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Global Commission Finds Economic Growth Can Close the Emissions Gap

Posted on 9 July 2015 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from World Resources Institute

A new report released by theGlobal Commission on the Economy and Climate identifies ten key economic opportunities that could close up to 96 percent of the gap between business-as-usual emissions and the level needed to limit dangerous climate change. The report calls for stronger cooperation between governments, businesses, investors, cities and communities to drive economic growth in the emerging low-carbon economy.

“This report shows that success is possible: we can achieve economic growth and close the dangerous emissions gap,” said former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón, chair of the Commission. “Today’s report shows us that a goal we once thought of as distant is within our reach. We can achieve global prosperity and secure a safe climate together. The low carbon economy is already emerging. But governments, cities, businesses and investors need to work much more closely together and take advantage of recent developments if the opportunities are to be seized. We cannot let these opportunities slip through our fingers.”

The new report, Seizing the Global Opportunity: Partnerships for Better Growth and a Better Climate, shows how recent trends in the global economy – such as the dramatically falling cost of clean energy, the continuing volatility of oil prices, and the worldwide growth of carbon pricing – are building momentum for low-carbon development.

“More and more countries are committing to integrating climate action into national economic plans, from the recent G7 statement on the need to decarbonise the economy by the end of the century, to the development of low-carbon and climate resilient growth strategies in a number of developing and emerging economies”, said Lord Nicholas Stern, leading economist and co-chair of the Commission. “Strong economic growth that is also low-carbon is going to be the new normal.”

The Commission’s 10 recommendations include:

  • Scaling up partnerships between cities, like the Compact of Mayors, to drive low-carbon urban development. Investment in public transport, building efficiency, and better waste management, could save around US$17 trillion globally by 2050.

  • Enhancing partnerships such as REDD+, the 20x20 Initiative in Latin America, and the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance to bring together forest countries, developed economies and the private sector to halt deforestation by 2030 and restore degraded farmland. This would enhance agricultural productivity and resilience, strengthen food security, and improve livelihoods for agrarian and forest communities.

  • Governments, development banks and the private sector should collaborate to reduce the cost of capital for clean energy, with the goal of investing US$1 trillion in developed and developing countries by 2030.

  • The G20 should raise energy efficiency standards in the world’s leading economies for goods such as appliances, lighting, and vehicles. Investment in energy efficiency could boost cumulative economic output globally by US$18 trillion by 2035.

  • Action to reduce emissions from aviation and shipping under international treaties and from hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Montreal Protocol could reduce emissions by as much as 2.6 Gt in 2030. In shipping alone, higher efficiency standards are expected to save an average of US$200 billion in annual fuel costs by 2030.

The Commission calculates that its recommendations could achieve up to 96 percent of the emissions reductions in 2030 that are needed to hold the rise in global temperature to under 2°C, the level which governments have pledged not to cross.

The report finds that businesses are already driving a growing US$5.5 trillion global market for low-carbon goods and services. It calls for new business partnerships to open new markets, share costs, and reduce concerns about the international competitiveness impacts of climate policy.

“Businesses are already preparing for a low-carbon future, and in many ways are ahead of the curve. For instance, companies representing 90 percent of the global trade in palm oil, including ours, have committed to deforestation-free supply chains by 2020”, said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever.

The Commission argues that the actions identified in Seizing the Global Opportunitywould enhance the national pledges (“Intended Nationally Determined Contributions,” or INDCs) already being submitted by countries to the UNFCCC for the Paris climate conference. It urges INDCs to be seen as “floors, not ceilings” to national emissions reduction targets.

“We know that the current INDC pledges are not likely to get us to the 2°C world we need. But this report shows there is significant room for stronger action that is in countries’ economic self-interest,” said Michael Jacobs, report director, New Climate Economy. “It is therefore vital that the Paris climate agreement sets in motion a regular process for strengthening national commitments, on the way to the long-term goal of reducing emissions to near-zero in the second half of this century.”

“This report highlights the huge opportunity countries now have to scale up climate action while also driving growth and development,” said Helen Mountford, global programme director of the New Climate Economy. “Global economic growth and carbon emissions are beginning to be decoupled: last year, for the first time in decades, emissions held steady while the global economy grew. But the pace of change needs to be accelerated if we are to meet our development goals and also reduce climate risks.”

Seizing the Global Opportunity is a follow-up to Better Growth, Better Climate: The New Climate Economy Report, which was released in September 2014. The Global Commission is made up of 28 leaders in the fields of government, business and finance from 20 countries.

Find out more. Read the report and executive summary here:

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Comments 1 to 2:

  1. Deforestation Free: 

    "be traceable to the plantation where it was produced;

    - come from plantations whose expansion does not threaten High Conservation Value (HCV) forests (*);

    - come from plantations whose expansion does not threaten High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests (*);

    - come from plantations whose expansion does not threaten any tropical peatland, of whatever depth;"


    Does that mean it can be labelled deforestation free and chop down non HCV's forest areas?

    Also apparently plantations greater than 10 years old are now deforestation free.

    Maybe if oil (much less than Palm oil) could from regeneration tropical forests and peatlands that might actualy help?

    For sure deforestation, (unless as part of a long term sustainable rotation with periodic full regneration over several hundreds of years to provide materials, food and naturla zoos (e.g. Oak coppice woodland with clearings and paths)), needs to be halted, however don't we need to urgently regenerate tropical rain forests and peatlands and maybe put less oil in our diet and products?

    Do Indonesia's native rainforests have any useful products that can be harvested within an overall ecosystem balance?

    Wonder if using Palm oil for fuel will become classified as deforestation free?

    Or is deforestation free the BAU mentality massaging the fields of perception or is there hope? 

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Excessive white space deleted.

    [DB] Shortened link breaking page formatting.

  2. The report does not mention an important aspect of the envisioned achievable economic future. Those who have gambled on getting away with maximized personal benefits from the burning of fossil fuels will be losers. Many very wealthy people are invested in and desiring to benefit from burning lots of fossil fuels as fast as possible.

    Those people would see the proposed economic future as a threat to their vested interests. They would likely demand compensation for what they would consider to be an unfair denial of their opportunity to benefit. Of course they have all been able to understand the unacceptable of their gambles for at least 25 years. But it is in their nature to try to maximize their personal benefit any way they think they can get away with.

    And many global free trade agreements include terms that allow such invididuals to attempt to legally attack any government group that would take measures that they believe can be argued to be 'unfairly' denying them an opportunity to benefit/profit. Many communities in Canada have learned that their attempts to limit the use of unacceptable chemicals can be legally challenged by the makers and sellers of those unacceptable chemicals (the legal challengers claim that the chemicals are not scientifically proven conclusively to be unacceptable), with this report as an example.

    Another aspect that is not mentioned but is self-evident, is the fact that the free action of people in a free-market cannot be expected to develop a decent result. The popularity of getting away with temporary benefits and profitability will naturally strive to keep the economic changes that need to happen and actually can be made to happen from happening.

    Clearly the ability to achieve the required transformation of the global economy will not be in the best interests of those people who gambled on getting away with unacceptable pursuits. Therefore, in addition to the mentioned revised economic motivations, there needs to be a clear statement that no party that gambled on benefiting from burning fossil fuels deserves any compensation for what they may claim is an unfair denial of their opportunity to benefit. Without such a measure in place too much wealth and power will remain in the hands of people who have proven they have little interest in responsibly using their wealth and power to develop a lasting better future for everyone.

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