would slice through the Gordian knot of problems that have bedevilled the world for most of the last century.
If its recommendations are accepted - and the authors acknowledge this could take years or even decades - it could finally force countries to face up to the fact that their public finance and growth figures conceal the vast damage their economies do to the environment.
At the heart of the proposal, unveiled at a gathering of world business leaders at the Swiss ski resort of Davos, is a push to get countries to account for the cost of failed policies, and use the money saved "up front" to avert crises before they hit. Top of the list is a challenge to the United States to join an international pollution permit trading system which, the UN claims, could deliver $3.64trn of global wealth.
I wouldn't count on any of this coming to pass as long as Bush is in power. Nor would I count on this getting much press coverage in the US even though it's headline news abroad.