The world can save both financial and environmental costs by shifting toward a low-carbon economy over the next 15 years, a high-level panel said Tuesday ahead of a UN summit. Co-chaired by former Mexican president Felipe Calderon, the commission called for greater global action on renewable power, deforestation and clean technologies as part of the fight against climate change.
“We can invest that amount of money in the current high-carbon emission path or we can do that in a different way. So the next 15 years of decisions and the next 15 years of investment will determine the future of the world, among other things, in the climate system,” said Calderon.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has called the climate summit for September 23 in hopes of building momentum before a conference next year in Paris aimed at sealing a new global treaty on climate change.
The report — also written by British economist Nicholas Stern, the author of a major 2006 study on climate change — called for a phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies, which are politically sensitive in many countries. “We are using too many of the planet’s resources too profligately, and part of the reason is that our economies are geared not to value resources properly,” states the report.
About 80% of the world’s economic output comes from cities, but they also account for 70% of energy use and associated emissions. At least 1bn people are expected to swell the population of developing world cities in the next 15 years, but if that growth is unstructured and unplanned it will incur economic, social and environmental costs – a lower quality of life for city residents, and problems for the future in global warming.
This does not need to be the case, as cities can be planned on sustainable lines with better quality of life, mass public transport, green spaces and better amenities – all of which will also enhance economic growth. Development on these lines could reduce the capital requirements for urban infrastructure by more than $3trn (£1.85bn) over the next 15 years, the report found.
The report recommends setting a price on carbon, committing to an end of deforestation globally by 2030 with appropriate support for forested nations, the restoration of at least 500m hectares of lost or degraded forests by the same date, and a ban on new unabated coal-fired power plants in developed countries immediately, and in rapidly developing countries (middle income countries) by 2025.