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The latest science is clear: Global emissions must reach net-zero by mid-century if the world is to have a shot at limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C (2.7°F), the cap necessary for staving off the worst climate disasters. While G20 countries are responsible for about 75 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, only six of them have communicated official plans for how they’re going to reduce their emissions between now and 2050.
The Paris Agreement invites countries to release their “long-term, low-greenhouse-gas-emissions development strategies” by 2020. These “long-term strategies” will be a topic of discussion at next month’s G20 Summit in Buenos Aires.
Here are four reasons G20 nations should take their long-term emissions-reduction strategies seriously:
1. Economic Benefits
The G20 has committed to strong and sustainable growth, and climate action can help countries achieve this goal. Research from The New Climate Economy finds that the world could reap $26 trillion in economic benefits between now and 2030 by taking bold climate action.
The G20 is already showing climate leadership. Six G20 members have communicated long-term strategies, and many others are in the midst of developing them. Releasing these plans publicly can inspire other nations to follow suit.
Further, the G20 all have experience in planning over long time horizons, whether it be for climate, for energy or for economic development. For example, China has a two-stage development plan to complete its transition to a modern socialist country by 2050, to be achieved in two development periods (2020–35 and 2035–50). India sets a 15-year vision for the growth of all sectors of its economy, and translates it into a seven-year strategy document and associated sectoral plans. G20 countries can show others how to effectively tackle long-term planning as it pertains to emissions reductions.
3. Innovation in Planning
Long-term strategies bring climate and development agendas together to create a new story for a country. This gives life to the concept of the Paris Agreement – climate change action done in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. Long-term strategies are innovative in that they provide a platform for governments to engage citizens to think about the future they want, and to get themselves organized to deliver it. This kind of innovation is important to accelerate the development and deployment of clean technologies, promote competition and reduce costs.
4. Informing Short-term Decisions
Without a long-term view, policies and new investments may be directed towards delivering incremental changes, rather than structural, transformational shifts. Long-term strategies can change this. They can direct short-term decisions so that they are consistent with a long-term vision.
For example, the world is expected to invest about $90 trillion in infrastructure between now and 2030, more than what’s currently in place for the world’s entire infrastructure stock. Three-quarters of this investment is projected to be spent in G20 countries, much of which will be programmed in the next few years. These investments need to be guided with a long-term view so that we’re building clean energy systems and public transit instead of fossil fuel plants and parking lots. This will help avoid lock-in and stranded assets, and help countries collectively achieve the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C.
How G20 Countries Can Create Long-term Strategies to Reduce Emissions
G20 countries have committed to collaborate closely in developing well-balanced and economically viable long-term strategies. As more G20 members develop their strategies, this collaboration will be key for sharing lessons and allowing leaders to be more ambitious. The G20 also has an important role to play in assisting non-G20 countries who need help. Like the Paris Agreement itself, long-term planning must be universal.
The international community can influence this process, too. Momentum around long-term strategies is gaining through the 2050 Pathways Platform, an initiative for collective problem-solving among countries, and the Carbon Neutrality Coalition, which will help drive action within countries that have established ambitious long-term climate goals. WRI and UNDP developed a paper for the G20 Argentine Presidency on long-term strategies, outlining potential approaches and methodologies. While developing long-term strategies will be tailored to the unique circumstances of each country, the paper could be useful to all. In addition, the Long-term Strategies Project provides a set of resources to help policymakers integrate long-term climate strategies into national policymaking.
Working together, we can provide a clear signal to the world that limiting warming to 1.5°C is achievable, and that major economies are committed to doing it.