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How to reach zero net greenhouse gas emissions in three steps

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Can the world’s nations afford to make the changes needed to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions and avoid catastrophic climate change? Yes, says the World Bank Group — if we start now and incorporate three important components into our strategy.

In a new report, “Decarbonizing Development: Three Steps to a Zero Carbon Future,” the development bank lays out a three-step plan for reaching zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2100:

  • Plan for the long term: fund needed research and technology development now, avoid locking in carbon-intensive investments, and shift to low-carbon development.
  • Get prices and policies right: place a price on carbon and implement other carbon-reducing policies.
  • Smooth the economic transition: provide support for the poor (using funds gained from replacing fossil fuel subsidies with carbon-limiting incentives) and help businesses weather the changes ahead.

Perhaps the most important message in the 182-page report is “the sooner, the better.” Wait just 15 years to get our act together on this one, the report notes, and price tag for reaching the 2100 goal soars 50 percent. Not only that, but a delay would also lock us into more carbon-intensive infrastructure as cities expand and retool in the next few decades. In the words of the report: “The key to feasibility is affordability, and affordability requires early action.” View Ensia homepage

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