Climate Solutions Promise $26 Trillion in Benefits as Global Economy Hits ‘Use It or Lose It Moment’
The “bold action” needed to address the climate crisis could deliver at least US$26 trillion in economic benefits through 2030, while producing more than 65 million low-carbon jobs, preventing 700,000 premature deaths, and generating $2.8 trillion in government revenues in that year, according to a blockbuster report issued this morning by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
The report identifies the next two to three years as the “critical window” when the investment decisions that shape the next 10 to 15 years will be taken.
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“We are at a unique ‘use it or lose it’ moment,” said Commission Co-Chair Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former finance minister of Nigeria. “Policy-makers should take their feet off the brakes, send a clear signal that the new growth story is here, and that it comes with exciting economic and market opportunities. US$26 trillion and a more sustainable planet are on offer, if we act decisively now.”
The Global Commission, also known as New Climate Economy, compares the job creation potential in the post-carbon transition to the entire work forces of the United Kingdom and Egypt combined. The $2.8 trillion to be gained through subsidy reform and carbon pricing would equal India’s present-day GDP.
“The momentum from businesses, states, cities, investors, and citizens is now unstoppable, not least because those taking bold climate action are already seeing tangible benefits,” said Commission Co-Chair and Unilever CEO Paul Polman. “But if we are to unlock the full benefits of this new low-carbon growth opportunity and avoid runaway climate change, economic and financial leaders in both government and the private sector need to do even more, and fast.”
“We can now see that this new growth story embodies very powerful dynamics: innovation, learning by doing, and economies of scale,” said Commission Co-Chair and veteran climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern. “Current economic models fail to capture both the powerful dynamics and the very attractive qualities of new technologies and structures. Thus we know we are grossly underestimating the benefits of this new growth story,” even with climate-related “tipping points and irreversibilities getting ever closer.”
New Climate Economy states in a release that the world has seen “tremendous technological and market progress driving the shift to a new climate economy” over the last decade. “There are real benefits to be seen in terms of new jobs, economic savings, competitiveness and market opportunities, and improved well-being for people worldwide.” But look no farther than an alarming summer season of heat waves and wildfires, droughts and flooding for evidence that the pace of change “is not yet fast enough.”
The commission urges the world’s governments to ramp up their efforts on carbon pricing and mandatory disclosure of climate risks, accelerate sustainable infrastructure investment, harness private sector investment and innovation, and “build a people-centred approach that shares gains equitably and ensures that the transition is just.” With $90 trillion in global infrastructure investment expected by 2030, “ensuring that this infrastructure is sustainable will be a critical determinant of future growth and prosperity,” New Climate Economy states.
The analysis in the report covers five key sectors: energy, cities, food and land use, water, and industry. A backgrounder issued alongside the 208-page report points to the plummeting cost of renewable energy, new opportunities for cities to reduce poverty while tackling climate change, and the need to fix a “broken food and land use system” to deliver “stronger and more equitable rural socio-economic development”, as well as greater biodiversity and public health. It states that advances in the food and land use system could deliver more than one-third of the climate change solution that is required.
The report notes that safe, sufficient water and sanitation “is essential to economic prosperity, health, and development outcomes,” as well as to environmental sustainability, and stresses the need for greater efficiency and “breakthrough innovations” in industry.