Interview with Laurence Tubiana

Laurence Tubiana is the Founder and Director for the Institute on Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) in Paris, professor at Sciences Po Paris and Columbia University, Co-Chair of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and President at the French Development Agency (AFD), Board of Governors. She kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some of our questions.

1. What do you find attractive about ECON+?

ECON+ is a terrific network recognizing the urgent need to bolster youth-led initiatives, and is at the forefront of a growing movement to place youth at the centre of sustainable development strategies by connecting and engaging young people in discussions and contributions which will shape their future.

2. What do you think are the key economic issues of today? and… 

3. In your opinion, what needs to be done to address these?

•           Rising inequalities

Growing inequality is one of the biggest economic challenges of our time. Since the 2008 global crisis, inequalities have regained centre stage as major public and policy concerns, fuelling protests by activist groups such as Occupy, the 99%, or the Indignant, opposing and rebelling against an unfair distribution of globalization’s costs and benefits, and highlighting the unequal excesses arising from previous economic policies and their inattention to equality.

We must note that rising inequality may be manifested in different ways. Both developed and developing countries are facing this challenge, however the nature and magnitude of the problem varies from one country to another.

We must also realize that inequality reduction does not occur by decree; neither does it automatically arise through economic growth, nor through policies that equalize incomes downward via ill conceived fiscal policies. Inequality reduction involves a collaborative effort that must motivate all concerned parties, one that constitutes a genuine political and social innovation, and one that often runs counter to prevailing political and economic forces. In the international realm, inclusive economic growth, improved well being and conservation of public goods – especially environmental ones – require that all countries reduce inequalities and promote common rules. Such efforts depend on the establishment of rules that are fair and applicable to all.

•           Decoupling GDP growth and resource use

At a time when high-income economies are looking to maintain living standards and re-start growth, and middle and low-income economies want to achieve economic convergence, decoupling economic growth from the rising use of primary resources, thereby reducing the resource-intensity of production, is a fundamental condition of sustainable development.

Decoupling requires a holistic approach to the transformation of the entire economy in regard to the use of energy and to the use of resources and materials. Important areas of decoupling include energy efficiency measures and low-carbon energy systems; efficient water management, improved agriculture and land use, green buildings, smart grids and improved transportation systems.

•           Global action on climate change

The world remains dangerously off course in mitigating human-induced climate change. Global emissions continue to rise sharply as the global economy expands, dependence on fossil fuels remains very high and progress in decarbonising the world’s energy systems remains frustratingly slow.  These realities underscore the crucial need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally beginning this decade and achieve low global emissions by mid-century, even as the world economy expands.

While reductions will be needed in emissions of all greenhouse gases, the most important will be to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use. In short, the main challenge will be to “decarbonize” the world’s energy system, thereby achieving a dramatic reduction of CO2 emissions in both the aggregate and per unit of energy.

Achieving such a deep transformation of the energy, industrial and agricultural systems over the next few decades will represent one of the greatest technical, organizational and financing challenges that humanity has faced. A complex and interconnected set of policies will be needed to drive this transformation, including research and development of new technologies, support for technology transfer for developing countries, adequate market pricing of energy and a social price on carbon.

4.      What role do you think there are for young people in this?

Young people are most vulnerable to the social problems caused by unemployment, poverty and a degrading environment and also, make up the majority of the population in many developing countries and their cities. With millions of youth living in poverty, some illiterate, others unemployed and often in bad health, there is a clear need to meaningfully engage and support youth and recognize the important role that young people play in shaping their future.

5.         What advice would you give to someone in our network wanting to carry our policy work?

Motivation, passion and strong negotiation skills!

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