The world must eliminate emissions from burning fossil fuels in the second half of this century to lower the economic cost of climate change, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said on Wednesday.
Leading economist and climate change expert Nicholas Stern has said that investment equivalent to 2 percent of global gross domestic product a year is needed to limit and adapt to climate change.
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria acknowledged that climate change had serious economic consequences that could not be ignored.
He said simply reducing emissions would not be enough to lower the economic costs because carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere.
Sixty percent of every tonne of CO2 emitted now will still be in the atmosphere 20 years from now and 45 percent 100 years from now, he said, citing a scientific report this year from several universities and research centres around the world.
“We need to achieve zero emissions from fossil fuel sources by the second half of the century,” Gurria told reporters at a briefing in London.
“That doesn’t mean by 2050 exactly but it means by that time we need to be pretty much on the way to achieving it,” he said.
“This is worse than a debt because there is no bailout and if you have two or three good budget years a debt can be reduced, but emissions hang around for 100 years,” he said.
He said there needed to be a “big, fat price on carbon” – either through carbon taxes of emissions trading schemes which send out consistent and clear price signals.