The cli­mate cat­e­gor­i­cal im­per­a­tive

Nowa­days, peo­ple are too of­ten forced to choose be­tween do­ing what is morally right and do­ing what is eco­nom­i­cally ben­e­fi­cial. In­deed, their op­tions some­times ap­pear to be mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive, mak­ing the de­ci­sion of which path to take ex­ceed­ingly chal­lengi

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The moral im­per­a­tive is in­dis­putable, as the ef­fects of cli­mate change – in­clud­ing ex­treme weather, tem­per­a­ture changes, and ris­ing sea lev­els – are felt most keenly by the global poor, who have also ben­e­fited the least from the eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties that cause it. More­over, cli­mate change could ac­cel­er­ate poverty and in­equal­ity in the fu­ture, mean­ing that, un­less we ad­dress it in a timely man­ner, it will di­min­ish – or even elim­i­nate – fu­ture gen­er­a­tions’ chances to achieve their de­vel­op­ment goals. Mak­ing ev­ery ef­fort to min­imise cli­mate change to­day is, quite sim­ply, the right thing to do.

For­tu­nately, the eco­nomic ben­e­fits of ad­dress­ing cli­mate change are also clear. Af­ter all, cli­mate change car­ries sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic costs – for ex­am­ple, those as­so­ci­ated with more fre­quent and ex­treme weather events.

More­over, build­ing a “green” econ­omy, based on con­tin­ued tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion, is the smartest and most ef­fi­cient way to cre­ate new en­gines of sus­tain­able growth and job cre­ation for the next gen­er­a­tion.

Ac­tion at the in­di­vid­ual, com­pany, mu­nic­i­pal, and na­tional lev­els is cru­cial. But the fact is that cli­mate change is a global prob­lem – and thus re­quires a global so­lu­tion. The most im­por­tant tool the world has for do­ing the right thing – and reap­ing vast eco­nomic ben­e­fits – is a uni­ver­sal cli­mate-change agree­ment. That is why world lead­ers must take the op­por­tu­nity pre­sented by the United Na­tions Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence in Paris this De­cem­ber to de­velop a sin­gle global frame­work for ac­tion. In fact, world lead­ers al­ready pledged to do so. The UN Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence in 2011 – ini­ti­ated and hosted by South Africa – pro­duced an agree­ment to adopt a uni­ver­sal le­gal agree­ment on cli­mate change as soon as pos­si­ble, no later than this year.

Im­por­tant progress has been made since the Dur­ban con­fer­ence. Last month, more than 30 coun­tries – in­clud­ing the Euro­pean Union’s mem­bers, Gabon, Mexico, Nor­way, Rus­sia, Switzer­land, and the United States – sub­mit­ted their post2020 plans to re­duce green­house-gas emis­sions. In the com­ing weeks and months, this mo­men­tum will con­tinue to build, as other coun­tries – in­clud­ing, it is ex­pected, ma­jor emerg­ing economies like Brazil, China, and In­dia – sub­mit their com­mit­ments as well.

But if the Paris meet­ing is to be suc­cess­ful – in terms of both ful­fill­ing the moral im­per­a­tive and cap­tur­ing the eco­nomic ben­e­fits of con­fronting cli­mate change – ev­ery par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­try must sub­mit its na­tional con­tri­bu­tions for the pe­riod be­gin­ning in 2020 as soon as pos­si­ble. Fur­ther­more, the fi­nal agree­ment must in­clude an ef­fec­tive and am­bi­tious plan for de-car­bon­i­sa­tion over the next 50 years.

The fact is that short- and medium-term com­mit­ments alone are sim­ply in­ad­e­quate to ful­fill the pledge, made by the world’s gov­ern­ments in 2009 and re­it­er­ated in 2010, to cap the rise in global tem­per­a­tures at 2 Cel­sius rel­a­tive to the pre-in­dus­trial era. It is cru­cial to cre­ate – and ad­here to – a pro­gres­sive long-term emis­sions-re­duc­tion strat­egy that sends a clear sig­nal to cap­i­tal mar­kets that gov­ern­ments are se­ri­ous about con­fronting cli­mate change.

Such a strat­egy could in­clude, for ex­am­ple, in­cen­tives for in­vest­ment in low­car­bon so­lu­tions. With some $90 trln set to be in­vested in in­fra­struc­ture glob­ally over the next 15 years, the i mpact of such an ap­proach could be con­sid­er­able – if not decisive.

The moral and eco­nomic im­per­a­tives to act on cli­mate change could not be stronger. Although the road ahead will be dif­fi­cult, with new and un­ex­pected chal­lenges aris­ing along the way, we can find in­spi­ra­tion in Nel­son Man­dela’s fa­mous dic­tum: “It al­ways seems im­pos­si­ble un­til it’s done.” We face an un­prece­dented op­por­tu­nity to achieve a more sus­tain­able, pros­per­ous, and so­cially just fu­ture. Cre­at­ing that fu­ture must start now.

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