Climate Will Add $100B to Development Costs
Sunday, 12 October 2008

LONDON, (OneWorld) - Failure to factor climate change into the Millennium Development Goals was a major mistake, Lord Nicholas Stern told a meeting in London this week.

"We mustn't make that mistake again," emphasized the former adviser to the British Government on the economics of climate change and development who also headed the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. Because a hostile climate made successful economic growth efforts more costly in developing countries, he said, the cost of achieving the global anti-poverty and healthcare goals might be $100 billion more than expected.
Climate change and development were the two most important problems of the 21st century, he told an audience of several hundred at the London School of Economics, and next year's climate negotiations in Copenhagen would be the world's most important gathering since the Second World War.
Failure in tackling either climate change or development would result in failure in tackling the other: "We must have a low carbon growth path that leads to the eradication of poverty. We are talking about de-carbonizing economies."
Staying on the current path of greenhouse gas emissions, said Stern, meant a high probability of catastrophe, with wars a likely result.
He thought that a global deal to reduce emissions on the scale necessary was possible, though rich countries had to accept responsibility for their historic contribution to climate change, and developing countries had to show leadership.
The global target was an average of two tons of CO2 equivalent per head (compared with a current average of 10-12 tons in Europe).
To achieve this target, deforestation had to be stopped fairly quickly. But the halt had to be effected as part of development efforts within local communities.
In addition, all possible technologies had to be tested and analyzed. "We can't tie our hands behind our back. We can't throw out any technologies, in my view," whether carbon capture and storage or nuclear.
Many environmental groups oppose those options for reasons of both human safety and potential environmental side effects, however, arguing that less controversial energy sources can supply enough energy to reduce CO2 emissions to the necessary levels.
"Priority should be given to investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, which have the greatest potential to provide energy security and reduce emissions," said Greenpeace in a May study entitled "False Hope: Why carbon capture and storage won't save the climate." Friends of the Earth and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation are among the many other groups that have made similar arguments in recent months.
An understanding between the United States and China would be a key factor in climate negotiations, said Stern. He said soundings with members of both the Obama and McCain teams in the United States had been positive, and he hoped the winner of the presidential election would meet the Chinese leader early next year to discuss climate policy.
Stern stressed the importance of rapid action. "If we wait 10 or 15 years the position will be much worse than it is now," he commented. "Delay in this area is extremely dangerous."
But "if we are far-sighted" the development of low-carbon technologies and infrastructure could drive economic growth. The development of biofuel cars in Brazil and windfarms in Germany showed that it was possible to move fast, he added.

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