Climate change: an economic opportunity
Lord Deben is the head of the UK Committee on Climate Change. His views on climate change centre on the economic opportunity for those who can adapt. “For those companies, cities and nations which can plan a methodical decarbonisation over the next 20-30 years, there will be a great economic benefit. Just look at the UK. Over the last 25 years, its greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions are down 42% and economic growth is up 68%.”
Indeed, Lord Deben points to the increasing evidence that transforming an economy in anticipation of a much more carbon-constrained world is a huge driver of innovation. He adds that the UK’s renewable energy industries "are massive growth engines. Who would have imagined that wind and solar can now provide energy at a cost lower than the fossil-fuel alternatives—and without doing any damage to the natural environment on which we all depend?”
He observes that “as the trillions of dollars of global subsidies to the fossil-fuel industry are phased out, the renewable alternatives will continue to gain competitive advantage. The trend in innovation and lower costs is clear and undeniable.”
A win-win game
According to Lord Deben, the choice is clear. "If we are doing all of this transformation and are wrong about climate change, then we end up with much cleaner air and water, a lot of economic growth, and lots of solar panels and wind turbines. If we do little or nothing in response to the clear scientific guidance and evidence, then we end up with a planetary catastrophe, with all the mass suffering and economic devastation that implies."
Lord Deben cautions industry leaders who are still waiting on the sidelines—regrettably still a fairly large percentage of the top 250 global GHG emitters. “The window of opportunity is closing. Many global energy, transportation, utility and mining firms are beginning to transform their business models for the world in which we will almost certainly live. For those who are not, there will be increasingly difficult discussions with policymakers, investors, business partners and the general public. And then they will have a business which is too late to save as the world passes them by.”
It’s clear listening to Lord Deben that these discussions are already happening in private hallways and corners, many of which will remain unseen to the public eye, but quite real to global industry leaders.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited (EIU) or any other member of The Economist Group. The Economist Group (including the EIU) cannot accept any responsibility or liability for reliance by any person on this article or any of the information, opinions or conclusions set out in the article.