The Paris climate talks offer a once-in-a-generation opportunity to send the clear signal: We can build prosperity and support economic growth without carbon polluting the earth, and we must act with urgency because of a volatile, warming planet.
I believe political leaders from around the world will rise to this challenge in Paris. For us at the World Bank Group, we will help our client countries and companies make that transition to low-carbon and resilient economic development.
In just six weeks, world leaders will meet in Paris to negotiate a new global climate-change agreement. To date, 150 countries have submitted plans detailing how they will move their economies along a more resilient low-carbon trajectory. These plans represent the first generation of investments to be made in order to build a competitive future without the dangerous levels of carbon-dioxide emissions that are now driving global warming.
The transition to a cleaner future will require both government action and the right incentives for the private sector. At the center should be a strong public policy that puts a price on carbon pollution. Placing a higher price on carbon-based fuels, electricity, and industrial activities will create incentives for the use of cleaner fuels, save energy, and promote a shift to greener investments. Measures such as carbon taxes and fees, emissions-trading programs and other pricing mechanisms, and removal of inefficient subsidies can give businesses and households the certainty and predictability they need to make long-term investments in climate-smart development.
Scientists declared this past year as the warmest year on Earth since record-keeping began in 1880, and a series of scientific reports found glaciers melting and extreme weather events intensifying. There can be no doubt that this year world leaders must commit to transforming their economies to combat climate change.
The forecast for climate change has been undeniably altered overnight — positive news for the planet and for economic growth.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the leaders of the world's two largest economies and two largest emitters of pollutants into the atmosphere, demonstrated that, together, they are leading the global fight against climate change.
Their commitments are an absolutely essential first step if we are to hold the warming of the planet under 2 degrees Celsius, and avoid the disastrous consequences of an even more uncertain world. China committed to an emissions peak by 2030, with 20 percent of its energy coming from renewable sources, and the United States agreed to reduce its emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Importantly, they agreed to expand their joint clean energy research and development.
Executives from Alstom, the Swedish pension fund AP4, Deutsche Bank, and the French pension fund ERAFP joined finance ministers for an informal climate ministerial discussion about carbon pricing during this year's World Bank Group/IMF Annual Meetings. After the meeting, Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Group's vice president & special envoy for climate change, described the conversation and some of the takeaways.
Action is urgently needed on climate change, but it does not have to come at the expense of economic growth. This is the central message of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate of which I am privileged to be a member.