Climate Change Is 'Single Biggest Risk' to Global Economy

Tanya Lewis Yahoo News 24 Sep 14;

NEW YORK — Addressing climate change is not only crucial for preserving the environment, it also makes good economic sense, some politicians and business leaders say.

Governments must set policies to curb carbon emissions, and companies should develop "green" technology and sustainable business practices, a panel of experts said here yesterday (Sept. 22) at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). Former president Bill Clinton founded CGI in 2005 to bring together global leaders to find and implement solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems.

"Climate change poses not just a massive risk to the environment, it's the single biggest risk to the global economy today," said Henry Paulson Jr., former U.S. Treasury secretary and the current chairman of The Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago. Paulson was one of the featured panelists. [6 Unexpected Effects of Climate Change]

And action has to start with governments, said Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, another of the panelists. "There is no reason to think confronting climate challenge is not good economics," Thorning-Schmidt said. Green technology "is not only good for the climate, it's also good for jobs," she added.

Denmark has succeeded in tackling carbon dioxide emissions without sacrificing economic growth. This balance has been achieved, the prime minister said, by setting a target for sustainability, and creating a stable, long-term political framework. Once there's that framework, companies will start investing in green technology, she said.

One example of how this can work is the Swedish furniture giant IKEA, which is already taking steps to make its business greener. "We would like to grow business within the limits of the planet," said Peter Agnefjäll, president of IKEA, and a panelist.

IKEA has committed to sourcing its cotton responsibly. The company also plans to obtain 100 percent of its wood from better sources, and this week it announced that 100 percent of its plastic would be from recycled or renewable materials, Agnefjäll said.

The company's research shows that customers would like products to be produced in a sustainable way, but they're not prepared to compromise on appearance or cost, Agnefjäll said. Still, investing in greener practices is paying off, he said.

And it's not just businesses that stand to benefit from protecting the climate — citizens will see improvements in their daily lives when they can enjoy clean air and water, Thorning-Schmidt said.

But much of the political action needs to be at the city — not the national — level. After all, cities account for more than 70 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions, experts say.

To address these concerns, the mayors of three major U.S. cities pledged a commitment yesterday to developing plans and programs to address climate change at the local level.

Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Mayor Annise Parker of Houston and Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia announced their commitment to the newly launched Mayor's National Climate Change Action Agenda, a plan to curb emissions in cities and promote sustainability. The mayors are all members of President Obama's climate task force.

As part of the commitment, each city will develop specific goals for reducing greenhouse gases, design ways to measure these goals and come up with initiatives to implement them, Garcetti said in a news briefing yesterday.

The CGI meeting comes on the heels of the People's Climate March, a 300,000-person demonstration that flooded the streets of Manhattan Sunday (Sept. 21), in advance of the UN Climate Summit, which is taking place today at the United Nations headquarters.

"It really feels like a moment of action on climate change," Garcetti said, and "cities can indeed move the world forward."

U.N. puts spotlight on climate change
Valerie Volcovici PlanetArk 24 Sep 14;

U.N. puts spotlight on climate change Photo: Mike Segar
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is applauded at the opening ceremony during the Climate Summit in the General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York, September 23, 2014.
Photo: Mike Segar

With crises from Islamic State to Ebola competing for attention, the United Nations on Tuesday will zero in on climate change, giving leaders from 125 countries a platform to explain how they plan to address the issue.

A huge march to call for international action on climate change, which brought as many as 400,000 people to the streets of New York on Sunday, set the tone for the summit spearheaded by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The private sector also helped create a buzz around the summit, with corporate chief executives like Apple's Tim Cook and Ikea's [IKEA.UL] Peter Agnefjäll declaring a variety of voluntary measures to reduce their carbon emissions.

Among the most highly anticipated speakers on Tuesday will be U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration has sought to make U.S. leadership on climate change a legacy goal.

The White House announced on Tuesday that Obama would issue an executive order to require federal agencies to ensure their international development programs and investments are designed to help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Secretary of State John Kerry hinted on Monday at what else Obama is expected to highlight when he takes the podium.

"Over the past five years, the United States has actually done more to reduce the threat of climate change domestically and with the help of our international partners than in all of the 20 years before that," he said.

He added the United States was on track to meet its international pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 because of Obama's climate policies.

Leaders who will be absent from Tuesday's gathering include Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who represent the first and fourth biggest greenhouse gas polluters.


The summit is meant to add political momentum to a U.N. process to negotiate a climate-change agreement in Paris by 2015.

By holding the high-level gathering almost 16 months before the Paris deadline, Ban has ensured that climate change will be at the forefront of every leader's agenda, EU climate change commissioner Connie Hedegaard told Reuters in an interview.

"With all the outreach we need to do in this area, it is crucial that all the foreign ministries are taking this up," she said.

She said the fact that foreign ministers, including Kerry and France's Laurent Fabius, discussed climate deal negotiations on Sunday in a meeting of the world's 17 biggest emitting countries was a sign that the issue had become a policy priority.

But Hedegaard and Fabius highlighted what could be a roadblock to a Paris pact - agreement on the legal basis of the final deal.

U.S. negotiators have acknowledged that a deeply polarized Congress is unlikely to ratify a legally binding U.N. treaty.

"We have to have a legal agreement, otherwise it will be just words," Fabius said on Monday.

Ban said there was a greater sense of "anxiety" around the issue than at previous gatherings in New York in 2007 and Copenhagen in 2009.

On Monday, he summed up the risk of countries failing to cement a climate deal.

"If we cannot all swim together, we will sink," he said.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

New approaches to food systems needed to cope with climate change
FAO Director-General addresses UN Climate Change Summit
FAO 23 Sep 14;

23 September 2014, New York - Overcoming climate change is central to achieving a sustainable future for the planet's growing population, and food security must lie at the heart of that effort, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said here today in a speech at the UN Climate Summit.

"We cannot call development sustainable while hunger still robs over 800 million people of the opportunity to lead a decent life," he said, referencing the latest UN report on world hunger, released last week, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014.

The report found that while the number of people who experience chronic hunger was reduced by 100 million over the past decade, today 805 million people still go without enough to eat on a regular basis.

While in the past, efforts to feed the world focused on boosting agricultural output to produce more food, today's challenges – including climate change – demand a new approach, Graziano da Silva said.

"We need to shift to more sustainable food systems – food systems that produce more, with less environmental damage – food systems that promote sustainable consumption, since nowadays we waste or lose one third to half of what we produce, " he said.

Noting that hunger persists despite the fact that the planet produces enough food to feed all of humanity, Graziano da Silva said: "Producing enough food for all is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for food security."

"People are not hungry because food is not available, but because they do not have access to it," he added.

Climate change has a direct bearing both on agricultural production and on people's ability to access food, the FAO chief said – and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to dealing with these challenges.

"FAO welcomes the commitments being made to address climate change. FAO can support them as part of our capacity-building projects at country level.

"We are ready to work with you to successfully address the impacts of climate change on food security. This is a necessary step to the hunger free world and sustainable future we want," he added.

Multiple options for adapting

"There are many alternatives to address climate change and ensure sustainable food security," Graziano da Silva said. "We need to keep all the doors open to face the adaptation needed to cope with the climate change and assure food for all in the near future."

One valuable approach, he noted, is what is known as "climate-smart agriculture" – adjusting farming practices to make them more adaptive and resilient to environmental pressures, while at the same time decreasing farming's own impacts on the environment.

Graziano da Silva welcomed the launch today at the UN Climate Summit of a new Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture, a broad coalition of stakeholders, including governments; farmers and food producers, processors and sellers; scientific and educational organizations; civil society actors; multilateral and international agencies and the private sector.

The Alliance will work together to promote sustainable and equitable increases in agricultural productivity and incomes; build greater resilience of food systems and farming livelihoods; and achieve reductions or removals of greenhouse gas emissions by agriculture.

Graziano da Silva also highlighted "agro-ecology" as a promising approach to moving food production onto a more sustainable path.

The approach uses ecological theory to study and manage agricultural systems in order to make them both more productive and better at conserving natural resources.

Last week, FAO hosted a major event on the approach at its Rome headquarters, where participants called for UN-wide initiative on agro-ecology in order to help sustainably promote food security, address climate change, and build resilience.

"There are many paths to food security and sustainable development. Governments need to choose the solutions that best respond to their specific needs," Graziano da Silva said.