Nicholas Stern calls for new approach by governments to climate change talks

Posted on 8 Dec 2014 in

Governments should be ambitious, dynamic and collaborative in their negotiations over a new international agreement on climate change, according to a new report by Nicholas Stern which is published today (Monday 8 December 2014) by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at London School of Economics and Political Science.

Speaking at the start of the second week of the United Nations climate change summit in Lima, Peru, Professor Lord Stern said that governments should not insist that an agreement, due to be signed at a summit in Paris in December 2015, be an internationally legally-binding treaty.

Professor Lord Stern said: “International agreements on climate change should be structured so as to facilitate the kind of collaboration needed to achieve mutual confidence and equitable access to sustainable development. They should be dynamic in the sense that countries’ ambitions for emissions reductions can be encouraged by, and captured in, international processes and in ways that promote increased ambition over time.”

He added: “Some may fear that commitments that are not internationally legally-binding may lack credibility. That, in my view, is a serious mistake. The sanctions available under the Kyoto Protocol, for example, were notionally legally-binding but were simply not credible and failed to guarantee domestic implementation of commitments.”

Instead, Professor Lord Stern suggested that the discussions between governments should be founded on an understanding of four key elements, which should be built into the Paris agreement.

Lord Stern said: “The Paris agreement should explicitly acknowledge that the risks from unmanaged climate change are potentially immense and delay is dangerous. It should also recognize that the path to a low-carbon economy can be highly attractive, embodying strong and high-quality growth, investment and innovation, in the context of rapid global structural transformation. The agreement should be based on a shared commitment to creating equitable access to sustainable development. And it should be structured to facilitate dynamic and collaborative interactions between countries.”

He added: “The journey to Paris must be constructive and creative. We are already seeing promising signs such as the joint announcement by the United States and China in Beijing in November 2014, and the adoption of the 2030 climate and energy package by the European Council last month. Together, these commitments cover about half of annual global emissions of greenhouse gases. These decisions are important and substantive steps in a sensible direction and suggest seriousness about a strong agreement in Paris in 2015. However, taken together, they do not add up to being on track for an emissions path that would mean a reasonable chance of avoiding dangerous global warming of more than 2 centigrade degrees above pre-industrial level. All involved are now discussing the possibility of raising ambition on emissions reductions. That is a task of great importance.”

Download Growth, climate and collaboration: towards agreement in Paris 2015


  1. Lord Stern is also chair of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, as well as I.G. Patel Professor of Economics and Government and Director of the Asia Research Centre, at London School of Economics and Political Science. Since July 2013, Lord Stern has been President of the British Academy for the humanities and social sciences. Lord Stern was Second Permanent Secretary at HM Treasury between 2003 and 2007. He also served as Head of the Government Economic Service, head of the review of economics of climate change (the results of which were published in ‘The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review’ in October 2006), and director of policy and research for the Commission for Africa. His previous posts included Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist at the World Bank, and Chief Economist and Special Counsellor to the President at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He was recommended as a non-party-political life peer by the UK House of Lords Appointments Commission in October 2007, and Baron Stern of Brentford was introduced in December 2007 to the House of Lords, where he sits on the independent cross-benches.
  2. The ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy ( 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 ( The Centre’s mission is to advance public and private action on climate change through rigorous, innovative research.
  3. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment ( 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 (