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Climate inaction worse for economy than action: report

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A major new report has described claims of a clash between fighting global climate change and growing the world’s economy a “false dilemma”, and said that instead, the two were intrinsically linked, with inaction on climate change likely to cost economies more in the long term.

Launched on Tuesday after a year-long study advised by a panel of world-leading economists – including Australia’s Ross Garnaut – the Better Growth, Better Climate: The New Climate Economy Report concludes that “countries of all levels of income now have the opportunity to build lasting economic growth at the same time as reducing the immense risks of climate change.”

The report’s launch at the United Nations’ New York City headquarters precedes next week’s international climate summit – to be held at the same venue – is expected to serve as a core narrative for the meeting.

“The New Climate Economy report refutes the idea that we must choose between fighting climate change or growing the world’s economy. That is a false dilemma,” said former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón, Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate – the organisation behind the report.

“(It) details compelling evidence on how technological change is driving new opportunities to improve growth, create jobs, boost company profits and spur economic development… (and) sends a clear message to government and private sector leaders: we can improve the economy and tackle climate change at the same time.”

The Prime Minister of Australia, however, who we know will not be attending the September 23 climate summit, has been known to take the opposite view to this.

In June, Tony Abbott joined forces with his Canadian counterpart, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to undermine the importance of united global efforts to tackle climate change, and disparage the use of carbon pricing as an economically damaging and environmentally inefficient mechanism.

“We should do what we reasonably can to limit emissions and avoid climate change – man-made climate change – but we shouldn’t clobber the economy,” Abbott said during a visit to Canada.r734987_5960781

The GCEC report finds that there are now major opportunities to achieve strong growth with lower emissions in three key sectors of the global economy – cities, land use and energy. But it notes that to achieve this, governments and businesses need to improve resource efficiency, invest in good-quality infrastructure, and stimulate technological and business innovation. And governments need to provide policy certainty.

“Major companies, smart investors and a new generation of entrepreneurs are already demonstrating how markets can drive low-carbon growth,” said Jeremy Oppenheim, Global Programme Director of the New Climate Economy project. “But inconsistent policy in many countries is now creating uncertainty, hurting investment and job creation. Businesses and investors need clearer market signals.”

The report finds that over the next 15 years, about $US90 trillion will be invested in infrastructure in the world’s cities, agriculture and energy. That gives the world an unprecedented opportunity to drive investment in low-carbon growth, bringing multiple benefits to jobs, health, business productivity and quality of life.

It sets out a detailed 10-point Global Action Plan of practical recommendations to achieve greater prosperity and a safer climate at the same time – measures that will lead to net benefits to the economy, even before their climate benefits are considered.

The Commission calculates that if fully implemented its recommendations could potentially achieve up to 90 per cent of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to avoid dangerous climate change. This would require decisive and early action by economic decision-makers.

“The decisions we make now will determine the future of our economy and our climate,” said Lord Nicholas Stern, Co-Chair of the Global Commission. “If we choose low-carbon investment we can generate strong, high-quality growth – not just in the future, but now. But if we continue down the high-carbon route, climate change will bring severe risks to long-term prosperity.”  

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