By 2050, the global economy is expected to double (OECD, 2018). Without a transition in the energy system, this expanding world economy will emit levels of carbon dioxide that leave little hope of halting climate change. It will also be putting increasing pressure on other planetary boundaries, including water resources, soil degradation and biodiversity. Angel Gurria, the Secretary-General of the OECD (2012, p.1), stressed that ‘continued degradation and erosion of natural environmental capital is expected to 2050, with the risk of irreversible changes that could endanger two centuries of rising living standards’. This risk is particularly alarming in light of the political tensions generated by the weakness of economic growth in OECD countries over the last decade. Following the global economic and financial crisis of 2008, economic growth has become a key priority for governments around the world. This sentiment has also pushed environmental stewardship down the list of priorities among much of the electorate and many politicians around the world. Yet, without coordinated political will, and carefully directed incentives, global markets will fail to take account of their environmental impacts, potentially triggering a downward spiral of environmental damage and economic hardships. Thus, the global economy stands at a critical juncture: it either achieves an energy transition and follows an environmentally-friendly growth path, or it risks locking itself onto an unsustainable trajectory.
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