A raft of measures that boost economic growth can be used to bring down “dangerous” levels of greenhouse gas emissions, an international report has said.
Steps ranging from raising energy efficiency standards for appliances and cars to reducing clean power costs will close up to 96% of the gap between the predicted emissions if countries take no action and what is needed to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
Ahead of key international talks in Paris at the end of the year – where it is hoped a new treaty on climate change will be agreed, the report’s authors warn that pledges being made by countries to cut emissions will not be enough.
The new study from the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate sets out 10 measure that it argues will make the difference, as well as boosting economic growth through new products, increasing efficiency and cutting health costs of pollution.
They include getting the G20 leading economies to raise their efficiency standards to a “global best” for appliances, lighting and vehicles to save trillions of pounds – and countries investing £640 billion by 2030 to bring down the costs of clean energy.
The report calls for a scaling up of partnerships between cities to drive low carbon investment, so that, for example, they could club together to buy electric buses more cheaply as they would be buying in bulk.
Cities investing in public transport, building efficiency and better waste management could save almost £11 trillion globally by 2050, it estimates.
Countries should work with businesses to halt deforestation and restore hundreds of millions of hectares of damaged land, which would boost productivity, food security and improve livelihoods for local people, the report said.
And action to cut emissions from aviation and shipping could be delivered under international treaties, saving billions of pounds in fuel costs by 2030, according the study.
Former president of Mexico and chairman of the commission Felipe Calderon said: “This report shows that success is possible: we can achieve economic growth and close the dangerous emissions gap.
“Today’s report shows us that a goal we once thought of as distant is within our reach. We can achieve global prosperity and secure a safe climate together.”
Governments, businesses, investors, cities and communities need to work much more closely together to take advantage of recent economic developments, such as the plummeting cost of clean energy and oil price volatility, to develop a low-carbon economy, the report said.
Countries have committed to keeping global temperatures from rising by more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, the threshold beyond the most extreme impacts of climate change are expected.
But the world faces a gap of billions of tonnes of emissions between what will happen without action and the level of greenhouse gases humanity can be putting into the atmosphere by 2030 and still be on track for limiting temperature rises to 2C.
Pledges put forward by countries will lead to around half the emissions cuts needed by 2030, but the report sets out measures that it says will take the world almost all of the way there.
Michael Jacobs, former special advisor to Gordon Brown, and director of the report, said: “The risk, six months out from Paris, is that the collective effort that countries are bringing forward for Paris in the so-called intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) simply won’t be enough to put the world on a pathway to 2C or less, which countries themselves have committed to.
“Our report says they can close the emissions gap, there are ways of doing this, and it’s in their economic interests, it can help support economic growth and development.”
He said countries should not see the contributions they are putting forward for Paris as their final pledges, and that they should be “floors not ceilings“ for action.
The report sets out ways governments, cities and businesses can collaborate to drive economic growth and cut emissions.
“Paris can be the first step on the road to achieve 2C if governments are willing to make it happen,” he said.
Lord Stern, who wrote the key report on the economics of climate change – and is co-chairman of the commission, said more and more countries were committing to putting climate action into their national economic plans.
“Strong growth that is also low-carbon is going to be the new normal,” he said.