Report: COP21: The Paris climate change conference

In 2005, the World Bank assembled a group of well-known economists, including Nobel Prize winner Michael Spence and the father of growth theory Robert Solow, and frontline policymakers, such as Governor Zhou Xiaochuan of the central bank of China, to discuss the future of economic growth. I was part of the group. Not one of us mentioned climate issues or climate change during our rst meet- ing.

The world has come a long way over the last decade. It is no longer possible to discuss long-term growth without at the same time discussing climate. Growth economists and environmentalists have nally converged; they no longer live in different intellectual worlds.

That does not at all mean that there is solid agreement on what should be done. Opinion leaders take different positions on many ethical, analytical, factual, and implementation-related issues. That is normal. Both climate science and economic science give us probabilities, not certainties, and ethical and distributional convictions may differ. There are trade-offs among welfare objectives as well as among advantages and disadvantages of particular policies. Some believe rmly that carbon pricing is far more ef cient than quantitative controls. Others believe that carbon quotas are needed if only for distributional reasons, as the income transfers that could in theory generate distributional objectives although are unlikely to happen in practice. Nobody, however, can ignore the issues or the debate.

This collection of short briefs is a modest effort from Brookings in the crucial few weeks before the COP21 in Paris. One of the most important messages is that there is great worldwide mobilization and that many countries as well as businesses and cities are putting forward their own plans to protect the planet from dangerous amounts of climate change. These plans do not yet add up to a suf cient worldwide effort, even if they were fully implemented. Never before has there been more concrete and broad-based ambition, however. I want to take the opportunity, therefore, to thank and congratulate the millions of citizens around the globe who helped bring policymakers to this point. Paris is an important milestone, but the effort will have to continue in the spirit of how we got to Paris.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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