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Report: Achieving climate targets while still growing economy is possible

A researcher notes however that environmental goals cannot be reached without making changes to economic practices.

Tuulivoimaloita Lillgrundissa, Ruotsissa.
Wind turbines in Lillgrund, Sweden, file photo. Image: Getty Images

It is possible for the world's countries to meet ambitious climate goals while at the same time achieving economic growth, according to a report issued on Friday by state innovation fund Sitra.

However, the report's authors noted, tough measures are still needed from countries to achieve goals of limiting global warming temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius (or a maximum of 2 degrees), per the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The report was written by a group of economist researchers from around the world who said that it would still be possible to achieve the goals of the international treaty — without stopping economic growth.

The researchers said they disagreed with the widely-held conception that the goals of economic growth and reducing emissions were at odds with each other.

Economy grew, emissions declined

The researchers further noted that as the EU's economy grew during the years 1990-2016 by more than 50 percent, the bloc also saw a 25 percent decline in carbon emissions.

According to the group, public policies were the foundation of achieving both goals.

"There are countries where economic growth has continued as emissions have decreased," economics Professor Paul Ekins from University College London told Yle.

However a leading expert at Sitra, Saara Tamminen, said just because it is possible to combine improved climate and economic goals, it does not mean that economic growth can continue the way it has to date.

She warned that continuing current economic practices could lead to serious ecological, economic and social consequences.

Story continues after photo.

Professori Paul Ekins
Economics Professor Paul Ekins from University College London Image: UCL
Meanwhile, Professor Ekins said that achieving the 1.5-degree goal will be challenging but thinks it is still possible.

"It is very difficult to achieve what we still need to achieve. I think it is fairly unlikely that we will manage to keep it below 1.5 degrees," he said, pointing out that limiting global temperature rises to 1.6 degrees rather than 2 degrees would still be a significant achievement.

Meeting those goals will require ambitious and consistent policies across all economic sectors, but that political promises also need to become realities in the coming decades.

The report noted that in order to meet climate goals, all countries must stop using coal as an energy source, adding that new technologies need to be used to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as well.

Additionally, the researchers recommend that industry needs to transition to emission-free sources of energy in lieu of fossil fuels.

Ekins pointed out however that the biggest hurdles were with policy-makers as well as others, saying he was most concerned about the world's political systems and a general decline in the appreciation of science.

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