Carbon stability possible but economy will take tiny hit

Cutting the global GDP by a couple of percent for the next 45 years would allow us to put off the threat of climate change.

This is the conclusion of an extensive report from consultants at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) who looked at several different economic scenarios and the impacts they would like have on the environment over the coming four decades.

A 'business as usual' scenario would see emissions more than double by 2050 as industrialised countries continue to pump out ever-increasing amounts of greenhouse gases and emerging economies send levels soaring.

At the other end of the scale is PwC's Green Growth Plus strategy which, the company argues, allows for a healthy economy alongside a healthy atmosphere.

The report suggests the G7 economies will need to take the lead on reducing their emissions as those of growing economic powerhouses such as India, China and Brazil will inevitably increase in the short term.

The author of the report, PwC's head of macroeconomics John Hawksworth, said: "As they increase in relative size to overtake the current G7 countries, the emerging economies will increasingly provide the motor for global growth and could account for almost half of global carbon emissions by 2050 according to our model.

"But this begs the question: Can the world sustain such rapid growth without serious adverse effects on its climate? Our new report provides one possible answer to how this might be achieved".

The Green Growth scenario suggests that the climate can be stabilised by 2050 by moving towards a greener fuel mix, energy efficiency gains over and above the historic trends and extensive use of carbon capture and storage.

This would, it claims, keep carbon concentrations at what current scientific consensus believes would be broadly acceptable levels - interpreted by PwC as keeping the global temperature within 2 degrees centigrade of the pre-industrial average and CO2 at 450 parts per million or below.

In order to meet these targets the global GDP would have to drop by around 2-3% or, looking at it another way, around a year's profits over the next four decades need to be spent on staving off an environmental meltdown.

"Our analysis suggests that there are technologically feasible and relatively low-cost options for controlling carbon emissions to the atmosphere," said Mr Hawksworth.

"Estimates suggest that the level of GDP might be reduced by no more than around 2-3% in 2050 if this strategy was followed, equivalent to sacrificing only around a year of economic growth for the sake of reducing carbon emissions in 2050 by around 60% compared to our baseline scenario.

"But if this is to be achieved, it will take further concerted action by governments, businesses and individuals over a broad range of measures to boost energy efficiency, adopt a greener fuel mix, and introduce carbon capture and storage technologies in power plants and other major industrial facilities."

Sam Bond



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