turner69_Christopher FurlongGetty Images_cows UK Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Food, Not Steel, Is Our Biggest Climate Challenge

Since the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, published in 2006, the estimated costs of achieving net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions from the world’s energy, building, industrial, and transport systems have plummeted. And in many sectors, such as road transport, consumers will pay less for going green.

LONDON – Climate-policy discussions often focus on who will pay the cost of achieving a zero-carbon economy, with a particular focus on industrial sectors such as steel and cement. But the overall costs are strikingly low, and our biggest challenge lies in the food system, not industrial products.

The latest report by the United Kingdom’s Climate Change Committee, for example, shows that cutting UK greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero by 2050 would reduce British GDP by only 0.5%. The Energy Transitions Commission’s “Making Mission Possible” report estimates a similar total cost of 0.5% of global GDP to reduce emissions from the world’s energy, building, industrial, and transport systems to zero by mid-century.

These estimates are well below those produced by older studies. The seminal Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, published in 2006, suggested costs of 1-1.5% of GDP to achieve only an 80% reduction in emissions.

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