London: Rich countries must commit to cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 and developing nations must agree that by 2020 they too will set their own targets, leading economist Nicholas Stern said on Wednesday.
He said the only way the world could defeat the climate crisis was by ensuring that global carbon emissions peaked within 15 years, were then halved from 1990 levels to 20 billion tonnes a year by 2050, and cut to 10 billion thereafter.
“There is a real hurry for this. The developed world must lead by example,” Stern told a meeting to publish his latest work on global warming, “Key Elements of a Global Deal on Climate Change”.
The global carbon market had to be expanded and improved, there had to be massive investment in research and development in low carbon technologies, and rich nations had to bear the brunt and help the poorer world leapfrog into a low carbon era.
Stern said the developing world, where emissions are booming as economies grow, should be given time to prepare to sign up to caps and cuts but that time should have a strict limit and by 2020 they too should be reducing emissions.
Stern, a former British Treasury economist whose seminal work 18 months ago on the economics of climate change galvanised the international agenda, said the emission target was based on the goal of halting the temperature rise to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
That in turn meant achieving global average carbon emissions of just two tonnes per head -- 20 billion tonnes divided by the anticipated world population of nine billion people -- from the current average of seven tonnes per head, he said.
“Everything flows from the figures. That is the simplicity of the argument. If you buy into stabilization at 500 parts per million (atmospheric carbon -- equivalent to two degrees rise) the rest is arithmetic,” Stern told an audience at the London School of Economics.
As emissions in the United States already stood at 20 tonnes per head, with those in Europe and Japan between 10 and 12 tonnes, that meant the bulk of the efforts had to come from the rich world.
But even China, whose economy is growing at 10% a year and which is building a coal-fired power station a week, was already emitting five tonnes of carbon a head and India was close to two tonnes and would soon exceed that.