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Report indicates sustainable development can preserve environment and boost economy

• Published on 30 Jun. 2014 • Category : Economy • Tags : sustainable development economy

Spend a little now; save a lot later.

That appears to be the guiding mantra of a study from the World Bank on climate-smart development released this week. In it, the authors praise the benefits -- on life span, community health, job creation and gross domestic product -- of nations embracing climate-smart developmentin both new construction and the retrofitting of existing properties. The study indicates that if governments act soon to engage with green development, the economic and environmental benefits will soon far outweigh the initial costs.

To generate their theories, the authors extrapolated seven of the World Bank’s localized projects to a national level and mined the data. Those projects, including everything from from waste management in Brazil to cooking stoves in rural China, show how positive climate-related moves boast a range of beneficial effects.

The World Bank conducted the study, in part, to add data on “socioeconomic benefits and environmental externalities” to what previously had been a simple profit/loss problem. In one example, the World Bank references a current project in which some of Brazil’s landfills are retrofitted with biodigesters, composting and electricity-producing technology. When moved to a national scale and analyzed, the report’s authors estimate that these design implementations could power 44,000 jobs, spur GDP growth to the tune of $13 billion, and cancel out 158 million tons of CO2-equivalent emissions in the giant South American nation.

In all, the World Bank make a convincing argument for smart design. And considering its potential effect on the bottom line -- GDP growth of between $1.6 and $2.6 trillion per year globally by 2030 -- governments may soon consider evolving from dirty to clean energy practices. By that year, careful climate-centered design could also save 94,000 “premature deaths” and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

“Climate change poses a severe risk to global economic stability, but it doesn’t have to be like this,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “At the World Bank Group, we believe it’s possible to reduce emissions and deliver jobs and economic opportunity, while also cutting health care and energy costs. This report provides powerful evidence in support of that view.”

The report comes just as the climate debate paradigm shifts. The question is no longer whether it exists -- at least for most politicians -- but whether it's worth investing in measures to prevent it. President Barack Obama recently unveiled a revolutionary climate-change plan, with the hopes of reducing emissions domestically while encouraging other powers abroad -- specifically China and India -- to make the same savvy investments. A powerful group of very wealthy people, Paulson, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer have produced the report.. 

The threat of inaction is a major theme of the World Bank report, and the concern is obvious: Governments with more pressing issues, especially in the developing world, will put climate considerations on hold until it is too late. One can hope that with the push from western governments and groups like the World Bank to illustrate the many benefits of climate-careful development, governments everywhere will start taking action.

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