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    Solar technicians install solar panels on the roof of a house. | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 September 2015

A new report discovered that climate-smart changes could boost economic development and improve quality of life, as well as reducing pollution.

Improving cities’ green infrastructure could save up to US$22 trillion and cut the same amount in carbon pollution as India’s entire yearly greenhouse gas emissions, economists predicted Tuesday.

The Global Commission on Climate and Economy, made up of former finance ministers and leading research institutions, discovered that climate-smart changes, like broadened public transport, energy-saving buildings and more efficient waste management, could boost economic development and improve quality of life, as well as reduce pollution.

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The massive savings that could occur, should government adopt the efforts, could reach US$22 trillion by 2050, and by 2030 the equivalent of 3.7 gigatons of pollution could be avoided — higher than India’s present greenhouse gas output.

The report debunks the idea that investing in preventing climate change is too expensive to be worth while.

“There is now increasing evidence that emissions can decrease while economies continue to grow,” said Seth Schultz, a researcher for the C40 climate leadership group who advised on the report.

“Becoming more sustainable and putting the world – specifically cities – on a low carbon trajectory is actually feasible and good economics.”

According to the document, investment in public transport would have the greatest immediate effect, cutting air pollution strangling India and China and curtailing traffic and accidents in cities like Sao Paulo. Indeed as well as saving money, the report says, the changes could save time: bus lanes like those built in Buenos Aires could halve commuter times.

Ecuador is one country already committed to to lowering emissions through investment. The country’s socialist president, Rafael Correa, has invested US$5 billion in green infrastructure projects, and by 2016 Ecuador will be run 96 percent on renewable energy sources. Another mammoth project is introducing induction stoves into family kitchens, based on renewables rather than gas. The aim is to convert 3 million houses, out of a population of 14 million.

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The findings of the study, which call on world leaders to adopt emissions-saving efforts by 2020, were released as French President Francois Hollande warned on Monday that global climate change negotiations due to take place in Paris at the end of the year could fail.

The talks are considered to be key to creating a legally binding global emissions treaty, but will achieve nothing if leaders cannot agree, the French head of state said.

“There is a risk of failure,” Hollande told journalists, after a meeting on the issue of providing financial assistance to poor countries affected by climate change. “If we don’t conclude (with a successful agreement), and there are no substantial measures to ensure the transition (to a climate-affected world), it won’t be hundreds of thousands of refugees in the next 20 years, it will be millions.”

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