Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Climate change................ "Clean growth is a safe bet in the climate casino"

Can you have your cake and eat it?

Clean growth is a way to achieve economic growth, using clean technology, and allowing sustainable development.
The aim is to rise standard of living with a reduced environmental impact.
Scientists and politicians use this terminology. For example, Nicolas Sarkozy said :
Our first goal is to find the way to achieve "clean" growth and I want to defend this idea here today. We haven't got to choose between saving the planet and growth. We need to have growth and save the planet. So we need a growth that consumes less energy and fewer raw materials. A new economy must be invented.[1]
Clean growth - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Some would say not:
Futures Forum: Slavoj Žižek: on there being "no metaphysical 'beyond' to put our waste" ..... on "the crisis of late capitalism" ..... and on "the comforting mythology of the recycling industry."
Futures Forum: Elinor Ostrom: sustainable development ... and the tragedy of commons
Futures Forum: The Story of Stuff: "You cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely"
Futures Forum: "Sustainable Growth"... and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

And it is often a question of language:
Futures Forum: The semantics of sustainability: 'sustainable development'... or 'sustainable growth' ... or 'sustained economic growth'... or 'development for sustainability'...

However, the Financial Times takes the issue of climate change very seriously: 
Futures Forum: "Green growth is a worthwhile goal" - comment on climate change and sustainability from the FT

September 16, 2014 5:11 am

Growth and fighting global climate change not incompatible

Rummaging for recyclables at a dumpsite in Paranaque city, Manila
The world’s finance ministers no longer need to choose between boosting economic growth or fighting climate change because for the first time both are possible, an $8.9m, year-long study has concluded.
Plummeting renewable energy costs, advanced technologies and shifting investment patterns mean prosperity does not have to be sacrificed to tackle global warming, according to the report commissioned by the UK, South Korea and five other countries including Ethiopia and Indonesia.




“That is a false dilemma,” said Felipe Calderón, former Mexican president, chairman of a panel of ex-ministers and economists that has overseen the assessment of how to cut planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions without sapping economic strength.
“We can choose between better growth and a better climate,” he said.
The study builds on the 2006 UK review of the economics of climate change by British economist, Lord Nicholas Stern, who co-chaired the panel.
The report has been timed to coincide with a UN summit in New York next week where more than 120 heads of state are due to set out their plans to cut carbon emissions.
It will be the first time so many world leaders have met to discuss climate change since a 2009 summit in Copenhagen, one of a series of UN-brokered conferences that have failed to produce an effective global climate agreement for more than 20 years.
One of the central stumbling blocks to such a deal has been concern about the economic costs of climate policies, be it closing the coal-fired electricity plants responsible for 73 per cent of power sector emissions or building greener mass transport systems.
The New Climate Economy Report says such fears overlook the fact that the global economy is on the brink of a profound structural shift over the next 15 years as a rising population prompts more than 1bn people to flock to ever larger cities around the world.

In depth

Climate Change And Global Pollution To Be Discussed At Copenhagen Summit...GRANGEMOUTH, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 17: Grangemouth oil refinery emits vapours near the Firth of Forth on November 17, 2009 in Longannet ,Scotland. As world leaders prepare to gather for the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December, the resolve of the industrial nations seems to be weakening with President Obama stating that it would be impossible to reach a binding deal at the summit. Climate campaigners are concerned that this disappointing announcement is a backward step ahead of the summit.
The latest news and analysis on the world’s changing climate and the political moves afoot to tackle the problem
That is going to require an average of $6tn a year to be invested globally in the transport networks, energy systems and other infrastructure typically built in a high-carbon economy.
But it would only cost about $270bn a year more to build greener alternatives such as renewable electricity plants and better bus or train systems in well-planned, more compact cities, according to the study.
In addition, governments and businesses have gained a welter of experience since the Copenhagen climate conference in energy efficiency, carbon pricing, green financing and other measures that make it easier to reduce emissions.
This would reduce the growth of emissions while making cities more liveable and less polluted, it says, pointing to research showing transport carbon emissions in a sprawling city such as Atlanta in the US are 10 times higher than those in Spain’s Barcelona even though both have similar urban populations and wealth levels.
Dramatic falls in the cost of clean energy, including an 80 per cent fall in the cost of solar panels since 2008, means renewable energy is becoming an affordable alternative to fossil fuels in many countries.
This means the view that climate change policies need to be cautiously pursued is distinctly “old fashioned”, said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, one of eight research groups that produced the report.
“What we need to do to get the world to grow and prosper is exactly what we need to do to move towards a low carbon economy,” he said.
Still, plenty of challenges remain, particularly for the coal industry.
Fossil fuel
“Not all climate policies are ‘win-win’,” cautions the study, which recommends wealthy countries immediately stop building new coal power plants and all countries phase out fossil fuel subsidies now valued at about $600bn a year, compared with $100bn for clean energy subsidies.
“Significant” job losses are likely in countries that depend heavily on coal, for example. But the growth of jobs in other sectors mean the overall impact of low-carbon policies would be “generally around plus or minus 1-2 per cent of total employment”.
Implementing the study’s 10 recommendations could deliver at least half the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to have a good chance of avoiding risky climate change, the authors claim.
The recommendations include strong, predictable carbon prices; ending deforestation of natural forests by 2030 and tripling public investment in clean energy research and development.
Richer countries should help poorer ones by fulfilling a pledge to mobilise $100bn a year for climate financing by 2020.
And all countries should produce the global climate agreement they have agreed to sign in Paris in December next year, though wealthier nations should be prepared to make earlier and deeper cuts in their carbon pollution, since they emit most of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today.


Growth and fighting global climate change not incompatible - FT.com

Comment from Martin Wolf in last week's FT:

September 23, 2014 6:43 pm

Clean growth is a safe bet in the climate casino

With the right support from governments, a low-carbon future need not be one of perpetual misery
Ingram Pinn illustration
The debate on action over climate change is stuck. Despite copious words and many international conferences, including a UN summit in New York this week, emissions of greenhouse gases continue their upward march. Could this change? One can at least identify the necessary conditions. One is leadership. But the most important one is evidence that tackling climate change is compatible with prosperity. The possibility of combining the elimination of runaway climate change with rising living standards could help transform the debate.
All but the most obdurate sceptics must recognise that the probability of irreversible climate change is much greater than zero. But the cost of buying insurance against that risk also matters. Fortunately, these costs might be quite low and, in some respects, even negative: eliminating reliance on coal-generated electricity, for example, would produce health benefits. So would building more compact cities.





These examples both come from an important new report from the high-level Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. It makes five fundamental points. First, the nature of the infrastructure we build over the next 15 years or so will determine the chances of keeping average global warming to less than 2C, the level above which many scientists think change might prove catastrophic. Second, to achieve such a change, the world must start changing its behaviour now. Third, over this period huge investments will be made in the infrastructure that is going to shape urban development, land use and energy systems. Fourth, by making the right investment decisions, the world could achieve at least half of the reductions in emissions needed by 2030. Finally, shifting the pattern of investment and innovation in the desired direction would add little economic cost and bring many benefits.
This is an encouraging message. Some of it clearly makes much sense. The report estimates subsidies to fossil fuels at $600bn a year, against subsidies of just $90bn to clean energy. This makes no sense at all. Again, consider the damage done by emissions. In China, reliance on coal has made the country the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. In addition to the impact on climate, the result has been terrible local pollution. This could lead to a win-win outcome: reductions in reliance on coal would lower local and global pollution.
A study from the International Monetary Fund argues that carbon pricing would benefit many countries even if all global benefits were ignored. On average, it suggests, the price justified by domestic considerations would be $57 a tonne across the top 20 emitters, far higher than recent prices in the EU’s emission trading system. It would make sense to charge such a tax and use the proceeds to lower more damaging taxes. Similarly, the subsidies to consumption in many oil exporters are hugely wasteful and should be eliminated forthwith. (See charts.)
Moreover, urban areas are responsible for about 70 per cent of energy use. In emerging economies they are growing rapidly. The commission’s report contrasts Atlanta with Barcelona, two prosperous cities with similar populations. The former generates 10 times more carbon dioxide emissions from transport. Cities of the future should choose to be more like Barcelona.
Land use can be massively improved while raising the incomes of farmers. Unmanaged deforestation, for example, does not bring gain but huge economic and environmental waste.
Finally, in energy, we have been seeing massive declines in the cost of renewables, particularly in solar generation, together with an improved ability to manage intermittent power supplies. Renewables and other low-carbon energy sources (including nuclear) could, argues the report, account for more than half of new electricity generation over the next 15 years.
Such transformations are to be achieved by a combination of pricing, investment, promotion of innovation and planning (yes, planning – urban development requires planning). All these also require a combination of public and private actions. None of this is new. The public sector has always played a role in the provision of infrastructure and in support for innovation.
How much would this cost? The report suggests that the incremental investment costs of a low-carbon future over the current higher-carbon one would be very small. It suggests, for example, that annual investment costs for infrastructure needed in transport, energy, water systems and cities will be about $6tn a year. The incremental costs of low-carbon infrastructure would be about $270bn annually. Plausible economic models suggest that the aggregate loss of world output by 2030, under the low-carbon option, would be equivalent to a one-year hiatus in economic growth. The costs of the financial crisis will almost certainly be far greater.
The report also makes a range of sensible proposals to secure the transition it seeks. Among these are proper carbon pricing, phasing out of subsidies for fossil fuels and incentives for urban sprawl, promoting capital markets for low-carbon investments, encouraging innovation in low-emissions technologies, halting deforestation and, not least, accelerating the shift from polluting coal-fired power generation.
Yet the crucial point is that a low-carbon future need not be one of perpetual misery. With the right support from governments, the market could deliver both greater prosperity and a far lower risk of a destabilised climate. It is unnecessary to persist in making today’s massive unhedged bets in the climate casino. It is possible instead to combine growth with a less environmentally risky future. Continuing with business as usual is irrational. But the changes we must make should come now. Later will be too late.

Clean growth is a safe bet in the climate casino - FT.com

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