30 June 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference on sustainable-development challenges

 

facing intergovernmental panel on climate change

 


Climate change and development were now inextricably linked, Lord Stern of Brentford, lead author of the landmark 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, said at Headquarters this afternoon.


“We fail on one, we fail on both,” he said at a press conference where he was joined by Rajendra K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, after both had delivered keynote addresses during the opening of the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council’s annual substantive session on sustainable development.


Listing the severe obstacles to development posed by climate change, Mr. Pachauri said the good news was that the cost of taking effective action was “not all that high”, if done in a timely manner.  In fact, limiting temperature change to 2 to 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2030 would cost a maximum of 3 percentage points in the global gross domestic product.  If so-called “co-benefits” -- such as higher energy security and health benefits -- were factored in, net savings could actually be produced.  “But we must move with a sense of urgency.”  By one model, 2015 was the deadline beyond which carbon emissions would have to decline to avoid some of the most severe impacts of climate change.


Lord Stern added that, with the science behind climate change modelling having been built over the past 200 years, denying the reality of it was tantamount to claiming the earth was flat.  It was now known that, given “business as usual”, there was a 50 per cent chance of a 5-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures sometime next century, something that had not been seen since most of the world was swamp and alligators lurked at the poles.  Such a rise would cause massive migration and massive conflict over resources, of the kind now being seen in Darfur.


The way to stabilize temperatures was also roughly known, he said.  Carbon emissions must be reduced drastically, say 50 per cent by 2050, with the rich countries cutting their output by 80 per cent, leading the way for developing countries to stabilize their emissions as well.  Substantial funding for developing countries’ adaptation must be included in development policy.


In response to questions, Mr. Pachauri said that, in the effort to structure a new climate change regime by 2009, there had been no major breakthroughs since the creation of the Bali action plan, but “all eyes are focused on the G-8 summit” of industrialized countries.  Europe and the State of California had been taking actions but there had not yet been clear commitments by some of the world’s most powerful countries.


Lord Stern added that, in order to target large emissions reductions by 2050, there must first be clear targets to be reached by 2020 and 2030.  As far as the United States was concerned, he had spoken at length with the campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain and had been assured of the support of both candidates for strong cuts in carbon emissions, as well as cap-and-trade schemes, that would be central to delivering those cuts.  For that reason, strong action within the first six months of a new United States administration was anticipated.  Unless that occurred, it would be difficult to put a global deal together.


Asked about the effects of high energy prices on efforts to reduce carbon emissions, the speakers agreed that the picture was mixed.  Lord Stern said high fossil fuel prices reduced the comparative cost of the transition to sustainable energy, but made the carbon market more difficult to figure.  Mr. Pachauri added that, while the price rise would lead to much stronger resolve to deal with the underlying factors of the problem, meanwhile it was very bad news for the poorest countries.


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For information media • not an official record