Stern sets out low-carbon pathway

1st December 2016


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Author

Christine Watts

Political resolve will be critical to making the radical changes necessary to build sustainable infrastructure and combat climate change, Lord Stern said in a speech marking the tenth anniversary of the publication of his seminal review of the economics of climate change.

Political resolve will be critical to making the radical changes necessary to build sustainable infrastructure and combat climate change, Lord Stern said in a speech marking the tenth anniversary of the publication of his seminal review of the economics of climate change.

He warned that, without rapid implementation of the Paris agreement on climate change and the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs), it may soon become impossible to meet the target of holding global warming to well below 2°C.

‘We have made progress in the ten years since the Stern Review. But we must now seize the opportunities presented by the next ten years,’ he said. ‘The transition to low-carbon economic growth and development offers something even more powerful than a fundamental reduction in climate risks. It is an opportunity to take a much more attractive, sustainable and inclusive path for development, which delivers on the global agenda for growth, climate responsibility and the SDGs.’

Stern, who is chair of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, urged immediate action: ‘The window of opportunity for making the right choices is uncomfortably narrow because bad infrastructure and other investments can lock in capital, technology and emissions patterns for decades.’

He pointed out that the world was not on track to hold global warming to below 2°C. ‘Collectively, the nationally determined contributions for the Paris agreement are insufficient. The next ten years will be absolutely crucial if we are to get on track. There is grave danger of the lock-in of emissions.’

Despite the inadequate global response, Stern said Paris had at least shown there was now much clearer recognition around the world not only of the immense risks of unmitigated climate change but also the attractions that lie in the transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient economic growth.

‘We have a unique opportunity now, with historically low interest rates, rapid technological change, particularly in energy production and use, digital communications, new materials, biotechnology and construction, coinciding with a period of strong investment in infrastructure, to build a new path of sustainable growth.’

He called on policymakers to set clear expectations for shifting economies on to new low-carbon pathways.


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