The threat of climate change has put greenhouse gas emissions on the global agenda, but leaders see opportunities for development, say experts.
Four leading voices in climate science and international affairs appeared in a televised discussion at Imperial College London, which was co-organised by the Grantham Institute and screened this week online and on Japan's international broadcast channel, NHK World.
They said that the best solutions to climate change also bring social and economic benefits to those most at risk from its effects, such as increasing frequency and severity of droughts, floods and heatwaves.
On the panel was Imperial's Professor Jim Skea, from the Centre for Environmental Policy, who was recently appointed as co-Chair of Working Group III (Mitigation) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international body that assesses the viability of options to avoid climate change.
Joining him was Mr Rintaro Tamaki, Deputy Secretary-General of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which works to improve peoples' economic and social wellbeing through international policy.
We should look to Victorian England, where technological challenges led to explosions of new industries, saying ‘Hey, this is a great opportunity!'.
– Professor Sir Brian Hoskins
Chair of the Grantham Institute
He said: "Climate policy is still suffering from the international crisis of 2008, but private financiers like pension funds and insurance companies have ample money, 93 trillion dollars. How do we convince investors to make long term, climate friendly investments?
"It's a great opportunity, but now it's the role of the government to set out credible environmental policies to convince those investors. Climate change and sustainable growth are not necessarily incompatible."
Panellist, Dr Ruth Kattumuri, Co-Director of the Asia Research Centre and India Observatory, also an Associate of Grantham Research Institute,
at the London School of Economics. She said: "Ten years ago, many developing countries didn’t recognise what was happening with respect to climate change and their governments were much more sceptical about their role in the issue.
"Now many are becoming aware that it’s to their own benefit as well as for the world as a whole to share resources, technology and finance, and to work together for environmental sustainability."
Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Chair of the Grantham Institute, who hosted the televised discussion, said: "2015 has been described as the most important year for these international negotiations in more than 50 years.
"There is an urgent pressure to limit climate change to a level that we hope we may be able to cope with. It’s necessary to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, but we’ve been wringing our hands and saying all this is a drag on the economy.
"Instead we should look to Victorian England, where technological challenges led to explosions of new industries, saying ‘Hey, this is a great opportunity!'."
Having an influence at COP21
Grantham Institute and Centre for Environmental Policy, are hosting events and an exhibition stand at the COP21 conference centre in Le Bourget, Paris, where they aim to raise awareness of the relevance of Imperial’s work for the science, technology and policy being discussed, and provide ad hoc advice to the negotiators.
Imperial representatives are reporting from Paris with live social media and blogs, which seek to improve public understanding of the conference outcomes.
From 1 to 4 December, readers can put their questions to top scientists in Twitter Q&A sessions discussing the opportunities that come from reducing carbon emissions, using the #BackClimateAction hashtag, which is curated by the UK’s Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
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