Climate change impacts us all
Whether or not we are aware of it, climate change impacts all of us on a day-to-day basis. In 2020, more so than ever, it is a topic on everyone’s radar. With regular features across global news outlets, it is becoming increasingly important for individuals and organisations to make changes to the way in which they operate, to reduce carbon footprints.
However often, we consider climate change through an environmental or social lens, rather than as economists. The former could be an effective angle in driving behaviour change in individuals, but organisations have to consider how they can exist viably. Therefore, we must quantify the impact of business actions in terms of how they affect our climate.
Professor Anil Markandya of our Department for Economics, has conducted research in this area for many years, with the outcomes having an impact globally.
Carbon dependency is increasing
Through research beginning in the early millennia, Professor Markandya found that the carbon dependency of the global economy had increased, and, without intervention it would continue in the same direction. He stated that recommendations for policies were needed quickly, with input from the energy sector in order to slow down the impact of global activities on our climate.
He summarised this concept as the need for a ‘Green Economy’, a thought at the centre of his early work ‘Blueprint for a Green Economy’ (1989) and later ‘A New Blueprint for a Green Economy’ (2013).
Shaping international environmental strategy
One of the most influential organisations relating to climate change is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a branch of the United Nations. Its goal is to provide governments at all levels, with scientific information they can use to develop climate policies.
Every few years, an assessment report is produced compiling a review of thousands of scientific papers published each year. The aim is to provide a comprehensive summary of; what is known about the drivers of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and how adaptation and mitigation can reduce those risks. The impact of this report is best demonstrated by its receiving of a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Markandya’s contributions to this report were specifically acknowledged by the Chair of the IPCC.
The Fifth IPCC Assessment Report
Following his successful authorship for previous issues of the same report, in 2014, Professor Markandya was invited to be a draft author of the Fifth IPCC Assessment Report. The report cited numerous pieces of his previous research that led to a recommendation that not all adaptation actions are investment based. The report highlighted policy actions are also important tools for driving change.
It’s influence was far reaching, in that approval of the final report was given from over 100 governments globally. Many national and regional governments including the UK and EU, took it into account when setting their own climate targets.
The report, and subsequent Synthesis Report, received significant praise:
'Its assessment of the state of the climate is the most comprehensive ever written and it provides a strengthened body of evidence of man-made climate change.'
'The Synthesis Report provides a strengthened case for international leaders to act now to reduce domestic carbon emissions'. - UK’s Department of Energy and Climate change
Influencing the Paris Agreement
In 2018 the IPCC produced a Special Report on ‘Global Warming of 1.5°C’ of which Markandya was a contributing author. The focus of this report was on the impacts of global warming in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development and efforts to reduce poverty.
The report relies heavily on findings from Markandya’s book ‘A New Blueprint for a Green Economy.’ Through research undertaken during his time at Bath, he discussed the concept of a ‘low-carbon economy’ and ‘green energy economy’. It stated an urgent need for radical changes in order to achieve full decarbonisation of economy systems.
Another body that utilised this report was the Conference of the Parties (COP). The COP is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations, and often draws upon the IPCC’s work (such as this report) for objective scientific and technical advice. At the Katowice Climate Change Conference in 2018, the special report on Global Warming of 1.5°C became a key piece of scientific input.
Also up for review during this particular conference was the Paris Agreement, which deals with greenhouse-gas-emission mitigation, adaptation and finance. An agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it includes representatives from 188 states. The information contained in the special report was further utilised in these review discussions.
Furthermore, more than 490 companies are already developing business strategies that are aligned with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting temperature rise to well-below 2°C, as a result of this report.
Adapting to changes as a result of climate change
A key part of the response to climate change is adaptation to inevitable changes that are already happening and that will become more severe. An important report produced by the UN system is the Adaptation Gap Report, which tracks progress on adaptation and identifies areas where targets are not being met and progress is inadequate. It receives very wide circulation and is influential the setting policy goals for adaptation. Professor Markandya has been on the Scientific Committee that advises on the Report since 2016 when the first report was produced. This year has seen the release of the 5th report.
Continuing impact during the Covid-19 pandemic
The COVID pandemic has had a major impact on all economies, as well as influencing climate change targets both for mitigation ad adaptation. The links are complex: although greenhouse emissions have declined there are signs that they are now overshooting the previous path. Moreover, actions on adaptation and finance for adaptation have suffered. Professor Markandya was the lead author of a report by the United Nations Environmental Program that has looked into these issues in great detail, especially on the effects of COVID on the food systems.