Persuading American motorists to swap gas-guzzling sports
utility vehicles (SUVs) for smaller cars would cut enough
emissions to enable 1.6 billion poor people to get electricity
without exacerbating climate change, a World Bank official said
Marianne Fay, the Banks chief economist for
sustainable development, said that the poorest countries would
be worst affected by devastating climate change if the world
failed to cut emissions over the next few decades.
Launching the banks World Development Report 2010, Fay
urged politicians meeting for the UN climate change conference
in Copenhagen in December to strike an equitable
deal to stem the rise in emissions.
High income countries can do things that will not
compromise their prosperity, she said. The most
important reason why high income countries should change [their
behaviour] is that it is one way to create demand for
She said analysis by the Bank showed that swapping the 40
million SUVs in the US for cars with the average fuel
efficiency of new passenger cars sold in Europe would cut 142
million tons of CO2 a year.
This would almost offset the 160 million tons of CO2 that
would be generated by adding 1.6 billion people in developing
countries without electricity to the power grid, bearing in
mind relatively low energy consumption in poor states.
The WDR said that there was a massive shortfall in the
finance needed to help countries adapt to a carbon-free economy
and to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.
Pricing carbon whether through a tax or through a cap
and trade scheme is the optimal way of both generating
carbon-finance resources and directing those resources to
efficient opportunities, the WDR said.
Fay said taxation could alter behaviour, citing the example
of petrol taxes in Europe. We have estimates that, had
the price of petrol [in Europe] remained without rises in
petrol taxes, consumption would now be equivalent to the
US, she said.
Fay acknowledged that persuading American motorists not only
to abandon their SUVs but to pay twice as much for their fuel
would be a challenge. She said there was huge potential for
countries to increase both the amount they invest in
alternative technologies and the resources they devote towards
adaptation and mitigation.
She contrasted the $13 billion that the world spent on
energy R&D every year with the $34 billion that Americans
spent on pet food. It is a small amount of money,
she said. If we want to see changes in energy systems we
need to have a lot more resources.
The bank estimates that by 2012 it could raise new resources
of $9 billion a year for adaptation and mitigation. However
this compared with bank estimates of the likely net cost of
spending on adaptation of $140 billion-$175 billion by 2030 and
a $75-$100 billion bill for mitigation.
But years ago we did not have carbon financing or
carbon emission markets, or serious discussions about
adaptation and mitigation, she said.
There has been a tremendous increase in awareness and
we have seen a transformation on climate change thinking. Even
in the US, that never ratified Kyoto, 1000 cities have signed
onto the targets. So even if you cannot get agreement at the
national level, you can at the local level.