Inequality makes climate crisis much harder to tackle

(The Guardian, 26 Jan 2020) What Davos didn’t face up to is that we can’t expect poor people to make all the sacrifices.

For those perched at the top of the mountain, the view is perfectly clear. Climate change is the issue of the moment and has to be tackled without delay. Governments, companies and individuals are all going to have to adjust to the new reality.

Anybody who is not with the agenda – for example, Donald Trump – is either mad or bad. There was a big US delegation to Davos last week but it found itself isolated – in public, at least – on the climate emergency. The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum found Greta Thunberg’s call to arms much more compelling.

Later in the year there will be a much more important event than the World Economic Forum: the UN climate change summit (COP26) in Glasgow. In Davos it was hard to move without hearing the phrase “race against time”.

Almost 15 years ago Nick Stern, then head of the UK Government Economic Service, produced a report on the economics of climate change in which he called the failure to deal with a heating planet the greatest market failure of all time. He argued that the benefits of early action outweighed the costs.

Last week Prof Stern, now chair of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics, said the threat was now being taken a lot more seriously. There were four reasons for that. First there was evidence, after a 1C increase in temperatures since pre-industrial times, of the failure to act. “We are seeing some pretty nasty stuff already,” he said.

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The Guardian, 26 Jan 2020: Inequality makes climate crisis much harder to tackle