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RELEASE: Timothy Wirth and John Podesta discuss economics of combating climate change
Press Release

RELEASE: Timothy Wirth and John Podesta discuss economics of combating climate change

New findings show most emissions reductions needed by 2020 can be met with policy measures that will return net cost-savings.

To contact the U.N. Foundation:
John Anthony
[email protected]

New York, NY— The United Nations Foundation and the Center for American Progress presented today an analysis of "core elements" needed to combat climate change. In a press conference call, U.N. Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth and Center for American Progress President John D. Podesta also spoke about the ongoing U.N.-led negotiations toward a new international climate agreement.

"This report once again demonstrates that attending to climate change is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Concerted and cooperative international action to get us on a pathway to a global 20 percent renewable electricity standard and halving deforestation by 2020 is the most cost-effective way to achieve our midterm emissions reductions goals. Just as important, improvements in energy efficiency across the board will pay for it all and generate new revenue to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to the impacts of climate change they are already experiencing." said Center for American Progress President John Podesta.

Achievable gains in energy efficiency, renewable energy, forest conservation, and sustainable land use worldwide could achieve up to 75 percent of needed global emissions reductions in 2020 at a net savings of $14 billion, according to analysis done for the United Nations Foundation by Project Catalyst:

  • Increasing the rate of global energy efficiency improvement to 2.0 percent by 2015 (from current rate of 1.25 percent) would reduce emissions by 12 percent below business as usual in 2020, or 5.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or GtCO2e, and would yield a net savings in 2020 of $98 billion.
  • Deriving 20 percent of the world’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020 would reduce emissions in 2020 by 10 percent below business as usual, or 1.3 GtCO2e, at a net cost in 2020 of $34 billion.
  • Reducing the annual rate of tropical deforestation 50 percent by 2020 and increasing the amount of land under sustainable management though habitat restoration and sustainable forestry, agriculture, and livestock practices would reduce emissions in 2020 by over 50 percent from business as usual, or 6.5 GtCO2e, at a net cost in 2020 of $51 billion.

These actions, along with immediate investments of $1-2 billion to implement National Adaptation Programs of Action for the least developed and most vulnerable countries, would make a sizeable and immediate contribution to solving the climate problem and provide a valuable foundation for a new agreement in Copenhagen.

"A new international agreement is urgently needed to address climate change," said U.N. Foundation President Timothy Wirth. "It must include emission reduction targets by developed countries, nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries, financial assistance to developing countries, and technology cooperation.

"Core elements of a new agreement include areas where all countries, both developed and developing, can take immediate action to reduce emissions—action that also supports sustainable development, economic growth, energy security, and public health."

Copies of today’s report can be found here, or on the United Nation Foundation’s website, here.

To listen to the audio of the call, click here.

For more information contact John Anthony via email at [email protected] or Suzi Emmerling via email at [email protected].



The United Nations Foundation, a public charity, was created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support UN causes and activities. The UN Foundation is an advocate for the UN and a platform for connecting people, ideas, and resources to help the United Nations solve global problems. We build partnerships, grow constituencies, mobilize resources, and advocate policy changes to support the UN’s work for individual and global progress. The UN Foundation’s work – focused on select global problems – is decreasing child mortality, improving disaster relief, protecting diverse cultures and environments, creating a clean energy future, empowering women and girls, and improving U.S.-UN relations. For more information, visit www.unfoundation.org.