Lord Stern: 10 years on from the Stern Review

Ten years after the infamous Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change was commissioned, Lord Nicholas Stern has warned the risks of global warming are even greater now than ever before.

A new paper, published today (22 July) to mark Lord Stern’s election as a Fellow to the Royal Society, claims that the risks and potential damage associated with climate change are better understood, with the impacts found to be happening faster than predicted.

Lord Stern argues the economic case for low-carbon transition is now stronger than when the original report was commissioned by the Government in 2005.

“The 10 years since the Stern Review have both deepened and broadened my understanding of the economics of climate change,” the paper states. “However, the basic insights of the Review were sound: the costs of inaction are much greater than the costs of action”.

Lord Stern estimates that to keep climate change below two degrees will require in the region of 2% global GDP.

Tougher actions

His paper calls for further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions beyond those estimated in the Stern Review, stating that “the risks of unmanaged climate change are immense”.

Allowing the concentration of CO2 to reach more than 550 parts per million now appears dangerous and governments should aim to set a limit of no more than 500 parts per million to prevent warming of more than two degrees.

There is also the growing risks of air pollution, which could kill millions around the world each year, and the threat of mass migration in the future, according to the paper.

Clean technology

However, Lord Stern also stated the opportunities for governments and businesses to forge ahead with new technologies and renewable energy.

“There is an increasing recognition that many of the measures and policies to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions have multiple economic co-benefits , beyond avoided climate change impacts, that have not been formally accounted for in the estimates of costs by the Stern Review and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change),” adds the paper.

“Perhaps the most important of these is the benefits of reducing local air pollution from emissions of fossil fuels, such as coal and diesel.”

Lord Stern’s paper called for urgent action to promote low-carbon growth and added technologies were now developing at a greater pace than his original review predicted, such as the growth made with solar power installations.

Lord Stern has previously said low-carbon growth will become “the new normal” as the world economy transitions away from fossil fuels.

Matt Field

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