Climate-friendly growth must be intelligent by producing more with less. We will all benefit from that, according to EU climate chief.
4 February 2012
EU climate chief calls for smart global growth
Growth in itself is neither our enemy, nor our problem.
It is the way we have grown, and the way we continue to
grow that is our common challenge, said Connie
Hedegaard European Commissioner for Climate Action
as speaking 12th Delhi Sustainable Summit New Delhi.
Growth, as we know it, will lead to incomprehensible problems in the future, not least due to the
stress we cause to our ecosystems, our climate, and other natural resources, like for example water,
Ms Hedegaard said in her speech "getting more for less."
She presented examples: Every day, 24,000 football fields of forests are being trapped or burned.
And in 20 years, our water supply will satisfy only 60 percent of world demand. These are the kind
of challenges we are facing today.
"So, we need to redefine growth because tackling climate change is a crucial part of sustainable
development. Climate change is a threat multiplier and without climate action, future growth is
itself at stake," she stressed, for instance.
All should contribute to resource efficiency
Climate-friendly growth must be intelligent by producing more with less. Getting more output with
less input. We will all benefit from that. How?
"Well, we need to look at production and consumption patterns. We need better product standards in
line with the best available technology. For example, fuel efficiency standards for cars are an
obvious example," Ms Hedegaard said.
But it is also very important that we apply the highest standards to all the machines we use to make
our lives more convenient.
It is important that ALL countries, including emerging economies, contribute to make the world
"It is clear that different countries with different economies will have to do different things. Some of
us reduce our emission already now. Others like for example India will in the first many years strive
to do better than business as usual. Nobody would ask more than that," she noted.
"But the point is that all contribute with more efficient use of resources. In Europe we clearly
respect the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities," she said.
The climate commissioner gave two lessons learned in Europe are: price signals help, targets help.
"The European binding targets on renewable energy and green house gas emissions have been
crucial to keep governments and companies focused on reducing emissions. It has spurred new
investments in renewable energy, even during the worst economic crisis in decades," she said.
"Therefore, we are happy that the Durban conclusions recognize that the future climate framework
shall have legal force for ALL countries, not only the industrialized ones."
Building sustainable model for global growth
Ms Hedegaard turned to another element which in her view will be crucial to build a sustainable
model for global growth. That is: "putting a price on environmental pollution."
The UN Panel on Global Sustainability recommends that by 2020 all governments should establish
price signals that value sustainability to guide the consumption and investment decisions of
households, businesses and the public sector.
"We must make polluters pay - also international operators like airlines, because pollution does not
stop at national boundaries. But we must do this in a smart way, through innovative pricing
mechanisms and carbon markets," she emphasized.
In this way, we can also raise additional money for investments in sustainable development,
especially in developing countries. The scale of investments needed goes far beyond the range of
public sector alone. A lot of private capital will be needed.
I am happy to note that India is also introducing a market based system. The so called PAT scheme,
Perform, Achieve and Trade, which aims to reduce energy consumption in more than 700 energy
intensive industries, for example in the cement and steel sector and in thermal power plants.
We need more sustainable consumption. Food wasted in high income countries (220 million tons) is
roughly equal to the food production of sub Saharan Africa (230 million tons).
This is the kind of situation we are faced with. Consumers are guided by price, but also by their
conscience. Better labelling can make a huge difference, like we have seen with labels for washing
machines and other electronic appliances.
"We know the problems caused by inefficient use of resources. We know the solutions. There are
many creative people with bright ideas all over the world. In the future, the question is not about no
consumption, but about smarter consumption. Much smarter consumption," Hedegaard concluded.
Hedegaard full speech
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