Domestic economic benefits from tackling climate change remove need for countries to ‘free ride’ on efforts of other nations

Posted on 13 Jul 2015 in

Countries will benefit economically from almost all of the actions needed to limit global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, according to a paper published today (13 July 2015) by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at London School of Economics and Political Science.

The paper suggests that individual countries have large incentives to make ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and to agree to strong collective action at the United Nations climate change conference in Paris in December.

The author of the paper, Fergus Green, finds that the vast majority of emissions cuts needed to decarbonise the global economy this century can lead to domestic economic benefits that outweigh the costs for individual countries, even before the avoided risks of dangerous climate change are taken into account.

The paper states: “All things considered, I conclude that there is a very strong case that most of the mitigation action needed to stay within the internationally-agreed 2°C limit is likely to be nationally net-beneficial.”

Domestic economic gains from action to tackle climate change include improved air quality, increased energy efficiency, and clean technology innovation ‘spillovers’. The paper argues that these and other benefits more than justify the costs of decarbonisation. Furthermore, investments in low-carbon energy will likely be more than paid back by the falling cost of renewable sources, such as solar and wind, and by reduced spending on fossil fuels.

The paper states that “the majority of the global emissions reductions needed to decarbonise the global economy can be achieved in ways that are nationally net-beneficial to countries, even leaving aside the ‘climate benefits’.”

The paper also attacks the claim that it is in each country’s interests to minimise their own action on climate change in an attempt to ‘free-ride’ on the efforts of other nations. Countries would gain by working together to bring down the costs associated with a transition to a low-carbon economy and sharing the benefits that low-carbon investment would deliver.

Mr Green said: “The findings of this research suggest that the traditional assumption that action on climate change is net-costly is false. Those who think there is an incentive for countries to ‘free-ride’ on the climate protection provided by others are very much mistaken. Countries should see the climate talks in Paris this December as an opportunity to work with each other to deliver as quickly as possible the mutual gains that can result from decarbonising the economy.”

For more information about this media release please contact Ben Parfitt on +44 (0) 207 955 6425 or b.parfitt@lse.ac.uk, or Bob Ward on +44 (0) 7811 320346 or r.e.ward@lse.ac.uk.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (http://www.lse.ac.uk/grantham) was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment (http://www.granthamfoundation.org/).
  2. The ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (https://www.cccep.ac.uk/) is hosted by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/). The Centre’s mission is to advance public and private action on climate change through rigorous, innovative research.