Wanted climate leaders

By Tara Buakamsri

 “Amid the pressures of the global financial crisis, some ask how we can afford to tackle climate change. The better question is: can we afford not to?” – Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations

We are living in an extraordinary moment in the global economy, a time when the bursting bubble of unlimited economic growth for its own sake and unregulated financial flows have plunged nations across the globe into recession, and untold numbers of the most vulnerable into even greater poverty.  At the same time, the very real impacts of the accumulation of unlimited CO2 emissions are raising sea levels, melting ice-caps, wiping out species and increasing poverty, water and food scarcity. 

It is critical to remember that while the G20 leaders may represent 85% of the global economy, their actions will affect the 172 countries not represented at this meeting, many of whom are the poorest and most vulnerable to the economic crisis and climate change.

“The Stern Review”, the most comprehensive review ever carried out on the economics of climate change put the likely cost of climate change impacts at up to 20% of global output. That means that climate change could cost more than the Great Depression and both world wars combined – in addition to the human deaths and species extinctions caused by physical and environmental impacts. So it is clear that if the G20 leaders are thinking about addressing the global economic crisis, generating stable economic growth and creating stable jobs they have to tackle the climate crisis regardless of which major city they happen to be in.

By contrast, Stern estimates that tackling climate change and forcing investment in low carbon technologies would be a fraction of this cost: just 1 or 2% of global GDP. The quickest way to put people back to work, kick-start sustainable economic growth andensure the security and stability of people and economies across the planet is by tackling the twin crises of global economic recession and climate change head on.

G20 leaders have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tackle the twin crises of economic recession and climate change simultaneously, it is an opportunity they cannot afford to miss. As a start, G20 leaders from the US, EU and other high income OECD countries need to commit at least 1% of their GDP to greening their economies and getting rid of subsidies and other economic incentives that contribute to climate change.  The rest of the G20 should do all they can to leapfrog dirty carbon-based development and shift to a sustainable energy future. This will reduce emissions, supporting efforts to reach a strong and effective global deal for the climate in Copenhagen later this year.

It is critical that any other stimulus measures adopted do not negate green action.

Especially the actions being sought at the first UNFCCC meeting, that also begins in Bonn, this week.

The talks mark the beginning of a series of negotiations culminating with the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December, where a global deal to save the climate must be agreed. One of the key agenda items for Bonn is agreement on an overall mid-term emissions reduction target for the group of developed countries.

The race to forge a climate saving deal by the end of the year begins here. We want to see governments come off the starting blocks with vigour and determination. We want to see some real climate leadership emerge, something that has so far been conspicuously absent

Developed countries especially need to end the ridiculous ‘after you’ charade that they have been engaged in for the last decade and agree to cut emissions by at least 40% by 2020.

At the same time as the Bonn climate negotiations, on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in London, US President Obama  and Chinese President Hu Jintao. will meet for the first time.

The Obama and Hu meeting is the perfect opportunity for the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters to demonstrate common cause and climate leadership. A joint US/China commitment to finding climate solutions, including securing the necessary funding and a call to other world leaders to join them could be the critical step that breaks the stalemate, leading to a legacy of climate protection.