About the author
She was previously the Deputy Director of Environment for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Helen holds masters degrees in environmental economics from University College London and in environmental management from University of Melbourne.
Signs of a low-carbon future in key economic sectors can already be seen: close to 400 cities have committed to the Compact of Mayors, pledging to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, enhance resilience to climate change and track their progress transparently. Investments in clean technology have driven down the cost of solar and wind energy, which are now competitive with fossil fuels in many places around the world. Companies representing 90% of the global trade in palm oil, including Unilever, have committed to deforestation-free supply chains by 2020.
But the scale of the climate risk we face is immense and we cannot afford to delay action any longer. Continuing investments in high-carbon infrastructure can lock in emissions for decades and influence the climate for centuries. We must make the right choices today for urban, energy and transport infrastructure.
The low carbon choices that will drive growth
Around US$90 trillion needs to be invested globally in cities, land use and energy infrastructure between now and 2030 to meet growth and development objectives. It would not cost much more to make those investment choices low carbon, and higher investment costs could be fully offset by reduced fuel expenditures and other savings.
The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate has called for action in ten key areas where there are opportunities for stronger and economically beneficial climate action, which you can see in the graphic below.
Climate action is an immense opportunity
Implementing these actions together could achieve as much as 96% of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to keep global warming under 2°C. They would also bring significant economic benefits. Here are just three examples:
- Investing in sustainable cities could save around US$17 trillion globally by 2050.
- Investing in energy efficiency could boost cumulative economic output globally by US$18 trillion by 2035 and create jobs.
- More than half of the Fortune 100 companies are already saving around US$1.1 billion per year from energy efficiency, renewable energy and other emissions reduction initiatives.
Countries and businesses are increasingly recognising that economic growth and climate action are inextricably linked, and that they can be achieved together. While the scale of the challenge is immense, so is the opportunity it provides to ensure a better future for us all.