Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The climate crisis, persistently high inequalities, rising levels of food insecurity and undernourishment, is affecting the quality of life in many societies and fueling discontent, according to the 2020 World Economic Situation Report.
The economic experts behind the report have called for massive adjustments to the energy sector, which is currently responsible for around three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions. They insist that the world’s energy needs must be met by renewable or low-carbon energy sources, which will lead to environmental and health benefits, such as lower air pollution, and new economic opportunities for many countries.
However, the 2020 World Economic Situation Report finds that the urgent need to switch to clean energy continues to be underestimated, noting that countries are continuing to invest in oil and gas exploration, and coal-fired power generation.
It warns that if the world continues to rely on fossil fuels over the next few years, and emissions in developing countries rise to the level of those in richer nations, global carbon emissions would increase by more than 250 percent, with potentially catastrophic results.
This reliance on fossil fuels is described as short-sighted, leaving investors and governments exposed to sudden losses, as the price of oil and gas, fluctuates, as well as contributing to deteriorating climatic conditions, such as global warming.
“Risk associated with the climate crisis is becoming an ever-greater challenge”, concludes the report, and “climate action must be an an integral part of any policy mix”.
Strategies and technology for a transition to a clean economy that delivers access to reliable and decarbonized energy already exist, continues the report, but will require political will and public support. Failure to act will significantly increase the ultimate costs.
According to the report, Africa has continued to suffer from near-stagnation. In a third of developing countries dependent on commodities, average real incomes are lower today than they were in 2014 and, in several sub-Saharan African countries, the number of people living in extreme poverty has risen.
Although the report assumes that trade tension will ease, the potential for relapse is high, says the report, as the root causes behind disputes have not yet been tackled.
The World Economic Situation and Prospects report is the UN’s flagship publication on expected trends in the global economy. It is produced annually by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the five UN regional commissions (Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, and Western Asia).
The authors of the 2020 WESP conclude that it is not enough to simply focus on economic growth, at any cost, and governments must ensure that growth is inclusive.
“Policymakers should move beyond a narrow focus on merely promoting GDP growth, and instead aim to enhance well-being in all parts of society”, said Elliott Harris, UN Chief Economist and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development.
Harris emphasizes the importance of prioritizing investment in sustainable development to promote education, renewable energy, and resilient infrastructure, and called for governments to pay closer attention to the implications of their policies on the environment, and a fairer distribution of wealth within their countries.