Lord Nicholas Stern, the World Bank's former chief economist, speaks Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, at a press briefing in Washington, D.C., to announce the launch of a global commission that will focus on economic solutions to climate change. / Wendy Koch, USA TODAY
Energy efficiency has more potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than any other single current option, the World Bank's former chief economist Lord Nicholas Stern said Friday in co-launching a global panel to find cost-effective solutions to climate change.
Boosting efficiency could provide 30% to 40% of needed carbon reductions while also lowering energy bills for businesses, governments and homes, Stern told reporters. He said there's also plenty of new energy technologies, including tidal power and smaller nuclear power plants, that have emerged since his landmark 2006 "Stern Report," which warned that rising temperatures could cost the world up to 20% of its economic output.
Stern joined Mexico's former president Felipe Calderon at a press briefing in Washington, D.C., to describe their effort to develop a win-win road map for curbing heat-trapping emissions while promoting economic growth. Their Global Commission on the Economy and Climate plans to put its best ideas forward in a September 2014 report - prior to the next major United Nations climate change conference in Paris in 2015.
Calderon, the panel's chairman, said the world's scientists have presented the latest and best research on climate change in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report, the first part of which was released last month. The report said with heightened certainty that human influence has been the dominant cause of global warming since the mid-20th century.
"Now it's time for the economists to make their case," said Calderon, former chairman of state oil producer Petroleos Mexicanos. He said many policymakers assume that reducing emissions will erode economic growth but said that's not the case, adding the panel will analyze the costs and financial savings of fighting climate change.
"This is all about risk management," said Stern, the panel's vice chairman, noting that the IPCC's report shows how global warming will soon result in historically extreme climates. As a result, "We have to de-carbonize energy by the end of this century," he said, citing the need for energy such as solar, wind or nuclear that doesn't emit carbon dioxide.
"This looks to be a radical change, but an exciting one," he said. While he pointed to both energy-efficiency gains and the solar industry's plummeting prices, he said: "There's no single technology we should bet on."
Stern and Calderon acknowledge there are challenges ahead, not the least of which is U.S. politics. Congress hasn't been able to pass even a bi-partisan energy-efficiency bill backed by both environmental and business groups, because Senate Republicans recently sought to attach a provision thwarting President Obama's Affordable Health Care Act.
The commission's $9 million "New Climate Economy" study was commissioned by seven countries: Columbia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, South Korea, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. It will be undertaken by seven research groups on five continents, including the Washington-based World Resources Institute, which hosted the media briefing.
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