Business / Economy

Timely steps needed to save the future

By Christiana Figueres, Mario Molina and Joseph Alcamo (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-29 07:09

The UN secretary general hosted the Climate Change Summit on Sept 23, at which heads of state, cities, organizations and companies announced bold new initiatives to address climate change in the short to medium term.

It was a significant stage to voice ambitious, scientifically credible and clear visions on where the world needs to aim over the long haul.

Bold initiatives are certainly needed now to slow the growth in emissions before 2020 - policies need to be put in place that are capable of delivering clean and resilient development.

Yet, like a young person planning a career, a mayor looking at future demographics, or a corporation evolving a business strategy, there also needs to be a long-term view of where we want to be in 50 years.

That long-term vision should be climate neutrality as soon as possible in the second half of the century.

There is ample evidence from the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that global greenhouse gas emissions have to be zero or near zero by the end of the 21st century if we want to achieve the goal of holding a global temperature rise below 2 C.

It is also the best guarantee of ensuring that the poor and vulnerable are spared from ever more threatening conditions such as heat waves, crop failures, floods and water shortages that will increasingly threaten their lives and livelihoods.

Continued unabated, emissions pose an unacceptable risk of pushing our climate system toward potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts to all sectors of society.

Let us be clear. Climate neutrality is not nirvana nor an alternative universe - it is about dramatically reducing current greenhouse gas emissions to the point where we reach a balance between those emissions entering the atmosphere, and the capacity of the Earth to absorb them.

This will require charting the path from the high-emissions society we have today, including initially through some level of certified carbon offsets, to a deep, de-carbonization of the global economy, before arriving finally at a climate neutral family of nations.

It also demands a rapid transformation in the way we value healthy ecosystems to ensure that nature will continue to play an ever more central role in removing carbon from the atmosphere.

This will require significant investment in cleaner, greener energy and energy efficiency in transport and buildings, alongside smarter management to sustain, expand and restore degraded coastal zones, forests and soil.

Previous Page 1 2 Next Page

Hot Topics

Editor's Picks