For many situations, the adage that “nothing in life is free” rings true. At the end of the day, though, fixing climate change could counter that notion. A new report by the New Climate Economy suggests that protecting communities from the effects of climate change and making the necessary preparations for this new reality could add up to zero cost.
The report—and the commission behind it—is the result of the work of 24 former heads of state, including the former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón, as well as finance ministers and others from across the world. It explores and suggests several pathways to a stronger and more resilient economy through infrastructure investments and policies that create a clean energy future, rethink land use, stimulate innovation, and more.
On the cost front, the numbers break down to the following. Infrastructure investments for a “high-carbon” economy are estimated to be around $6 trillion per year. Renewable energy and other related strategies to lower carbon emissions will increase investment requirements to $270 billion per year. According to the report, “These higher capital costs could potentially be fully offset by lower operating costs, for example from reduced expenditure on fuel. Investing in a low-carbon economy is a cost-effective form of insurance against climate risk.”
The report’s authors should be applauded for the attention they give to infrastructure investments in general, but especially to energy infrastructure. The report discusses, “How that money is spent is critically important: it can help build robust, flexible energy systems that will serve countries well for decades to come, or it can lock in an energy infrastructure that exposes countries to future market volatility, air pollution, and other environmental and social stresses.”
The report explores and suggests several pathways to a stronger and more resilient economy through infrastructure investments and policies that create a clean energy future, rethink land use, stimulate innovation, and more.
These are the same policies the BlueGreen Alliance has put at the forefront of its Repair America campaign because prioritizing infrastructure investments is a “twofer” for the environmental and economic benefits that can result.
These findings provide a prologue to what will be a constructive debate about where we go from here on climate action on a global stage, especially prior to the People’s Climate March this weekend. The march will take place ahead of the U.N. Climate Summit—a gathering of over 100 world leaders in New York City next week to discuss larger efforts to limit carbon emissions. The march is an effort to send a message that the stakes are high and to pressure leaders to take head on the challenge of climate change.
The good news is that more people than ever are tuned in to what will happen next on climate action. The convergence of events over the next week—including the release of this report, the People’s Climate March and other events leading up to the U.N. Climate Summit—may lead some to think we’ve reached a new height of environmental awareness. Maybe we have, but regardless this is just the beginning of much more work to come that will require us all to roll up our sleeves and implement the solutions that come from all of these great discussions.