A major new report on climate change that draws on the expertise of a leading University of Exeter Business School academic aims to transform the pledges of countries to reach Net Zero into “concrete action plans”.
Climate Change: Science and Solutions, a collaboration between the Royal Society and British Academy, aims to boost research, investment and deployment in areas that will become critical to countries’ emissions targets over the next 30 years and sets out the major priorities and challenges.
Professor Ian Bateman, Director of SWEEP and the Land, Environment, Economics and Policy (LEEP) Institute at the University of Exeter Business School, led the British Academy input to the collaboration in a briefing that considers the economics and policy challenge of “building back better” from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The briefing urges G7 and COP26 governments to use the economic recovery from COVID-19 as a “turning point” on climate that will allow far-reaching greenhouse gas reduction pledges to be implemented through investments that will create jobs and long-term benefits for the environment, economies and the wellbeing of citizens globally.
It looks at how focusing on “sensitive intervention points” can deliver substantial change, whether through “kicks” such as subsidies for green products, carbon pricing through taxation or emissions trading, or “shifts” to systems of governance, which would deliver even longer-lasting change.
The report highlights how science and economics can provide the evidence base for navigating trade-offs between different courses of action, with one potentially useful approach being Professor Bateman’s Natural Capital Framework, which examines each policy action through the triple-lens of sustainability, efficiency and equity.
It goes on to recommend greater cross-country coordination of climate action, urging governments to consider “border climate adjustment” mechanisms, under which countries that have agreed to policies penalising emissions can impose tariffs or other measures on imports from countries that have not.
Trade cooperation in certain key sectors could also be linked to reductions in greenhouse gases, the briefing suggests.
It concludes by underscoring the need for all scientific disciplines to work together to help inform the full range of social and environmental transformations required to address climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation and other challenges.
Professor Bateman stated that: “The international community is at a unique moment where the recovery from COVID-19 offers the chance for a fresh commitment to tackle climate change, achieve net zero carbon emissions and design these changes to address a wider set of challenges including biodiversity loss, sustainable employment and incomes and better distribution of the economic benefits.
“This should be a central element in ‘building back better’, and policy-makers need to be urged to consider the analytical frameworks developed by economists to study this challenge when designing policy packages that incentivise reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”
Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society, said the next decade would be “make or break”, adding: “The Government has rightly set ambitious targets for cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 and reaching net zero by 2050. But without immediate action to support the next generation of low-carbon technologies and environmental solutions these lofty ambitions will be undeliverable.
“For all the UK’s scientific prowess, we won’t make a dent in this alone. We must send a strong signal to our international partners to commit to their own technology roadmaps for net zero and areas of cooperation that build climate resilience around the world for the benefit of all.”
Professor Peter Bruce, Physical Secretary and Vice President of the Royal Society, and the Society’s lead on the Climate Change: Science and Solutions briefings, called on the G7 nations to play a crucial role in “supporting the scientific innovation that is going to make us more resilient to respond to climate change and the challenges the future holds”.
He said: “Science can offer solutions, but it is governments that have the influence and the resources to make a difference by backing these technologies we will need to get to net zero. COP26 must mark a shift from ambition to delivery, technology roadmaps which underpin areas for collaboration and investment on international scientific solutions will be integral to build a fairer and more resilient future for all.”
Climate Change: Science and Solutions is available here.
Article first appeared on the University of Exeter website.