Stern calls for 80 per cent emissions cut

Posted: 3 December 2007

Sir Nicholas Stern. who led the Stern review on climate change, says the climate meeting, now underway in Bali, must centre its efforts to reach an agreement on reducing greenhouse gases - including a reduction in rich country emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050.

Sir Nicholas Stern
Sir Nicholas Stern
Sir Nicholas Stern. Credit: IMF
Writing in The Guardian, he said: "Ambitious targets for emission reduction must be at the heart of that agreement,together with effective market mechanisms that encourage emission trading between countries, rich and poor."

Climate change was, he said, a result of "the greatest market failure the world has seen" and the the evidence on the seriousness of the risks from inaction is now "overwhelming."

"We risk damage on a scale larger than the two world wars of the past century. The problem is global and the response must be collaboration on a global scale."

Calling on the rich to lead the way in taking action, he said the overall target of a 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050 is essential if there is a to be a reasonable chance of keeping temperature increases below 2C or 3C.

Poor countries, he said, would have to be helped to cover their costs of emission reduction, and be treated fairly.

"Our starting point is deeply inequitable with poor countries certain to be hit earliest and hardest by climate change. But rich countries are responsible for the bulk of past emissions: US emissions are currently more than 20 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per annum, Europe's are 10-15 tonnes, China's five or more tonnes, India's around one tonne, and most of Africa much less than one.

Combatting deforestation

"For a 50 per cent reduction in global emissions by 2050, the world average per capita must drop from seven tonnes to two or three. Within these global targets, even a minimal view of equity demands that the rich countries' reductions should be at least 80 per cent - either made directly or purchased. An 80 per cent target for rich countries would bring equality of only the flow of current emissions - around the two to three tonnes per capita level. In fact, they will have consumed the big majority of the available space in the atmosphere."

Rich countries should also provide funding for three other elements of a global deal, he said.

"First, there should be an international programme to combat deforestation, which contributes 15-20 per cent of emissions. For $10bn-$15bn per year, half the deforestation could be stopped.

"Second, there needs to be promotion of rapid technological advance to mitigate the effects of climate change. The development of technologies must be accelerated and methods found to promote their sharing. Carbon capture and storage for coal (CCS) is particularly urgent since coal-fired electric power is currently the dominant technology around the world, and emerging nations will be investing heavily in these technologies. For $5bn a year, it should be possible to create 30 commercial-scale coal-fired CCS stations within seven or eight years.

"Finally, rich countries should honour their commitment to 0.7 per cent of GDP in aid by 2015. This would yield increases in flows of $150bn-$200bn per year. The extra costs that developing countries face as a result of climate change are likely to be upwards of $80bn a year, and it is vital that extra resources are available."

This proposed programme of action could be built if rich countries take a lead in Bali on their targets, he said. "The necessary commitments are increasingly being demonstrated by political action and elections around the world. A clear idea of where we are going as a world will make action at the individual, community and country level much easier and more coherent...

"Bali is an opportunity to draw the outline of a common understanding, which will both guide action now and build towards the deal."

See the full text of this article in Guardian Unlimited