At COP22, UN Regional Economic Commissions Debate the Economics of Climate Change

“African economic growth and development are seriously at risk from runaway climate change”, said ECA’s Acting Executive Secretary Abdalla Hamdok, Tuesday 15 November in a debate with the heads of the UN regional commissions, on Economics of Climate Change.

Despite being one of the least polluting regions of the world, Africa is expected to be among the ones that will suffer the most from climate change.

In Latin America where the infrastructure is more developed, studies have revealed that the closer countries are to the equator, the bigger the economic losses related to climate change. Latin America’s good economic performance and positive implications for the size of its middle-class is having further adverse impacts on climate change as consumption spaces are being filled with dominant, less climate friendly patterns. “We expect a tsunami of car ownership, gasoline consumption, etc.” said José Luis Samaniego, Director of Sustainable and Human Settlements Division at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Taking measures against climate change will not be an easy decision for countries. “We know climate change is going to impact some regions more than others. Some are going to calculate its impacts and take action depending on their results”, said Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA), “What matters the most for the countries is whether the cost of action against climate change can be justified from a national perspective. The issue is that results depend as much from the actions of others than on their own”.

Compared to the rest of the world, adapting to climate change should be relatively easier for Africa than the rest of the world. “Africa has the opportunity to climate proof its infrastructure development rather than retrofit it like in other regions”, added Hamdok. He warned however that leapfrogging to green technology will still not be an easy task: “Many trade offs will be needed, and, eventually, we will find ourselves in untested grounds”, he said, stressing that the move would still be worth it.

To carry out a successful transition towards a low carbon economy, countries will need to carry out many reforms, improve national statistics, secure financing and partnerships. According to Christian Friis Bach, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), improving energy access and efficiency and building innovative investment mechanisms will also be key. An important challenge will be to generate enough profitable projects to tilt investments towards climate friendly ones, said Samaniego.

For her part, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Executive Secretary Shamshad Akhtar pointed out the potential role of regional commissions in supporting economies, improving carbon data, sharing and cross fertilizing knowledge and experience.

This event, hosted at the Africa pavilion, took place with the participation of Abdalla Hamdok (ECA), Shamshad Akhtar (ESCAP), Christian Friis Bach (ECE), Rima Khalaf (ESCWA), José Luis Samaniego (ECLAC), Roula Majdalani Director of Sustainable Development Policies Division at ESCWA, Li Junfeng, Director General of China’s National Center forClimate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, Adala Atira, Chair of the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority, and Odalis Marte, Economic consultant of the Department of Monetary Programming and Economic studies of the central bank of the Dominican Republic.

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