Meeting green-action costs: G7 must pay fair share; else, future costs of impact will be too high

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July 12, 2021 5:30 AM

The International Energy Agency recently outlined a steep path to meaningful emission reduction by 2050; the responsibility to get there lies chiefly on the leading economies.

As this newspaper has highlighted earlier, equitable apportioning of carbon action burden would need developed countries to be far more ambitious on net zero targets to leave carbon-space for the developing world to grow.As this newspaper has highlighted earlier, equitable apportioning of carbon action burden would need developed countries to be far more ambitious on net zero targets to leave carbon-space for the developing world to grow.

A study published recently in The Lancet Planetary Health says climate change is responsible for 7 lakh excess deaths in India per year (over 2000-2019). Last month, the London-based Overseas Development Institute had estimated an annual loss of 3-10% of the GDP by 2100 because of climate change; ODI says poverty will likely see a sharp spike because of this, with all its consequent impact on human health. India has already seen an increase of 0.62oC in temperature in the last 100 years—vis-à-vis 0.8oC for the world (1.2oC above the industrial revolution levels), but the effects of climate change are already quite evident. While it is quite clear that concerted global efforts to keep global warming in check, or, at the very least, adapt to its effects, will need serious funding—$5 trillion per year between now and 2030, as per one estimate—the money for this would likely come by easier if the costs of such action were to be weighed against the future costs of climate change, notwithstanding the element of incertitude in such an exercise.

Derek Lemoine, a University of Arizona economist, writing in voxeu.org, discusses a model of cost estimation based on mapping local weather variation over the years and the impact on agriculture in the eastern parts of the US. The outlook Lemoine offers is far more pessimistic than what conventional models propose—against an estimation, by conventional methods, of 42% erosion of agricultural profits in the region by 2100, his model predicts profits totally eliminated. While the US, under president Joe Biden, and the EU have proposed significant climate action—with the announcement of net zero targets—the fact is that this is far from equitable shouldering of the burden. As this newspaper has highlighted earlier, equitable apportioning of carbon action burden would need developed countries to be far more ambitious on net zero targets to leave carbon-space for the developing world to grow.

Speaking at the first Climate Vulnerable Finance Summit of 48 nations exposed to climate-related disasters, UN secretary general Anotonio Guterres exhorted developed nations to deliver the promised $100 billion—under the Green Climate Fund—urgently; this was supposed to have happened by 2020 and has now been pushed to 2025.

What’s worse, only 21% of the available climate financing is flowing to adaptation—skewed, of course, in favour of such efforts in developed nations. And every year lost to delays in building adaptation and resilience means the burden gets heavier and heavier—current adaptation costs for the developing world are pegged at $70 billion, and this could grow to $300 billion by the end of the decade.

The International Energy Agency recently outlined a steep path to meaningful emission reduction by 2050; the responsibility to get there lies chiefly on the leading economies. The G20’s summit meeting is in October this year, and by then, it must consensually embrace carbon pricing, but without punishing developing nations with border adjustment taxes. But, most importantly, the G7 among the G20 will need to put their money where their mouth is.

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