Smart climate action promotes greater economic efficiency, drives innovation and provides long-term policy consistency for low-carbon development, the Global Director at the World Resources Institute (WRI) Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, told Anadolu Agency Wednesday.
This low-carbon development will be worth at least $24 trillion in net benefits in cities alone by 2050, director Aniruddha Dasgupta said.
Dasgupta's comments come the same day that U.S. President Donald Trump served notice that the country would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement effectively launching a year-long countdown to the withdrawal.
Trump is a longtime critic of the agreement that has seen the sign-offs of nearly all of the world's nations in a mutual effort to fight back climate change by reducing carbon emissions. He has bemoaned what he says is unfair treatment under the deal which imposes burdens on American workers and businesses.
Dasgupta, however, disputes this rationale saying, "The Trump Administration’s response is driven by the outdated idea that climate action is costly and hurts jobs."
Trump claims the Paris Agreement costs $3 trillion to the country's economy and hurts 6.5 million jobs.
But Dasgupta affirms that to the contrary, low-carbon development is worth at least $24 trillion in net benefits by 2050.
“Abandoning the Paris Agreement is not only cruel to future generations everywhere but fails the people of the United States too. This action by the U.S. may encourage other major countries to abandon or slow down their ambitious plans. I hope not," he added.
Nonetheless, he affirmed that people are demanding a fight against climate change citing the 7 million who protested during the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September.
Climate change not only causes weather catastrophes and seasonal changes but also affects daily life from food to clothing, he said.
This movement has created an expectation that “governments are now worried that they will get a backlash if they don't combat climate change,” he explained.
Public support will embolden world leaders to have the necessary drive and ambition to acknowledge climate change and drive policies to combat it.
Consequently, climate change will be a much bigger issue in the 2020 U.S. election than any other time before, he warned.
"Every one of the Democratic candidates has a climate position. In fact, President Trump is ignoring what three-quarters of Americans, including the majority of Republicans, want, which is to stay in the Paris Agreement," Dasgupta said.
However, he said the good news is that a large number of U.S. states, cities and businesses are pushing forward with climate action that is aligned with the Paris Agreement.
"Together, this group would be the world’s second-largest economy – larger than China," Dasgupta said.
He acknowledged that without the efforts of the major emitters in the world like China and India, it would not be possible to succeed in the fight against climate change as these countries have the potential to commit to more ambitious targets.
"It is clear the ambitions aligned with the Paris Agreement are not enough to get a zero-carbon world by 2050,” he said, stressing the need for countries to commit further towards this ambition.
- Turkey's efforts are encouraging
Dasgupta explained that sustainable cities, electrification of vehicles, expansion of bike paths, energy-efficient building investments and renewable energy integration into the grid system are all crucial to low carbon development.
Referring to Turkey's efforts in these fields, he recalled the decision made for energy efficiency in public buildings announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in September during his speech at the UN Climate Action summit.
Inefficient buildings generate large emissions, he said, and recommended that efforts to improve energy efficiency in buildings be aligned with climate targets.
Buildings in Turkey lead to a waste of $14 billion annually because of inefficient heating and cooling systems resulting in more energy consumption.
"An important country like Turkey should definitely ratify the Paris agreement which could contribute more to its climate-friendly efforts," he suggested.
Turkey is currently the only G20 country that has not ratified the Paris Agreement.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya and Firdevs Yuksel