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The UN is calling for urgent action on climate change and a new model for growth

11 December 2018

On 5 September, UN Secretary General António Guterres presented the latest report of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, which makes an urgent call for action on climate change and describes the economic benefits this could generate.

Although we are seeing unprecedented progress in moving towards a “new climate economy”, the pace of this transformation is not fast enough, and urgent action is required. While the commitment to a low-carbon economy offers a raft of opportunities, the costs at stake for failing to act can now be measured. “Last year, climate-related disasters caused thousands of deaths and losses of $320 billion”, according to Mr Guterres.

The report cautiously estimates that bold climate action could deliver at least $26 trillion in economic benefits through to 2030, the deadline set by UN member states for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ambitious measures in the main sectors of the economy could:   

  • Generate over 65 million new low-carbon jobs by 2030. 
  • Avoid over 700,000 premature deaths from air pollution by 2030.   
  • Generate, through subsidy reform and carbon pricing, an estimated $2.8 trillion in additional government revenues per year in 2030.

The Global Commission calls for priority action on four fronts over the next three years:

1 -  Ramp up efforts on carbon pricing and move to mandatory disclosure of climaterelated financial risks:
- A carbon price of at least $40-80 by 2020. Subsidies and tax breaks on fossil fuels and farming practices that cause pollution are to be gradually phased out by 2025.
- Obligation to disclose information on the financial risks related to climate change in accordance with the TCFD recommendations.

2 - Accelerate investment in sustainable infrastructure:
- Make infrastructure an asset class in its own right.
- The goal: to invest at least $100 billion per year by 2020.

3 - Harness the power of the private sector and unleash innovation:
- All Fortune 500 companies should have targets aligned with the Paris Agreement.
- Commit at least $50 billion of new capital to meeting climate challenges beyond the energy sector.

4 - Build a people-centred approach that shares gains equitably and ensures a just transition:
- Establish energy transition plans with companies, trade unions and civil society to ensure a just transition for workers and communities.
- Include women in this transformation to boost global GDP by $28 trillion per year by 2025. (McKinsey).
- Place more emphasis on resilience and adaptation across policies and efforts

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