Carbon emission cuts are not a lose-lose but a win-win proposition for development

2 December 2014

There is a growing realisation, supported by AR5, that emission reductions are not a zero sum game. In fact, emission reductions will have significant development co-benefits. There are two aspects to this.

Firstly, without emission reductions, the impacts of climate change would be so devastating that they could erode several decades worth of developmental gains in an instant. Several extreme weather events resulting in large-scale, high intensity disasters have shown us just that. These include three catastrophic floods in the Indian subcontinent alone including the Indus River floods in Pakistan, and the Uttarakhand, Jammu, and Kashmir floods in India in successive years. And we all remember, quite vividly, the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan. All of these events have occurred in quick succession in the last few years.

The developed world has not been spared either. Devastating forest fires have occurred in Australia and USA almost every year, alongside the well-known devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. These damages are not something you can just do away with through economic growth.

Secondly, emission reductions that are realised through a co-benefit approach would result in more sustainable and resilient development. The provision of energy access, through renewable energy, to the 1.4 billion people globally who lack access to modern energy services, would result in more resilient development gains than a polluting, fossil fuel driven process. This would also make economic sense for many of the large developing economies that have been more and more concerned by the lack of energy security and the heavy import dependence of their energy systems.

Further, there would also be benefits resulting in greater job creation and diversified livelihoods, especially for the energy-deprived populations in many developing countries. The co-benefits of emissions reduction would also address various adverse effects of air pollution on human health, which are beginning to have major negative impacts on human health, for example in many developing country cities. In 2012 alone, suffocating air pollution caused by coal burning in China was responsible for 670,000 premature deaths.

Emission reductions need not lead to a loss or curtailment of development. Emissions reductions embedded in a sustainable development process will lead to better developmental outcomes in the long run.

Carbon emission cuts are not a lose-lose but a win-win proposition for development

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