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Stern: Rich nations will have to forget about growth to stop climate change

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Jonathan Watts
London Guardian
Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rich nations will need to reconsider making growth the goal of their societies, according to the leading economist who wrote the government’s report on climate change.

Lord Stern said that although robust expansion could be achieved until 2030 while avoiding dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions, rich nations may then have to consider reining in growth.

“Will other restraints kick in? Probably, they will,” said the former World Bank chief economist and author of the 2006 Stern review on the economic costs of climate change. “At some point we would have to think about whether we want future growth. We don’t have to do that now.” The priority, he told the Guardian, was to break the link between carbon emissions and economic output.


In a speech at People’s University in Beijing, Stern said the world’s challenge was to reduce total carbon emissions from just under 50 gigatonnes now to 35 by 2030 and 20 by 2050. By that time, he said, the average for each of the predicted 9 billion people in the world would be two tonnes. If done equitably, this would require a cut by the US of more than 90% – each American now uses 25 tonnes of carbon a year.

To meet Stern’s goals, the world’s big economies, including China, would have to halve carbon emissions relative to GDP in each of the next two decades.

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This article was posted: Saturday, September 12, 2009 at 4:56 am

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