3 Policy Shifts the World Bank Says Will Save the World

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A World Bank report detailed the benefits world economies can reap from some immediate steps in three areas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, titled Climate-Smart Development and released earlier this week, offers three simulated case studies in six major regions around the world that could produce annual benefits including saving an estimated 94,000 lives, creating an estimated gain to total gross domestic product of $1.8 trillion to $2.6 trillion and avoiding 8.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in emissions.

These measures are practical first steps, as they would create only 30% of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to keep global temperatures from rising above the critical 2-degree-increase threshold, beyond which tipping points in climate systems and unexpected disasters are more likely to occur.

Significantly, the suggestions of the report carry investment potential in energy efficiency in industry and buildings and for transportation, with plenty of room for entrepreneurialism plus positive implications for existing clean energy stocks like Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) and Tesla (TSLA) and negative implications for coal miners, notably Peabody (BTU).

The report comes as the Supreme Court Monday upheld the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, provided those plants already require regulation for other pollutants. The decision is both a victory and a setback for the EPA, which had sought to extend its powers under existing law to allow it to, in effect, make its own decisions about what plants should be regulated.

Separately, the EPA also issued new rules calling for a 30% reduction of carbon from power plants over 2005 levels by 2030. That target, however modest, is also likely to face a court challenge.

Carbon dioxide is by far the most important greenhouse gas and lingers in the atmosphere for centuries. However, the World Bank's report also aggressively targets greenhouse gas emissions that are more short-lived in the atmosphere and also pose immediate health risks, particularly black carbon and methane. A reduction in levels of those gases could create both immediate and lasting benefits, the study reasoned.

Case Studies

The report's three case studies focus on specific development projects in six of the world's regions: the U.S., Brazil, China, India, Mexico and the European Union. The first set of changes suggested continuing the world's shift to clean transportation, with a 30% to 45% improvement in fuel efficiency in conventional vehicles and "aggressive penetration of alternative fuel vehicles by 2030." The report sees hybrids representing 60% of new vehicles sold, with all-electric representing 8% to 12%.

That push for greener transportation also included government support in building infrastructure, a further push toward bio-ethanol for heavier vehicles and the development of public transportation, including bus rapid transit, or BRT -- dedicated lanes for public bus traffic. Such bus systems exploit the experience of the World Bank-funded project for dedicated routes in India's Pimpri-Chinchwad district. The project has experienced cost overruns, delays and design problems, but is nonetheless nearing completion.

"The Pimpri-Chinchwad BRT may serve as a model for replication across India," the report said. "It was analyzed in depth in this case study to establish realistic benefits that can be expected under real-world conditions."

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