Saturday, June 28, 2008

McKinsey on the carbon productivity challenge

A new report by the McKinsey Global Institute – worth a look: Any successful program of action on climate change must support two objectives—stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs) and maintaining economic growth. Research by the McKinsey Global Institute and McKinsey's Climate Change Initiative finds that reconciling these two objectives means that "carbon productivity," the amount of GDP produced per unit of carbon equivalents (CO2e) emitted, must increase dramatically.

To meet commonly discussed abatement paths, carbon productivity must increase from approximately $740 GDP per ton of CO2e today to $7,300 GDP per ton of CO2e by 2050—a tenfold increase. This is comparable in magnitude to the labor productivity increases of the Industrial Revolution. However, the "carbon revolution" must be achieved in one-third of the time that economic transformation took in the Industrial Revolution if we are to maintain current growth levels while keeping CO2e levels below 500 parts per million by volume (ppmv), a level that many experts believe is the maximum that can be allowed without significant risks to the climate.

…If we do not increase our carbon productivity, the consequences will be stark, the report suggests. Meeting commonly discussed abatement target would require a per-person carbon budget of 6 kilograms of CO2e per day.…

The microeconomic changes needed to increase carbon productivity at the levels required will not occur without the active leadership and collaboration of governments and businesses globally. We need new policies, regulatory frameworks, and institutions focused on four areas: creating market-based incentives to innovate and raise carbon productivity; addressing market failures that prevent abatement opportunities from being captured profitably; resolving issues of allocation and fairness, in particular between the developed and developing worlds and between industry sectors; and accelerating progress to avoid missing critical emissions targets….

Image of a coal scuttle by Pearson Scott Foresman, donated to the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia Commons.

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