Latest World Development Report underlines the need to act now on climate change
As efforts intensify to secure a climate deal in Copenhagen in December, the launch of the World Development Report by the World Bank last week provided a timely reminder of the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change for developing countries.
The Report underlines the fact that development will get harder as a result of climate change. It is estimated that developing countries will bear 75% – 80% of the costs of damages caused by the changing climate. Even 2% warming, the minimum the world is likely to experience, could, experts believe, result in permanent reduction in GDP of 4%-5% for Africa and South Asia.
The Report concludes that economic growth alone is unlikely to be fast or equitable enough to counter threats from climate change, particularly if it remains carbon intensive and accelerates global warming. Consequently, climate policy cannot be framed as a choice between growth and climate change and the Report calls for climate smart policies that enhance development, reduce vulnerability and enable the financing of the transition to low-carbon growth paths.
The Report emphasises the need to act now to minimise the costs of transition to low carbon technologies, and to ensure the widest range of options remain open. It calls for the world to act together to tackle both adaptation and mitigation, with high income countries taking aggressive action to reduce their own emissions to free “pollution space” for developing economies, which will stimulate innovation and demand for new technologies so that they can be rapidly scaled up. It would also help to create a sufficiently large and stable carbon market. Both these effects are required to enable developing countries to move to a low carbon trajectory while rapidly gaining access to the energy services required for development.
Finally, the Report underlines the importance of global policy makers to act differently to ensure the world’s energy systems can be transformed to enable global emissions to drop by 50%-80%. Developing countries need financing and technological assistance to make this transition to ensure developing countries do not remain locked in to a cycle of low growth whilst also becoming increasingly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change.
Most of the innovation and financing required to move the world to a low carbon future will come from the private sector. As the Copenhagen Communique, developed by the Prince of Wale’s Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change concludes:
“A strong, effective and equitable international climate framework will stimulate the domestic policy interventions, bilateral and regional deals that are needed as a matter of urgency to deliver on intermediate and long-term reduction targets and accelerate construction of the low-carbon economy. This will unlock the potential of business to do what it does best: to invest profitably, to innovate, and make affordable low carbon products and services to billions of consumers around the world. The more ambitious the framework, the more business will deliver.”
The stakes couldn’t be higher.