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Director of UN SDSN Jeffrey Sachs: We need “long-term plans” to tackle climate change

Earlier this month, 700 leaders from around the world convened in Washington, D.C. to discuss the future of climate action at the Climate Action 2016 Summit. Global thought leaders – including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael R. Bloomberg, Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and French Minister of the Environment Ségolène Royale – outlined ways to turn the ambition of the Paris Climate Agreement into action on the ground and highlighted the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to climate implementation.

Director of UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Director of The Earth Institute Dr. Jeffrey Sachs made a compelling case for implementing long-term, low-emission development strategies now, including serious plans for decarbonization:

“What’s interesting and not really understood yet is that in Paris, a very important clause was put in – Article 4, paragraph 19. It calls on all countries to have long-term, low-emission development strategies that go out to 2050. I want to emphasize to you that without these long-term, low-emission strategies, we cannot succeed. What is in most minds and most discussions are the INDCs, to 2025 or 2030. We’ll get X% reduction by 2025, Y% reduction by 2030. This is not good enough.

…Decarbonization is feasible. It’s based on three pillars: energy efficiency, decarbonizing electricity, and then basically electrifying everything you can… That’s the solution. Nobody has shown an alterative to this set of pathways. Basically electrify everything with zero-carbon power.”

He went on to lay out priorities in order to meet the goals set out at COP21, including making plans to evaluate and incorporate energy alternatives, ensuring those plans are immune to short-term political cycles and selecting a broad swath of low-carbon technologies to deploy.

“…This is a 40-year transformation if we care to succeed. This is not normal politics. This is long-term, systems transformation at the heart of the world economy… I’m a market economist. Let me tell you, the market is not magic enough to make this transformation – no matter how many times you hear it, you need to make public policy choices.”

At the close of his presentation, Dr. Sachs called on the EU to develop a single unified energy plan, for the world to phase-out all coal without CCS (carbon capture and storage) and to find a way to ship renewable energy the same way as fossil fuel.

Listen to Dr. Jeffrey Sach’s full speech from the Climate Action Summit – click here.