Slowing climate change makes economic sense

2014-09-16 12:18
Hereford cattle roam the dirt-brown fields in California's Central Valley. At this time of the year normally, the fields would be covered in lush green grass. (Frederic J Brown, AFP)

Hereford cattle roam the dirt-brown fields in California's Central Valley. At this time of the year normally, the fields would be covered in lush green grass. (Frederic J Brown, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Oslo - Investments to help fight climate change can also spur economic growth, rather than slow it as widely feared, but time is running short for a trillion-dollar shift to transform cities and energy use, an international report said on Tuesday.

The study, by former heads of government, business leaders, economists and other experts, said the next 15 years were critical for a bigger shift to clean energies from fossil fuels to combat global warming and cut health bills from pollution.

"It is possible to tackle climate change and it is possible to have economic growth at the same time", Felipe Calderon, a former Mexican president and head of the global commission on the economy and climate, told a news conference.

Many governments and businesses wrongly fear that measures to slow climate change will undermine jobs and growth, he said. The report is meant to guide world leaders at a 23 September climate summit hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Almost 200 nations are working on a UN pact, due to be agreed in Paris in late 2015, to rein in rising greenhouse gas emissions. Progress to combat global warming has been slow despite two decades of work.

"How the world's largest and fastest-growing cities develop will be critical to the future path of the global economy and climate", the report said, recommending a shift to "compact cities" that used less energy and invested in public transport.

Cities are home to half of the planet's 7.2 billion people, generate 80% of global economic growth and account for about 70% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, it said. But many urban areas are sprawling out of control.

Time short

The report said the next 15 years were vital because, in that time, "the global economy will grow by more than half, a billion more people will come to live in cities" and new technology will change businesses and lives.

A UN panel of experts says swift action is needed to avert more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising seas. It says it is at least 95% probable that human activities, rather than natural swings in the climate, are the main cause of warming.

Overall, the Commission said that $90 trillion in investments were needed in the next 15 years to keep a high-carbon model of infrastructure for cities, transport, energy and water systems, or an average $6 trillion a year.

A shift to low-carbon energy, such as wind or solar power, and greener cities would cost a further $270bn a year, a 4.5% increase in the bill that could be offset by other savings, for instance on fuel.

"Investing in a low-carbon economy is a cost-effective form of insurance against climate risk", it said.

Among drawbacks with the existing economy, the report said air pollution cost 4.4% of world gross domestic product, with a high of more than 10% of GDP in China.

Jeremy Oppenheim, director of the report, said China and other emerging nations had grown aware of the risks of coal-based growth and fast-expanding cities. "Things are very different even compared with five years ago", he told Reuters.

In rich nations, inefficiencies still abounded in cities such as New York, London or Paris. "20% of fuel costs in cities are spent looking for parking spots", he said.

Unlike past climate change studies which have focused on the risks of inaction, the report seeks to show economic benefits of investments which could also help the environment, he said.

The report urged governments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies totalling more than $600 billion a year, far more than $100bn in annual support given to renewable energy.

And it urged better use of farmland. "Restoring just 12% of the world's degraded agricultural land could feed 200 million people by 2030, while also strengthening climate resilience and reducing emissions", it said.

In April, a report drawing on the work of 1 000 experts said that a shift to low-carbon energy would trim about 0.06% a year off world economic growth.

It did not compare costs and benefits as starkly as Tuesday's report.

Nicholas Stern, a former World Bank chief economist who was a member of the commission, urged governments to abandon what he called an "artificial horse race" between economic growth and action to combat climate change.

"The challenge is to combine the two", he said. "That is the only sensible route", he said.

Read more on:    un  |  world bank  |  us  |  climate change

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.