Economic Growth Possible Even While Tackling Climate Change — Report


 Human Wrongs Watch

Just one week before a major climate summit opens at the United Nations, a new report released on 16 September 2014 by a commission of global leaders argues that major structural and technological changes in the world economy are making it possible to achieve lower carbon emissions and economic growth at the same time.

By absorbing much of the added heat trapped by atmospheric greenhouse gases, the oceans are delaying some of the impacts of climate change. Photo: WMO/Olga Khoroshunova

“Yes, it is possible to have better growth and better climate. Yes, it is possible to create jobs and reduce poverty and at the same time reduce the carbon emissions that threaten our future. Yes, it is possible, but we need to make some fundamental changes and smart choices,” said former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón at a UN Headquarters press conference.*

Better Growth, Better Climate

Launching the Better Growth, Better Climate: the New Climate Economy report alongside UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Calderón said the new data refutes the idea that the world must choose between fighting climate change and growing the world’s economy.

“The transition to a low carbon economy can improve the quality of growth, including the creation of new jobs, cleaner area and better health. A growing number of businesses, cities and countries are showing us it is indeed possible,” said Calderón.

Chaired by Calderón, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate – which conducted the study –, comprises 24 leaders from Government, business, finance and economics in 19 countries. The year-long study was conducted by leading research institutes from Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, South Korea, the United Kingdom and United States and advised by a panel of world-leading economists.

Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon called the report timely, noting that greenhouse gas emissions are at record levels and the effects of climate change are not only widespread, they are costly and consequential.

The Potential Implications of Climate Change for Economic Growth

“Scientists have long warned of the potential implications of climate change for economic growth. We can no longer afford to burn our way to prosperity. We must manage climate risk for sustained ¬– and sustainable – economic progress. We need a structural transformation in the global economy,” Ban said.

The UN chief said he looked forward to next week’s climate summit, where leaders from Government, business, finance and civil society are expected to deliberate challenges and deliver recommendations on how to promote low-carbon growth.

Simply put, eradicating extreme poverty is not possible without fighting climate change. The two agendas must be pushed simultaneously.

Today’s report does just that, he said. It sets out a detailed 10-point Global Action Plan of recommendations to achieve prosperity and a safer climate at the same time.

It emphasizes that over the next 15 years, about $90 trillion will be invested in infrastructure in the world’s cities, agriculture and energy systems. That is an unprecedented opportunity to drive investment in low-carbon growth and bring multiple benefits including jobs.

The Commission calculates that if fully implemented its recommendations could potentially achieve up to 90 per cent of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to avoid climate change. But this would require decisive and early action by economic decision-makers.

Tajik National Park (Mountains of the Pamirs). Photo: UNESCO/David Trilling

Tajik National Park (Mountains of the Pamirs). Photo: UNESCO/David Trilling

$600 Billion in Subsidies for Fossil Fuel, Only $100 Billion for Clean Energy

“Today we are giving $600 billion in subsidies for fossil fuels, but only $100 billion in support of clean energy every year. We are paying to pollute. That cannot continue,” urged Calderón.

The report found opportunities to achieve strong growth with lower emissions in three key sectors of the global economy – cities, land use and energy. But Governments and businesses need to improve resource efficiency, invest in infrastructure, and stimulate business innovation.

Building better connected, more compact cities based on mass public transport can save over $3 trillion in investment costs over the next 15 years. Restoring just 12 per cent of the world’s degraded lands can feed another 200 million people and raise farmers’ incomes by $40 billion a year.

As the price of solar and wind power falls dramatically, over half of new electricity generation over the next 15 years is likely to be from renewable energy, reducing dependence on highly polluting coal.

Consistent Government policy signals are essential for businesses and investors to create low-carbon jobs and growth. By establishing a level playing field through an international climate agreement, Governments can unlock investment and innovation, states the report. (*Resource: UN Release).

Act Fast to Reduce Health Consequences of Climate Change

On 27 August 2014, experts urged the international community to act fast to reduce climate change and its health consequences at the first-ever global conference on health and climate, which opened that day at the Geneva headquarters of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).**

“The evidence is overwhelming: climate change endangers human health,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “Solutions exist and we need to act decisively to change this trajectory.”

Measures to adapt to climate change could save lives around the world by ensuring that communities are better prepared to deal with the impact of heat, extreme weather, infectious disease and food insecurity, according to experts.

The conference brings together over 300 participants, including government ministers, heads of UN agencies, urban leaders, civil society and leading health, climate and sustainable development experts.

Working Hard to Improve Capacity for Surveillance and Control of Infectious Diseases

Experts say the health sector must act quickly to promote climate-smart strategies. The health community is working hard to improve its capacity for surveillance and control of infectious diseases such as cholera, malaria and dengue, which are highly sensitive to weather and climate.

Climate change is already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year from shifting patterns of disease, from extreme weather events, such as heat-waves and floods, and from the degradation of water supplies, sanitation, and impacts on agriculture, according to the most recent WHO data.

“Vulnerable populations, the poor, the disadvantaged and children are among those suffering the greatest burden of climate-related impacts and consequent diseases, such as malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition, which already kill millions every year,” noted Dr. Flavia Bustero, WHO Assistant Secretary-General on Family, Women’s and Children’s Health.

“Without effective action to mitigate and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change on health, society will face one of its most serious health challenges,” she said.

The conference paves the way for careful consideration of health and climate issues at the upcoming UN Climate Summit, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is convening in New York on 23 September.

Extreme Weather Threatens Lives

In a video message to participants, the Secretary-General urged that “we must prepare and adapt” because “extreme weather threatens lives.”

“Many dangerous diseases are sensitive to climate conditions. And air pollution adds greatly to the global burden of death and disease.”

Meanwhile, Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), warned that as the world becomes hotter and more populated, and as the demand for food, water and energy grows, health impacts will exponentially spread, potentially overpowering the response capacity of health and disaster reconstruction sectors.

“However, climate change is not the disease. Climate change is actually the symptom. The disease is something we rarely admit. The disease is humanity’s unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels, deforestation and land use that depletes natural resources,” Ms. Figueres said in her statement to the conference.

She said that at the heart of an effective response is the challenge to take responsibility and make tough decisions to “change patterns that have been at the base of our development over the past 100 years, if we are to prevent severe worsening of health and quality of life conditions over the next 100 years.” (**Source: UN Release).

Read also:

‘We Are Running Out of Time’, Experts Warn as Climate Change Debate Heats Up

Climate Change Impacting Entire Planet, Raising Risk of Hunger, Floods, Conflict – UN Report

Impact of Climate Change Could Reverse Decades of Development in Africa

‘Majestic’ Greenland Provides First-hand Look at Impacts of Human-induced Climate Change

Bangladesh: the Crippling Cost of Climate Change Adaptation

Overall Energy Consumption for Lighting Will Have Grown by 60 to 70% by 2030 with dramatic consequences for climate change

Looming Problems: Not Enough Energy; Too Much of Climate Change

Clean Energy, Water Strategies to Halt ‘Runaway’ Climate Change – Experts 

 

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2014 Human Wrongs Watch

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