Climate change is “rewriting the rules for business” and sparking economic investment to the tune of billions of pounds, according to WorldWatch.

According to the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2008 study, money is pouring into areas such as renewable energy, green technology and carbon markets as businesses recognise the opportunities they present.

According to the report, some 52 billion dollars was invested in renewable energy in 2006, up 33% on the previous year. The figure for 2007 is estimated to be even higher at around 66 billion dollars and carbon trading was worth around 30 billion in 2006 – almost three times the amount traded in 2005, the report found.

So-called “cleantech” – such as technology which improves energy efficiency or reduces pollution – was the third largest recipient of venture capital, behind the internet and biotechnology.

Worldwatch Institute president Christopher Flavin said: “It is breathtaking to see how much innovation has been unleashed by the wave of concern about climate change that has broken across the world in the past year, culminating in the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the world’s leading climate scientists and their most effective evangelist, Al Gore.”

The project’s co-directors Gary Gardner and Thomas Prugh said: “Once regarded as irrelevant to economic activity, environmental problems are drastically rewriting the rules for business, investors and consumers, affecting over 100 billion dollars in annual capital flows.”