The world’s future is being decided this weekend
summit is to succeed
in London today to try to accelerate crucial negotiations over an international
other greenhouse gases by 25% by 2020 relative to levels in 1990.
can be hammered out in time for the United Nations’s conference on climate change
in Copenhagen, now just seven weeks away.
overall reduction in emissions, with rich countries taking the lead through strong,
binding targets and financial support for developing countries. Numbers are important
to this, so let me explain why.
of carbon-dioxide-equivalent (they may have exceeded 50bn tonnes without the global economic slowdown). Countries
around the world have been designing programmes that could reduce annual emissions
to about 49bn tonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent in 2020, compared with 55 to
60bn tonnes under “business as usual”.
temperature to no more than 2˚C, beyond which scientists regard as “dangerous”
to go, annual emissions must be reduced to below 44bn tonnes by 2020, well below 35bn tonnes in 2030 and well below 20bn tonnes by 2050.
each year, with big variations between countries: for instance, the United States emits
about 24 tonnes per head while the figure for
per head emissions will have to be lower than 2 tonnes per year on average. For rich countries, this will require a cut in annual emissions by at least 80%
will be home to 8 billion people in 2050, it is clear that they must also be at
the heart of the action on climate change.
2020. This is achievable. For example, greater efforts on tackling deforestation
could reduce emissions cost-effectively by at least another 2.5bn tonnes. International shipping and aviation could further reduce the global total by
at least half a billion tonnes.
tonnes if they implement their conditional “high-ambition” commitments – the European
Union, for instance, will increase its cuts by 2020, relative to 1990 levels,
from 20% to 30% if there is a strong global deal.
ways of achieving economic growth while lowering their emissions per unit of output.
In both rich and poor countries, there is great potential both from energy efficiency
and new low-emissions technologies.
Indeed, if we set out strongly on this road we will create a new era of prosperity
and growth. Innovators are full of ideas and investors see the opportunities.
They now need confidence in strong international policy.
transition to a low-carbon economy and have taken significant steps forward in
the last few weeks.
in New York
product by a “notable margin” by 2020 compared with levels in 2005.
to take across a wide range of sectors, including the goal of obtaining a fifth
of its energy from solar, wind and hydro sources by 2020.
countries with $100bn a year by the early 2020s, for measures to reduce emissions
(much of which could be delivered by the operation of carbon markets), and a further $100bn to help them adapt to the effects of climate change that
cannot now be avoided. Developing countries are likely to doubt the credibility
of such commitments unless the rich countries also set an intermediate target
of $50bn per year by 2015.
assistance. They may appear large, but $200bn represents around 0.5% of the current
gross domestic product of the rich countries, and is tiny compared to the risks
that can be avoided by an international agreement. And it will not be possible
to overcome poverty in poor countries without also tackling the threat of climate
change: the global deal must be founded on a clear understanding that these two
issues are closely bound together.
is within our grasp, but only if our political leaders remain focused on the core
common goals and maintain their determination to reach agreement.
the Environment and IG Patel professor of economics and government at the London
School of Economics and Political Science