Toward the 2°C pathway: Insights from the New Climate Economy 2015 report

Published on Friday, 17 July 2015

Published by Soon Chan Hong on Friday, 17 July 2015

#NCE2014 showed how all countries can build strong economies while substantially reducing climate risk.
#NCE2014 showed how all countries can build strong economies while substantially reducing climate risk.

Can we sustain economic development under the 2°C pathway? The answer to the question depends on all of us. Our actions and behavior will determine whether the answer is “yes” or “no.” Then, what answer do we want? All would agree and wish the answer to be “yes.” And that leads us to the next question – how can we achieve it?

Many have tried, and are trying to find out how to address climate change and keep economies growing at the same time. The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (GCEC) also does so. The GCEC is a major international initiative to provide independent and authoritative evidence on the relationship between actions to strengthen economic performance and to tackle climate change. Chaired by former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, the GCEC comprises former heads of government and finance ministers and leaders in the fields of economics and business, including ADB President Takehiko Nakao.

Some will remember the GCEC’s first findings published in September 2014, which showed that countries at all levels of development can build strong economies while substantially reducing climate risk. The report proposed a 10-point Global Action Plan of key recommendations, focusing on three key socio-economic systems (cities, land use and energy) and three key drives of change – efficiency of resource use, infrastructure investment, and innovation. In its second report issued earlier this month, the GCEC identifies 10 key economic opportunities that could close up to 96% of the gap between business-as-usual levels of greenhouse emissions and those levels needed to limit the rise in global temperatures below 2°C. The report calls for stronger cooperation between governments, businesses, investors, cities and communities to drive economic growth in the emerging low-carbon economy, and reiterates that success is possible. It shows how recent trends in the global economy—such as rapid growth and falling prices for clean energy, plunge in oil prices, growing interest in new infrastructure investment and finance, heightened attention to climate risks, integration of green growth and climate resilience in national development strategies, and falling carbon intensity of the global economy—are building momentum for low-carbon development.

Asia and the Pacific is the key to success in all of this. The region’s rapid and steady economic growth has been driving global economic growth, and will continue to be so.

However, Asia’s share of global greenhouse gas emissions is also increasing. In 2010, for example, 19 GtCO2eq was emitted from non-OECD Asian countries out of 49 GtCO2eq global emissions, even though the region’s historic share has not reached up to that level. Also the rate of GHG emissions increase of non-OECD Asian countries during 2000-2010—5.4% per year—surpasses the global average of 2.2% per year during the same period. This is why decoupling in our region is crucial.

Interestingly enough, most of the recommendations are not new. For example,developing member countries in Asia and the Pacific are already putting their efforts into accelerating low-carbon development in cities, restoring and protecting agricultural and forest landscapes and increasing agricultural productivity, investing in clean energy, or ensuring new infrastructure is climate-smart. ADB is supporting its developing member countries on these initiatives by targeting $2 billion annual investment in clean energy with a greater emphasis in energy efficiency and sustainable transport, boosting climate finance to $3 billion annually on average during 2011-2014, mainstreaming climate change into ADB operations, establishing the pilot Asia-Pacific Climate Technology Finance Center, promoting local land use and zero- or low-carbon transport, and bolstering the Cities Development Initiative for Asia,  among other actions.

This means that we already know how to address the risk of climate change while maintaining economic growth, but the report also points out that the current endeavors are not enough to achieve the goal, and we need to scale up our actions, catalyzed by enhanced international cooperation. While ADB is involved in some of the areas indicated in the report, the analysis and recommendations are also relevant to our developing member countries in Asia and the Pacific, as well as to our development partners. They may not be the final solutions, but at least they do provide good guidance in preparing for international negotiations, national strategies, and discussion for future actions, especially ahead of the COP21 climate summit in Paris.