10 steps to tackle climate change AND promote economic growth

A healthy planet is incompatible with a growing global economy - or so goes the conventional wisdom. However, a new report by some of the world's leading economists and political leaders has laid out a ten-step international plan to achieving sustainable growth; in every sense of the word.

The report – the New Climate Economy, from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate – aims to drive action by world leaders, business executives and investors ahead of the UN Climate Change Summit next week. 

It argues that governments and businesses can now improve economic growth and reduce their carbon emissions together, as a better alternative to the old high-carbon model. And here’s how…

Step 1 – Integrate climate action and risk into strategic economic decision making.

Environmental risks should be integrated into core decision making practices for businesses, governments, cities and international organisations. 

For example, the G20 should make climate risk assessment and reduction a standing agenda item in its meetings, and businesses should be required to report on the environmental impact of their business model.

Step 2 – Enter into a strong, lasting and equitable international climate agreement.

All governments should set clear and ambitious medium-term (e.g. 2025) national greenhouse gas emission targets in line with a global agreement. 

They should agree a global goal which would achieve annual greenhouse gas emissions of near zero in the second half of the century. 

Paris 2015 looms.

Step 3 – Phase out subsidies for fossil fuels and agricultural inputs and remove incentives for urban sprawl

In 2012, global fossil fuel subsidies totalled $544bn, while those for renewables amounted to $101bn. These incentives are stifling change.

In addition multilateral and national development banks should work with countries to redirect infrastructure spending away from projects that enable urban sprawl and towards more connected compact and coordinated urban development.

Step 4 – Introduce strong predictable and rising carbon prices

Governments should establish a carbon price, while major companies worldwide should support governments by applying a ‘shadow’ carbon price to their investment decisions.

Step 5 – Reduce capital costs for low-carbon infrastructure investments

Governments, working with investor groups, should help develop industry structures and finance models for renewable and other low-carbon energy investments.

Investors and banks should phase out financing of high-carbon projects except where there is a clear development rationale without viable alternatives.

Step 6 – Scale up innovation in key low-carbon and climate-resilient technologies

Governments of the major economies should at least triple their energy-related research and development expenditure by the mid-2020s, with the aim of exceeding 0.1% of GDP.

Governments should work individually and together to reduce barriers to the entry and scaling of new business models, particularly around “circular economy” and asset-sharing mechanisms.

Step 7 – Make connected and compact cities the preferred form of urban development

Cities should commit to a connected, compact and coordinated urban development model, centred on mass transport and resource-efficient service delivery.

Create networks of sustainable cities which will share best practices in boosting urban productivity.

Step 8 – Halt the destruction of natural forests by 2030

46,000-58,000 thousand square miles of forest are lost each year–equivalent to 36 football fields every minute.

Companies and trade associations in the forestry and agricultural commodities sectors (including palm oil, soy, beef, and pulp and paper) should commit to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains by 2020

Forest-rich countries should take steps to correct the governance and market failures undermining natural forest capital.

Step 9 – Restore at least 500 million hectares of lost or degraded forests and agricultural lands by 2030

A collaborative restoration campaign between governments, businesses and NGO’s could generate additional farm incomes of US$206 billion and feed up to 200 million people while restored forests could store about 1-3 billion tonnes of CO2e per year by 2030.

Step 10 – Accelerate the shift away from coal-fired power generation

High-income countries should commit now to end the building of new unabated coal-fired power generation and accelerate early retirement of existing unabated capacity, while middle-income countries should aim to limit new construction now and halt new builds by 2025.

Governments worldwide should steer energy sector investments towards renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.

Brad Allen

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