8 Oct 2015

Living in the age of resilience

From Our Changing World, 9:48 pm on 8 October 2015

There’s a consensus now that the cost of doing nothing would be huge. The cost of doing nothing is in fact the cost of accepting a more than two-degree warming for the end of the century and that is a zone of no control.
Pierre Ducret

As momentum builds towards a United Nations climate summit in Paris in December, French experts visited New Zealand recently to discuss our capacity to adapt and to address the challenge of climate change.

In an earlier interview, the United Nation’s climate chief, Christiana Figueres, said that she expects that a global and legally binding agreement will emerge from the climate negotiations at COP21, but she conceded that the commitments countries have made so far fall short of keeping temperature rise below two degrees.

Pierre Ducret, an advisor for climate change at a major public investor for economic development, says a world that has warmed by more than two degrees above pre-industrial temperatures would be essentially uninsurable.

But he says the goal is still achievable. “It’s possible because we have all the technical solutions, it’s possible because it’s not such a heavy part of the global GDP to dedicate to the green investments and it’s also possible because the transition has already began all over the world.”

The challenge now, he says, is to seize the opportunity and to accelerate the transition towards low-carbon economies as outlined in the Better Growth Better Climate reports by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

Lucile Schmid, who works with several think tanks in France, says an awareness of the cost of inaction doesn’t necessarily mean that people know what to do and whether a transition is possible without losses in the standard of living. She says our idea of progress may have to be redefined. “When we talk about growth for example, having a discussion about the content of growth will be very important, as well as having a discussion about the value of nature.”

Pierre Ducret says economic signals, such as the removal of subsidies for fossil fuel industries, are essential, as is a prize on carbon. “We must put a price on carbon because it’s the best signal to accelerate investment towards green and to penalise brown investments, but we will have different prices all over the world and a kind of disorder about carbon pricing because it will depend on the capacity of the different economies. We also have to proof to developing countries that putting a price on carbon is profitable for their own transition.”

He says overall he is optimistic about the future, particularly as many people are changing the way the think about resources, towards shared use and away from ownership.

In Europe, when you see that the young generation is considering that to be an owner of a car is a stupid thing, we have reasons to be optimistic.

Both Pierre Ducret and Lucile Schmid visited New Zealand to take part in public panel discussions about the Age of Resilience, organised by the Royal Society of New Zealand and broadcast on Radio New Zealand. You can listen to the podcasts of all three events.