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Bringing the ‘New Climate Economy’ to life

15 years is not a long time, but according to a new report, that’s about how long we have to move the world away from devastating climate change and onto a sustainable low-carbon path – for our planet and our economy.

Good choices for the environment are also good choices for the economy: that’s the underlying message of the Better Growth Better Climate: The New Climate Economy Report, released earlier this week by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. That’s an idea that WWF has supported for years.  Without healthy ecosystems, our economy is built on sand – we need a strong planet to support a strong economy.  What benefits nature and supports biodiversity can favour – even bolster – human prosperity.

A windfarm in Workington, Cumbria, UK. © Global Warming Images / WWF-Canon

A windfarm in Workington, Cumbria, UK. © Global Warming Images / WWF-Canon

According to the report, we have until roughly 2030 – just 15 years – to move the world away from devastating climate change and onto a sustainable low-carbon path.

15 years to change the world
Fifteen years is not a long time, but a lot can change in 15 years.  I remember 1999 almost as if it was yesterday – the Y2K fears, the founding of Nunavut, Eaton’s filing for bankruptcy, the huge blizzard that hit Toronto that year.  But in 1999, no one had smartphones (Blackberry released its first email pager that year), Google moved out of its founder’s garage to an office, and concerns about climate change were limited to a relatively  small group of experts and advocates.

The speed and scope of those changes give me hope for what we can achieve in the next 15 years, because there’s a lot to be done. The report outlines a 10-point Global Action Plan to reach this goal.

The vision
The report paints a powerful picture: by 2030 we are living in a low-carbon economy, most of us in compact cities connected by mass public transit systems.  We live and work in energy-efficient places, we use energy from renewable sources.  We create products through low-carbon production. Forests are expanding, agricultural lands are productive and secure. We invest in innovation, particularly in low-carbon and resilient technologies.  Young people can find good, permanent jobs in clean-tech and other work that has a low impact on nature. All countries proudly adhere to a new equitable international climate agreement, and governments at all levels create policy drivers and financial tools designed to steer our economy on a low-carbon path. Private and public companies and financial institutions work within the limits of an overall two degree global increase in temperature – because after all, they live here too.

Subway train © Global Warming Images / WWF-Canon

Subway train © Global Warming Images / WWF-Canon

We have the tools, the funds, the solutions
This may sound like a green dream even to irrepressible optimists, but by bringing together contributions from over 100 organizations with expertise in climate and the economy, the report makes the case that this 15-year economic transformation is within our grasp if we combine global efforts.  The investment funds needed are available, and, most importantly, the solutions that require investment already exist.

For starters, we must redirect the money intended for investment in the oil and gas sector to energy-saving programs and a widespread build-out of renewable energy projects. By scaling up investments for these and other projects around the globe, we can create the conditions for fair access to economic prosperity for all nations, decrease climate risk, and strengthen our global economy and protect our rich biodiversity.

Creating a better world for everyone
Equity and social justice are key drivers for a successful global economic transformation.  The ‘new climate economy’ must generate the resources for developing nations to end domestic energy-poverty, create jobs, protect food security , conserve critical species habitat, and build livable cities for all citizens.

Better Growth Better Climate is an inspiring opener to the People’s Climate March on September 21, and the UN Climate Summit on September 22 and 23, at which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hopes to foster the political will to sign a legally binding comprehensive agreement in 2015.

All of us should expect – and demand – governments around the globe to fully commit to a new equitable international climate agreement next year.  This sets the stage for investing in sustainable choices as cities grow and the price of renewable energy drops.  It’s a critical step to transforming how we all live in this world – within the next 15 years.


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