The risks of inaction over climate change far outweigh the turmoil of the global financial crisis, a leading climate change expert said yesterday, while calling for new fiscal spending tailored to low carbon growth.
"The risk consequences of ignoring climate change will be very much bigger than the consequences of ignoring risks in the financial system," said Nicholas Stern, a former British Treasury economist, who released a seminal report in 2006 that said inaction on emissions blamed for global warming could cause economic pain equal to the Great Depression.
"That's a very important lesson, tackle risk early," Stern told a climate and carbon conference in Hong Kong.
As countries around the world move from deploying monetary and financial stabilization measures, to boosting fiscal spending to mend real economies, Stern told the conference the opportunity was there to bring about a new, greener, carbon-reducing world order.
"The lesson that we can draw out from this recession, is that you can boost demand in the best way possible by focusing on low carbon growth in future," he said, including greater public spending on mass public transport, energy and green technologies.
Stern's warning comes on the heels of last week's Asia-Europe or ASEM meeting in Beijing, where world leaders at the summit also urged countries not to use global economic upheaval as a reason for delaying a climate deal. Partly as a result of the darkening global economic outlook, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi recently warned that 10 other EU nations backed his efforts to block an EU climate plan, prompting further doubts over European action on global warming.
Yet Stern remained optimistic, saying the likelihood of a future deal by international powers to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2050 remained "very high."
(Shanghai Daily via Agencies October 28, 2008)