Dubai – MENA Herald: No longer a scientific theory, climate change is the major overriding environmental issue of our time and the single greatest challenge facing environmental regulators. Leading a discussion on climate change and its global impact, H.E. Felipe Calderon, former President of Mexico and current Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, reaffirmed the correlation between climate change, rise in carbon emission and the frequency of natural disasters.
In order to tackle environmental challenges, he suggests building compact and connected cities, reducing deforestation and recovering degraded soil and encouraging innovation of energy efficient solutions.
Presenting a graph on the carbon emission trends of the last 1,000 years, Calderon talked about the rise of industrial revolution and the connection between the increase in carbon emissions and rise in temperatures, with temperatures in the last 100 years skyrocketing.
Commenting on this correlation, Calderon said: “Scientific data indicates there is a clear association between the rise of carbon emissions and the advent of global warming. When we look at the average temperatures per decade, we can see that the last three decades have been the hottest with 2014 and 2015 recording the warmest temperatures in history. Data shows that the frequency of floods, hurricanes, droughts and other natural catastrophes are directly linked to the rise in temperatures.”
He added: “The evidence is clear, so why are governments and economies not doing more to reduce climate change?”
Governments and institutions, he said, were persuaded by a false perception and dilemma that if they take action to tackle climate changes, reduce carbon emissions and embrace greener economies, then that implies irreparable damage to economic growth.
Calderon argued that it is possible to improve both economic growth and reduce climate change. He urged governments to take immediate action as the window of opportunity – 15 years – to improve environmental circumstances was dwindling.
Calderon listed the need for three big system changes in cities, land use and the energy industry. Cities, he said, needed to evolve to become more compact and coordinated by implementing a massive public transportation system.
“Five years ago, the Earth supported one billion cars. If we follow these trends, by the middle of the century, we will have three billion cars, an amount we simply cannot sustain. Cities with a focus on individual cars will provoke wide spread carbon emissions and reduce our productivity, hurting economies rather than helping them.
According to Calderon, 20% of total carbon emissions come from deforestation and degradation of soil. He said it was imperative that we stop these practices and increase the productivity of the agricultural sector by investing in new technological advancements. Further to this, he urged industry-leaders and governments to decarbonize the economy by reducing the energy intensity and embracing energy efficient measures.
“Today solar energy is more than 80% cheaper than it was 12 years ago. Advancements in technology continue to reduce the cost of solar and renewable energies. Renewable energies will become a competitive source for energy and will exceed the capacity of fossil fuels.”
Beyond the changes required, Calderon said that economies could boost their productivity by making proper use of their natural resources, changing the way we invest in infrastructures and encouraging innovation.
When it comes to natural resources, he said: “If you establish the right prices for natural resources, then you can foster economic productivity. We spend nearly US$500 billion a year to subsidize fossil fuels. If we eliminate these fuels and allocate that money to provide healthcare services, technology development or R&D, we could ensure structural change and economic growth.”
He further noted that over the next 50 years, the world will need to invest US$90 trillion in infrastructure. This will cost an estimated US$93 trillion of investments in infrastructure if we apply energy efficient methods and build towards greener economies. A marginal difference, economies can prosper by doing the right thing and supporting mass transportation systems and building renewable energies rather than coal facilities.
“We can reduce operational costs by making the right calculations. Many sources of energy such as solar and wind energy, have free operational costs and therefore produce a positive net percent value. If we’re going to spend US$90 trillion anyways, then we might as well do the right thing.”
Innovation is the most powerful engine for economic growth. According to the former president, governments can encourage innovation and empower technological advancements by applying scientific recommendations and implementing new frameworks of regulation. With a new regulation on carbon, Europe has witnessed an increase of patents in technology and growth in innovation.
A key policy recommendation for reducing emission while encouraging economic growth, Calderon says it is imperative to eliminate subsidies on fossil fuels and establish predictable prices on carbon. He recommended that economies accelerate low carbon investment and innovation and increase R&D budgets across all sectors.
Moreover, he suggested that governments and development banks finance low carbon infrastructure across the world and eradicate the use of coal for power generation and increase the energy efficiency of the auto and air condition industries, for example.
“If we allocate the right amount of money for the right amount of sources we can enact change.”
In his concluding remarks, Calderon said oil producing countries will not be negatively impacted by the changes to reduce carbon emission. Oil producing countries will have to evolve and embrace technology and innovation to avoid becoming obsolete.
“If oil producing regions fund new technologies, diversify energy sources, support power generation in developing countries, recover soil and reduce deforestation and lead the transition to a greener economy, they will increase economic productivity and become world leaders.”
The World Government Summit has convened over 3,000 personalities from 125 countries. The summit concludes today (February 10) at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.