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Speeches & Transcripts

Romania: The Environment Provides Great Value That Should Not Be Ignored

January 28, 2015

Anil Markandya Opera-Clima Climate Change Conference Bucharest, Romania

As Prepared for Delivery

Low carbon can lead to better public health, new jobs, and to an economic growth impetus

Professor Anil Markandya, one of the winners of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to the climate change agenda, visited Bucharest to participate in the Opera-Clima Climate Change Conference, organized by the Government of Romania and the World Bank on January 28, 2015.  Professor Markandya received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 as part of the team that drafted the Fourth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which made the warming of the global climate system unequivocal and warned that a delay in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would likely increase the risk of more severe climate change impacts.  An economist by training, he has worked in the field of climate change for over thirty years, publishing some of the earliest research on green growth and sustainability.  Daniel Kozak, our External Affairs Officer in Bucharest, met with this leading authority on climate change for an interview about Romania’s climate change and green growth strategy.

Q: Professor Markandya, first of all, welcome to Romania. Please tell us why are you here?

A: I have come to participate in a meeting that will discuss Romania’s climate change and green growth strategy.  The meeting is organized by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests in collaboration with the World Bank.

Q: You are an economist by trade. When and how have you become interested in the environment and climate change?

A: I guess I am one of the grandfathers of the subject that is now called environmental and resource economics.  I wrote my doctoral thesis on this in 1974.  When we started out there were very few environmental economists.  You could get the whole community is a small meeting room.  This year I am president of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists and we have an annual meeting with more than 1,000 researchers from all over Europe, and even some from the USA.  They are young and intelligent and working to find new solutions to the problems of sustainable development and green growth.

The idea is that the environment provides us with services of great value.  For a long time we have ignored these values in our economic structures; that is to say in the way in which we organize our systems of production and consumption.  This has had some negative consequences for our wellbeing.  We can correct that if we take account of these environmental values and make sure they are reflected in the signals that producers and consumers receive when making their production and consumption decisions.


Romanian Minister for Environment, Water and Forests Graţiela Gavrilescu opens the Opera Clima conference in Bucharest on January 28.

Q: What are these values you mention? And what are the negative consequences, exactly?

A: These values refer to the damages caused by economic activity to us through air, water and soil pollution, through the destruction of ecosystems, and the depletion of our forests and other habitats.  The negative consequences are premature mortality, illnesses, reductions in the income from activities that depend on the natural environment, such as tourism, recreation etc.

Q: Why is climate change a game changer for Romania? Why is it important for Romania to have a strategy dedicated to climate change?

A: It is really important for Romania to recognize that climate change will have major impacts on the country.  As temperatures increase steadily over the rest of this century, agricultural yields for different crops will change, with some of them declining quite a lot by 2100.  In addition, rainfall patterns will alter, with lower precipitation in the summer and some possible increases in the winter.  These changes will be accompanied by an increase in the frequency of extreme events – more droughts and floods.  Also, global warming implies a rise in the sea level and an increase in storm surges, making coastal towns liable to increased flooding.  The degree to which these things happen is not pre-determined.  If the world succeeds to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions significantly, then there will be less warming and a smaller increase in extreme events.  But some changes are inevitable and your country has to prepare for them. 

As a member state of the European Union, Romania also has significant obligations to reduce GHG emissions.  These reductions will imply some costs as we move away from a carbon intensive economy, but they also have benefits, as lower burning of fossil fuels reduces air pollution, and benefits public health.  The new infrastructure that goes with a shift to low carbon also creates jobs and can be an impetus to economic growth.

Q: Beyond strategy, what are the other important factors in terms of climate change that Romania needs to pay attention to?

A: The thinking is increasing towards “green growth” – ways in which we improve living standards and create employment while at the same time reducing our use of fossil fuels and switching to renewable sources of energy.  There is a lot of work on this.  A central feature is the role of city development and land use planning in the future so that it reduces the need for travel, and supports low carbon mobility such as walking and cycling.  Energy efficiency in the building sector is also of great importance and a lot can be done on that.

Q: Tell us what needs to be done so that more people become aware of the impact of climate change on their lives and on the future of their children?

A: Climate change is not something only for governments to address. It is for people to start changing their mindsets so they think of ways to reduce their carbon footprint, and encourage their children to think of these factors as well.  Education and awareness and very important, and lifestyle changes need leaders from society.  Reducing the use of cars, increasing public transport and walking and cycling all have a role to play. Well, we can all do little things, like not driving for short journeys when it would be possible to walk or cycle, and it would be better for us; reducing energy consumption by switching off electric devices when they are not in use but in stand-by mode; cancelling our carbon footprint by supporting programs of afforestation, where we can get a formal credit for each ton of carbon captured.