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Climate Change Corner
Lord Stern on opportunities in low-carbon world
Lord Nicholas Stern of Brentford, former World Bank economist and author of the Stern Report on
Climate Change, offered those who attended the Climate Conference at the J W Marriott Hotel on
October 27 a glimpse of the opportunities presented by the risks associated with climate change.
Lord Stern arrived at the conference from the Asia-Europe Meeting in Beijing, where China's leaders
signalled their commitment to address the issue. In fact, developing a low-carbon economy is
expected to be the theme of the country's 12th Five-Year Plan. He was optimistic that the
international community would be able to reach an agreement on drastic measures at the UN Climate
Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark, next November, even though they would have to
agree to cut its carbon emissions by 50% by 2050, with rich countries having to cut theirs by 80% in
order to persuade others to sign on.
According to Lord Stern, as far as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development
(OECD) ranks are concerned, Hong Kong is among the top ten economies most vulnerable to climate
change, particularly to sea level rise. Mitigation, he believed, would require powerful regulations
as well as private investment and climate-friendly private consumption decisions. In spite of
resistance, he was optimistic change would come, because “if you get locked into high carbon business,
the risks will go up,” he said. His estimate is that an economy may be able to maintain 40-60 years of
high-carbon growth before choking itself out.
Lord Stern saw the current financial crisis as an opportunity for governments to redirect investment to
encourage low-carbon growth. For businesses interested in following this path, his message is highly
encouraging: 20 to 30 years from now, the impact of low carbon industries is expected to be similar in
magnitude to the impact railways, electricity, IT, etc, had on economic development in the 20th century.
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This article is contributed by Ms Angela TAM with the co-ordination of the Environmental Division.