New figures released today show that moving to a “green” global economy could not only protect the planet from the worst effects of climate change but is surprisingly affordable.
Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy — a new study by McKinsey and Co — shows that global warming can be kept below the critical 2°C rise and that it is well within our means to do so. The study spells out in detail the costs of cutting damaging carbon emissions, but makes it clear that only by acting now will we avoid the worst impacts of climate change. According to WWF, one of the report’s sponsors, world leaders now have all the information they need to shape a global climate deal for both developed and developing countries.
The study – one of the biggest and most detailed of its kind ever compiled – lists more than 200 opportunities, spread across ten sectors and twenty-one geographical regions, which could cut global greenhouse gas emissions by about 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.
By 2030, wind, solar and other sustainable renewable energy could provide almost a third of all global power needs; energy efficiency could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than a quarter and deforestation in developing countries – one of the biggest drivers of climate change and a major threat to sustainable development – could be almost fully halted. And all at a cost of less than half a percent of global GDP.
“The McKinsey study shows once and for all that taking action on climate change is both urgent and affordable”, said WWF Director General James Leape. “The figures show clearly that not only can we move to a low carbon economy, but that the costs are manageable. Adopting these measures will be a major step towards avoiding the worst effects of climate change.”
Speaking at the launch of the report in Brussels, Mr Leape continued, “As governments now invest in rebuilding the global economy, they have a unique opportunity, and indeed the imperative, to build a low-carbon economy that will both create jobs and stabilize the climate. The low-carbon technologies and production models already exist and they make economic as well as environmental sense.”
“When the world’s leaders meet in Copenhagen in December to agree a global deal on climate change, they will have no excuse for inaction. The world will be watching and expecting those leaders to adopt measures which will lead to a low-carbon economy, giving a fighting chance of keeping climate change below the crucial 2°C level.” said Mr Leape.
The McKinsey study has been extensively peer-reviewed by scientists, economists and expert bodies including WWF. It presents its findings in the form of an “abatement cost curve” which graphically illustrates the sectors where the most cost-effective carbon reductions can be made, including saving 14 billion tonnes of CO2 by replacing carbon-based power generation with – amongst other things – existing and proven clean, renewable energy; 14 billion tonnes through more sustainable use of land in the agriculture and forestry sectors; and 11 billion tonnes from energy
efficiency. McKinsey identify another 9 billion tonnes of potential emissions reductions which either are more expensive or represent behaviour changes that are difficult to quantify.
In Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy, McKinsey analyses the potential, based on emissions and cost, for abatement across all sectors including nuclear power. WWF believes the costs for nuclear have been underestimated. But more importantly, nuclear power is not a viable option when the risks from proliferation, highly radioactive waste and plutonium leaks are taken into consideration. We believe that further substantial reductions are possible from combined heat & power (CHP,) biomass, better energy efficiency and low-carbon products which will protect the climate without the need for nuclear power.
WWF welcomes the study’s principal findings which show that if all the technology options were put into practice, it would be possible to achieve a global reduction of approximately 40% of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030 compared with 1990 levels – which equates to a 70% reduction of “business as usual” levels. That would be enough to put the world on track to keep global average temperature rises below the 2°C level which WWF and others have identified as the maximum allowable before widespread irreversible environmental damage kicks in.