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08/12/2016

Fighting climate change needn’t cost growth and jobs, EU leaders told

Energy

Fighting climate change needn’t cost growth and jobs, EU leaders told

Moving away from coal need not cost jobs and growth, even during times of economic difficulty, according to a new report. [Emilian Robert Vicol/Flickr]

Fighting climate change will deliver economic growth and employment, a report launched today (16 September) found, upping pressure on EU leaders to agree an effective carbon reduction package at their October summit.

The Summit’s recommendations will inform the EU’s position at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, which aims to secure a legally binding, universal agreement on climate from all the nations of the world. 

Such an agreement would be a first in 20 years of UN negotiations. The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate warned that the next 15 years will determine the future of the world’s climate system.

Without stronger action, it is near certain that global average warming will exceed 2C, the level the international community has pledged not to cross, the report said.  Climate change would pose a severe risk to long-term prosperity, added Commission Co-Chair Lord Nicholas Stern.

EU leaders are struggling to transform the sluggish growth into a sound economic recovery and reduce high unemployment.  They are also looking to agree the EU climate and energy package for 2030 at the 23-24 October summit.  

Commission co-chair and former Mexican President Felipe Calderón said, “The message to leaders is clear. We don’t have to choose between economic growth and a safe climate. We can have both.”

The report said it is possible, thanks to technological innovation and new infrastructure investment, to boost jobs and sustainable growth, lower carbon emissions and tackle climate change at the same time.

EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard and European Parliament President Martin Schulz backed the report’s findings, increasing the pressure on the national leaders to deliver next month.

Schulz said, “Policymakers might be tempted to sacrifice climate policies at the altar of economic growth. This would be a mistake which we cannot afford.”

The European Commission in July proposed reducing the bloc’s energy use by 30% by 2030, leaving it up to EU heads of states to decide whether or not to endorse the target at the forthcoming summit.

How?

Over the next 15 years up to 2030, about €69.5 trillion will be invested in infrastructure in the world’s energy, cities and agriculture. Of that about €12.35 trillion will be invested in the EU.

Steering that money towards “low-carbon investment” in resource efficiency improvements, in infrastructure, and business and technological innovation will generate strong growth, the report said.

The report, called Better Growth, Better Climate, sets out recommendations covering energy, climate, urban planning and agricultural land-use policies (see below).

Following the policy and investment recommendations could deliver at least half of the reductions in emissions needed by 2030 to lower the risk of climate change.

That could soar to 90% “with strong and broad implementation” across the globe.

This will only be achieved with a strong and fair international agreement, the report said.

Developed countries will need to show leadership through strong emission reduction and by giving financial and technological support to developing countries.

Developing countries already account for two thirds of annual greenhouse gas emissions, so they will also have to commit to cuts.

But as the price of solar and wind power falls dramatically, over half of new electricity over the next 15 years is likely to be in renewable energy, reducing dependence on coal, the report said.

Although many jobs will be created and there will be larger markets and profits for some businesses, some jobs, particularly in high-carbon sectors, will be lost.

Delay in reducing carbon emissions will make it progressively more expensive to shift towards a low-carbon economy, the report said.

Making the move now would means countries of all levels of development could lay the foundations for lasting economic growth while reducing the “immense risks” of climate change, it added.

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate is made up of 24 leaders from governments, business, finance and economics in 19 countries.  The year-long study was presented in New York today, a week before the UN Climate Summit on 23 September.

Report findings and recommendations

  • Agree a strong, lasting and equitable international climate agreement.
  • Introduce strong, predictable carbon prices.
  • Phase out new unabated coal plants in developed economies immediately and in middle income countries by 2025.
  • Reduce capital costs for low-carbon infrastructure. New financial instruments can cut capital costs for clean energy by up to 20%.
  • Phase out the $600 billion currently spent on subsidies for fossil fuels, compared to $100 billion on renewable energy, to help improve energy efficiency and make funds available for better-targeted poverty reduction.
  • Triple research and development in low-carbon technologies to at least 0.1% of GDP can drive a new wave of innovation for growth.
  • Build better connected, more compact cities based on mass public transport can save over $3 trillion in investment costs over the next 15 years. This will improve economic performance and quality of life with lower emissions.
  • Restoring just 12% of the world’s degraded lands can feed another 200 million people and raise farmers’ incomes by $40 billion a year – and also cut emissions from deforestation.
  • Stop deforestation of natural forests by 2030 by increasing international performance-linked funding for forest protection to about $5 billion a year.

Background

The Commission's Communication on Energy efficiency for the '2030 Framework for climate and energy policy' assesses whether the EU is on track to reach its 2020 target to increase energy efficiency by 20%.

It outlines what is necessary to ensure that the target is achieved and proposes a new energy saving target of 30% by 2030. EU leaders will discuss that target this October.

It completes the 2030 Framework on Climate and Energy which was adopted by the European Commission on 22 January 2014.

Timeline

  • 23-24 October: EU Council meeting
  • 30 November to 11 December 2015: 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris

Further Reading

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate

Press articles