World leaders should aim for political agreement on climate change by end of this year, says Nicholas Stern

Posted on 12 May 2010 in

World leaders should seek to reach an international political agreement to tackle climate change at the United Nations conference in Cancún, Mexico, in December 2010, to lay the foundation for an international treaty in 2011, Nicholas Stern will tell an audience at the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC today (12 May 2010).

Lord Stern, who is I.G. Patel Professor of Economics and Government and Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, will say in a speech: “World leaders should achieve a strong political agreement that builds on the Copenhagen Accord, which has become a platform for going forward. More than 100 countries have now associated themselves with the Accord, and countries that are together responsible for more than 80 per cent of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases have made pledges. The agreement must recognise the size of the reductions in global annual emissions that are required over the coming decades to provide a reasonable chance of avoiding a warming of more than 2˚C above pre-industrial levels, which was the overall target set in the Accord. Global emissions must peak within the next decade and fall to 10 per cent lower than today by 2020. Emissions should be more than 60 per cent lower than now in 2050, and rich countries must cut emissions much more strongly than this.

“In addition, the agreement should set out how US$30 billion will be provided to developing countries over the next three years to assist them with making the transition to low-carbon economic development and growth, and to adapt to those impacts of climate change that cannot now be avoided. It should also indicate how this initial support will be increased to a level of US$100 billion per year by 2020, in particular by introducing new and innovative sources of funding.

“With explicit political agreement in Cancún on these crucial issues and key details, we should have the basis for an international treaty which could be signed at the United Nations climate change conference in South Africa at the end of 2011. Whilst progress is being made on finance and forestry, it is urgent to move quickly as well on technology development and sharing, and on the monitoring of emissions reductions.”

Lord Stern will also stress that the prospects for an agreement will depend on the approach adopted by countries during negotiations ahead of the Cancún conference: “While the Accord has proved to have support that is wider and more solid than might have been feared after the Copenhagen conference in December 2009, further progress depends on countries adopting a collaborative approach. Confrontation is likely to be counter-productive and will prevent agreement. Collaboration requires careful understanding of both progress and difficulties in other countries, particularly the largest emitters, China and the United States.

“In addition, we must recognise just how intractable and dysfunctional the negotiation process will be if each of 192 countries is present at every discussion and if unanimity is required on every detail.

“But I am optimistic that we can move forward if we maintain the momentum that has been developing since Copenhagen. Many countries have now outlined plans to limit and reduce emissions, and the advisory group on climate financing set up by the United Nations Secretary-General is making steady progress. This process has been helped by initiatives, such as the proposal by staff of the International Monetary Fund that the international community should launch a ‘Green Fund’ with the capacity to raise US$100 billion per year by 2020 to assist climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.”

Notes for Editors

  1. Nicholas Stern was Chief Economist and Special Counsellor to the President at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development between 1994 and 1999, and was Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist at the World Bank between 2000 and 2003. He moved to Her Majesty’s Treasury in 2003 and was Director of Policy and Research for the Commission for Africa (which reported in 2005). He served as Head of the UK Government Economic Service between 2005 and 2007, and headed 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). Nicholas Stern was knighted for services to economics in 2004 and was recommended as a non-party-political life peer by the UK House of Lords Appointments Commission in October 2007. Baron Stern of Brentford was introduced in December 2007 to the House of Lords, where he sits on the independent cross-benches.
  2. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment. Lord Stern is also Chair of the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, which is hosted by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is also Director of the India Observatory at London School of Economics and Political Science.