The report from the New Climate Economy, part of the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate, identifies ten economic opportunities that could close 96% of the gap between business-as-usual emissions and the level needed to stop dangerous effects of climate change.

The report argues low-carbon and climate-resilient growth is possible, but calls for investment and strong political willpower.

Lord Stern, co-chair of the commission, said more and more counties were committed to integrating climate action into their economic plans, suggesting economic growth and emissions reduction could go hand-in-hand.

“Strong economic growth that is also low-carbon is going to become the new normal,” said Lord Stern.

The report – ‘Seizing the Global Opportunity: Partnerships for Better Growth and a Better Climate’ – outlines ten ways governments and businesses can drive low-carbon development, including:

1) Cities should commit to developing low-carbon strategies by 2020 and scale-up partnerships between cities to drive low-carbon urban development.

2) Restore forests and develop new international partnerships to halt deforestation.

3) Invest $1trn in clean energy with banks and investors working to reduce the cost of capital for clean energy and phasing out investment for carbon intensive fuels and systems.

4) Raise energy efficiency standards in the G20 for goods such as appliances and vehicles.

5) Commit to carbon pricing by 2020 and economies should phase out all fossil fuel subsidies.

6) Secure low-carbon infrastructure with governments, banks and the private sector working together to ensure best practice for national infrastructure.

7) Invest in innovation around the world to accelerate development of low-carbon technology in areas from agriculture and bioenergy to carbon capture and storage.

8) Businesses should adopt short- and long-term emissions reduction targets and regulators should encourage companies to disclose environmental information.

9) Shipping and aviation should act to reduce emissions with countries introducing greater efficiency standards.

10) Phase out Hydroflurocarbons from refrigerants and solvents, with these gases thought to be growing at 10-15% each year.

Within reach

Former President of Mexico and commission co-chair Felipe Calderón said: “This report shows that success is possible: we can achieve economic growth and close the dangerous emissions gap. Today’s report shows us that a goal we once thought of as distant is within our reach.”

He added “But governments, cities, businesses and investors need to work much more closely together and take advantage of recent developments if the opportunities are to be seized.”

The report estimates that businesses are already driving a global market in low-carbon goods and services worth $5.5trn, with the market growing 3% per year.

“Businesses are already preparing for a low-carbon future,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. “For instance, companies representing 90% of global trade in palm oil, including ours, have committed to deforestation-free supply chains by 2020.”

Carbon decoupled

New Climate Economy global programme director Helen Mountford said countries have the opportuntiy to boost climate action and drive economic growth: “Global economic growth and carbon emissions are beginning to be decoupled: last year, for the first time in decades, emissions held steady while the global economy grew. But the pace of change needs to be accelerated if we are to meet our development goals and also reduce climate risks.” 

The report comes after China announced it would aim to begin reducing carbon emissions by 2030 as its official contribution to the global climate change talks in Paris in December. China also plans to boosts its non-fossil fuel energy consumption to 20%.

Matt Field

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