Those opposing UN and government efforts to combat climate change and spur development and adoption of clean, renewable energy systems routinely cite high capital costs as a primary reason for their opposition. They assert that such policies and actions would cost more than they would return and result in economic slowdowns, contractions and substantial job losses.
Made up of 28 leaders in the fields of government, business and finance from 20 countries, the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate believes otherwise. In a broad-based and far-ranging research report entitled, “Seizing the Global Opportunity: Partnerships for Better Growth and a Better Climate,” the New Climate Economy Project team identifies ten economic growth opportunities that “could close up to 96 percent of the gap between business-as-usual emissions and the level needed to limit dangerous climate change.”
Led by former president of Mexico Felipe Calderón and Sir Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics and Political Science, the commission calls on governments, businesses, investors, city and community residents the world over to play a part and work together to forge strong and vital low-carbon economies resilient to climate change.
Actions to boost low carbon economic growth and development and avoid climate change tipping points
An international group of policy and subject matter experts from leading multilateral, public and private sector organizations including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), World Bank Group, LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, and McKinsey & Co. collaborated to produce the New Climate Economy Project’s 2015 report.
The constituent building blocks capable of enabling development of vital and equitable low-carbon economies and societies are present today, increasingly accessible and growing in use, the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate highlights in a press release.
Following are five of the 10 recommendations selected by the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate as examples of actions that can be taken that would not only almost entirely close the emissions gap and avoid reaching a climate change tipping point, but stimulate sustainable socioeconomic development and growth:
- Scaling up partnerships between cities, like the Compact of Mayors, to drive low-carbon urban development. Investment in public transport, building efficiency, and better waste management, could save around US$17 trillion globally by 2050.
- Enhancing partnerships such as REDD+, the 20×20 Initiative in Latin America, and the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance to bring together forest countries, developed economies and the private sector to halt deforestation by 2030 and restore degraded farmland. This would enhance agricultural productivity and resilience, strengthen food security, and improve livelihoods for agrarian and forest communities.
- Governments, development banks and the private sector should collaborate to reduce the cost of capital for clean energy, with the goal of investing US$1 trillion in developed and developing countries by 2030.
- The G20 should raise energy efficiency standards in the world’s leading economies for goods such as appliances, lighting, and vehicles. Investment in energy efficiency could boost cumulative economic output globally by US$18 trillion by 2035.
- Action to reduce emissions from aviation and shipping under international treaties and from hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Montreal Protocol could reduce emissions by as much as 2.6 Gt in 2030. In shipping alone, higher efficiency standards are expected to save an average of US$200 billion in annual fuel costs by 2030.
Decoupling economic growth and GHG emissions
“This report highlights the huge opportunity countries now have to scale up climate action while also driving growth and development,” Helen Mountford, New Climate Economy’s Global Program Director, was quoted as saying.
“Global economic growth and carbon emissions are beginning to be decoupled: last year, for the first time in decades, emissions held steady while the global economy grew. But the pace of change needs to be accelerated if we are to meet our development goals and also reduce climate risks.”
The commission points out that the 10 recommended actions identified in the report would enhance the national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions pledges that are being submitted by the 195-plus nations party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty in advance of the UNFCCC COP-21 climate negotiations in Paris this December. These INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) as they’re called, “should be seen as ‘floors, not ceilings’ when it comes to national emissions reduction targets,” they state.
“We know that the current INDC pledges are not likely to get us to the 2°C world we need. But this report shows there is significant room for stronger action that is in countries’ economic self-interest,” said Michael Jacobs, Report Director for New Climate Economy. “It is therefore vital that the Paris climate agreement sets in motion a regular process for strengthening national commitments, on the way to the long-term goal of reducing emissions to near-zero in the second half of this century.”
*Image credits: Global Commission for the Economy and the Climate