Nicholas Stern urges world leaders to invest in sustainable infrastructure during signing ceremony for Paris Agreement on climate change

Posted on 22 Apr 2016 in

Nicholas Stern will urge world leaders to strongly expand investment in infrastructure but ensure that it is all sustainable, in a speech in New York today (22 April 2016) at the United Nations Secretary-General’s luncheon during the High-Level Signature Ceremony of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Lord Stern will tell an audience, including Heads of State and Government, that following the Paris Agreement in December, we now have a unique opportunity to reignite global growth, deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and invest in the future of the planet. He will warn that any hesitation could cause this opportunity to disappear.

He will say: “We have a once-in-history opportunity to create a new, shared, inspiring and sustainable world. If we delay, it will be gone.”

More than US$100 trillion will be invested in infrastructure globally over the next 20 years and the nature of this investment will determine whether the commitments made in the Paris Agreement are fulfilled.

Lord Stern will say: “The way investments will be made, in transport, energy, water, buildings and land, will determine whether we can hold global warming to well below 2 centigrade degrees, or whether we are doomed to cities where people can neither move nor breathe, and to ecosystems that will collapse.”

“If we do get it right, making all future infrastructure investment sustainable, we will boost growth in the shorter term, launch a dynamic wave of innovation and growth in the medium term, and embark on the only long-term growth path which can be sustained. The consequences of getting it wrong are unthinkable.”

Lord Stern will argue that historically low interest rates and a remarkable pace of technological change provide extraordinary opportunities to invest in sustainable infrastructure.

However, some countries face double digit interest rates and development banks have a crucial role to play in lowering the cost of capital. Lord Stern will argue that “we should welcome the new development banks and act urgently to expand strongly the balance sheets of the existing ones.”

Lord Stern will also note that there is an absence of ‘sound and durable’ policies in many countries. He will call for the removal of fossil fuel subsidies and for the pricing or regulation of carbon emissions.

He will conclude by saying: “The transition to the zero-carbon economy can create vibrant and cohesive economies and communities, where we can tackle poverty on all its dimensions. Delay is profoundly dangerous. We know what to do. We look to you, as leaders of the world, to be just that, leaders.”

For more information about this media release please contact Ben Parfitt or Bob Ward



  1. Lord Stern is chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, as well as I.G. Patel Professor of Economics and Government, at the 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 with HM Treasury between October 2003 and May 2007. He served as Second Permanent Secretary and Head of the Government Economic Service, head of the review of the 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. Baron Stern of Brentford was introduced in December 2007 to the House of Lords, where he sits on the independent cross-benches. He was recommended as a non-party-political life peer by the UK House of Lords Appointments Commission in October 2007. Lord Stern is also a Fellow of the Royal Society.


  1. 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.


  1. 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 (