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To save climate, stop investing in fossil fuels: Economists


By AFP and Madelaine B. Miraflor

Paris – The development of oil, gas, and coal energy must stop in order to avoid the worst ravages of global warming, 80 top economists said Thursday ahead of a climate summit in Paris.

“We call for an immediate end to investments in new fossil fuel production and infrastructure, and encourage a dramatic increase in investments in renewable energy,” they wrote in a declaration.

The December 12 One Planet Summit organized by French President Emmanuel Macron – with 100 countries and more than 50 heads of state attending – will focus on marshalling public and private money to speed the transition toward a low-carbon economy, especially in developing countries.

But boosting renewable energy such as solar and wind is not enough, the economists warned.

“President Macron and world leaders have already spoken out about the need for an increase in finance for climate solutions,” they wrote.

“But they have remained largely silent about the other, dirtier side of the equation: the ongoing finance of new coal, oil and gas production.”

Many new fossil fuel projects already in the pipeline “will need to be phased out faster than their natural decline,” they added.

Different planet

Numerous studies have shown that exhausting already developed oil, gas and coal reserves is incompatible with capping global warming at “well under” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the target set down in the 196-nation Paris climate treaty.

“The science is clear: If you look at the known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, you simply can’t burn all that without making a different planet,” said James Hansen, long-time director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The shift from “brown” to “green” energy is further hindered by oil, gas and coal subsidies, which totaled nearly half a trillion dollars (470 billion euros) in 2014, the International Energy Agency has calculated.

In 2015, direct consumer subsidies for fossil fuels topped $333 billion (315 billion euros) worldwide, according to the International Monetary fund.

“It is time to stop wasting public money on dirty fossil fuels and invest it instead in a sustainable future,” said Tim Jackson, a professor at the University of Surrey in Britain.

Signatories of the open letter also included Jeffrey Sachs, a senior UN advisor; James Kenneth Galbraith, an economist at the Texas LBJ School; American billionaire and philanthropist Tom Steyer; and Australian economist Ross Garnaut.

Critical proportion

Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu wants his counterparts in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region to take climate change “very seriously” as this poses great threat to sustainable urban development.

Cimatu said the region’s climate change-related problems are now “in critical proportion.”

Speaking at the ASEAN Forum on Urban Resilience to Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Management Strategies, Cimatu said, “I would like to encourage everyone to take this threat very seriously,” Cimatu said. The regional forum brought together over 150 research and development experts from across Southeast Asia to discuss plans on attaining urban resilience to climate change and disaster risks within the region.

He said awareness on the need to address climate change should not be confined to scientists and researchers alone, but all people from large cities to the smallest communities in the region.

“Let us handle climate change risks boldly, swiftly and collectively as one ASEAN,” he said.

In the past 10 years, ASEAN countries became highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change as they are now experiencing more frequent extreme weather events – floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

As early as 2009, the World Bank warned that the Philippines topped the list of countries most vulnerable to storms, with Vietnam the second most vulnerable to rising sea levels, and Thailand and Vietnam among those most threatened by flooding.

Last year, the Global Climate Risk Index of German Watch listed four out of 10 ASEAN countries – Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand – as among the 10 nations most affected by climate change from 1995 to 2014 based on annual averages.

Other ASEAN countries are also vulnerable to climate change at varying degrees with Brunei Darussalam suffering from heat-related stress, low coastal scopes in Indonesia likely to be affected by a small increase in sea level, and Malaysia’s Sabah frequently experiencing floods and drought.

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