Global conference on climate science in Paris provides insights ahead of COP21

Last week, nearly 2000 participants from approximately 100 countries attended the largest international scientific meeting ahead of the 21st UN Conference of the Parties (COP21) to present the latest ideas on the science and management of climate change. Our Common Future under Climate Change was held from June 7-10 in Paris, the same city that will host COP21 in December. The 4-day event focused on bringing together the scientific community, building on the results of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report (AR5), to discuss adaptation and mitigation solutions and sustainable development within the context of global change. Presenters provided state-of-the-art scientific knowledge on climate change, explored pathways combining adaptation and mitigation with sustainable development, assessed the potential of evidence-based solutions, and contributed to the science –society dialogue.

Science Offers Robust Foundations for Ambitious Outcomes at COP21 and Beyond, the conference’s outcome statement, highlights the main conclusions of the meetings, touching on both problems and solutions. According to “the solution space”:

  • warming can be limited to 2°C at a reasonable cost if GHG emissions are cut by 40-70% below current levels by 2050,
  • near-term mitigation will determine long-term warming and risks,
  • investments in adaptation and mitigation can provide a wide-range of co-benefits,
  • ambition mitigation will require a wide range of actions that can be supported by carbon pricing,
  • effective implementation of the additional investment required to transition to clean energy can contribute to inclusive and sustainable economic growth,
  • GHG reduction is easier in some sectors than others.

Amongst the many conference events, Fondazione Eni Enrico Matteo (FEEM), International Center for Climate Governance (ICCG), and Global Climate Forum (GCF) jointly hosted a parallel session, On the macroeconomic opportunity of climate policy, on Thursday (June 9). Discussants explored several topics, such as how to design mitigation and adaptation policy in a way that benefits macroeconomic conditions such as GDP growth, employment, and balancing public budgets. They furthermore attempted to answer questions on how climate policy can stimulate the necessary investments for a low-carbon transformation of the economy and how it can anticipate future adaptation needs. The types of instruments needed to tackle this issue and achieve a low carbon economy while ensuring social goals like growth and employment were also addressed.

Discussants concluded that for mitigation, carbon taxes can be more efficient in raising public revenues than other form of taxation, as results are less distortionary than taxes on domestic factors of production, like capital or labor. Separately, it was noted that successful adaptation can help the sustainability of public finances through two mechanisms: by avoiding future post-damage recovery expenditure, and by reducing future GDP losses and tax revenue losses. In this way, investing in adaptation can become financially sustainable, in a medium-term perspective, even if financed by issuing public debt.

(Image: Session of Our Common Future Under Climate Change, Paris, June 2015. Photo credit: ©INRA/B. Nicolas on Flickr)