This was the prognosis of Jorgen Randers, a professor of climate strategy at BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, during the opening on Thursday (9 April) of the five-day International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) World Congress in Seoul.
The ICLEI is a global association of local governments and organisations that was established in 1990 when representatives of more than 200 local governments from 43 countries gathered at the World Congress of Local Governments for a Sustainable Future at the UN in New York.
In his speech, Randers said intense environmental problems will steal part of the world’s growth as labour and capital will be diverted to solve them. He cited the case of the Netherlands, which needs to build more and better dikes as sea levels rise due to climate change, an effort that would eat part of the country’s productive capacities.
Randers said GDP growth will slow down and the world’s economy will double only by 2050. He explained that if the world were growing as fast as it did during the turn of the century and in the early part of the last decade, then the world would have grown four times by 2050.
He also predicted that global population will peak at eight billion by 2040 and would gradually decline after that. The use of oil and coal will also peak in the 2030s, but from 2040 onwards, consumption will drop due to to the growth in renewable energy.
On the opening day of the ICLEI congress, more than 200 member city mayors adopted a declaration on “building a world of local action for a sustainable urban future”. The declaration is a symbolic commitment to build smart and sustainable cities in response to issues and challenges like pollution and climate change that need urgent actions.
But missing from the ceremony were mayors from big major cities like London and New York.
Gino van Begin, ICLEI secretary general, explained that the declaration is important because it provides member cities with definite actions to take in the next five years to make them low carbon, resilient, viable and more resource-efficient while providing water, energy, jobs and the infrastructure needed to make citizens happy and healthy.
Won-soon Park, mayor of host Seoul and the new president of ICLEI, added that the declaration is meaningful because it could have an impact on the UN climate talks in December 2015 in Paris.
He said seeing 200 mayors committing to green initiatives sends a strong signal to climate change negotiators since a lot of the action will actually be done by local governments.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South-East Asia & Pacific desk.