For example, power plants can adopt solar energy or capture and safely dispose of the carbon dioxide they produce with fossil fuels -- as can large factories. Automobiles can be engineered for much greater mileage through hybrid technology combining battery power and gasoline. Buildings can reduce their heating needs through improved insulation or by converting from heating oil to electricity produced by clean technology.
According to the best economic and engineering estimates, if each key economic sector develops and adopts environmentally sound technologies in the coming decades, the world will be able to reduce carbon emissions dramatically for less than 1 percent of annual global income, thereby avoiding long-term damage that would cost far more.
In other words, the world can combine economic growth with declining emissions of carbon dioxide. And rich countries will be able to afford to help poor countries pay for the new, cleaner technologies.
To reach agreement by 2009, we must move beyond current generalities by which rich and poor countries argue about who should be blamed for climate change and who should pay the costs. We will need a true global business plan that spells out how the new technologies are developed, tested and adopted on an expedited basis worldwide.
We must ensure that all countries adopt a verifiable strategy for environmentally sound technology, and that rich countries fulfill the Bali Action Plan's promise to provide "financial and other incentives" to enable poor countries to adopt the new technologies.
With so many crises afflicting our world, there is cynicism that yet another global conference did little more than promise to continue talking. But let's see the positive message instead: 190 countries agreed on a sensible plan, and the underlying science and technology gives us realistic hopes for achieving it.
There is considerable and difficult work ahead, but the situation is better as a result of the deliberations in Bali. Now it's time to role up our sleeves and achieve what we've promised.
Jeffrey Sachs is professor of economics and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
Copyright: Project Syndicate