Creating Direction for a Low-Carbon Economy
Please find below a summary of his speech.
Continuing on a business-as-usual pathway for CO2 emissions will incur extremely risky and irreversible changes to the world’s systems. This is the key message of climate science. These risks are of a particular nature: on the one hand, tipping points can lead to exacerbating changes and repercussions and can threaten the foundation for human existence on Earth. On the other hand, they affect systems like the oceans and their acidity as well as ice sheets in West Antarctica or Greenland, which are unmanageable, as put by William D. Nordhaus, and exempt from economic logic. These risks thus have a moral implication. In order to avoid the most severe risks, there is a need to reduce anthropogenic global warming. Climate-friendly, low-carbon economies are therefore a necessity.
If we take science seriously, the need to move to a ‚New Climate Economy’ – an economy which avoids the key risks to climate change – is non negotiable. However, uncertainty remains as to how such a transition should be modeled. The transition will necessarily touch on and interlink political, social and economic dimensions. Any attempt to approach the transition from only one perspective would be naive.
A systemic approach to the transition is the sweet spot for actors like swisscleantech. With companies being subject to short-term constraints, politicians having to think in politically feasible dimensions, and civil society being highly diversified, it is challenging to find a clear direction across interest groups. Swisscleantech can help create direction, particularly in the light of the persistence of a business-as-usual approach. There are various ways to achieve this. One example would be to convene actors to partake in a serious and evidence-based discourse, in order to discuss the principles of the transition in a sheltered setting. The European Climate Foundation founded Agora Energiewende to this end. Another way is to call attention to progress, or the lack of it. Beyond this, it is important to advocate for the internalisation of externalities, as this is the precondition to most effectively aligning economic forces in the spirit of the transition to a low-carbon economy. At the same time, there is a need to promote the long-term risks of a business-as-usual approach to investors and fiduciary responsibilities of asset owners. Generally, it is essential to highlight the severity of the situation and its long-term implications.
We need to explain in a credible manner how the transition to a low-carbon economy can be achieved. This is also relevant for democracy. Switzerland, Germany and Europe are in the privileged position of being able to manage the necessary transition.
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