“Remove fossil fuel subsidies right now and put a price on carbon everywhere”: Felipe Calderón

Ilario D'Amato
9 September 2016

Felipe Calderon

LONDON: “Investing into investment” for sustainable infrastructures is the most urgent priority for the financial, political and climate sectors – said Felipe Calderón, former President of Mexico and Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, in a Climate TV interview during the Business & Climate Summit, an international meeting convened by The Climate Group last June in London.

The Commission, chaired by Calderón, “has detected some problems, some obstacles that prevent financing sustainable projects for infrastructures,” he says, highlighting the social and environmental risks and opportunities for such plans. “One of them is a lack of viable and bankable projects,” so that “many countries are not able to deliver or to present the right projects to the investors.”

It is possible to drive “sustainable development through better infrastructure,” according to a recent report by Amar Bhattacharya, Jeremy Oppenheim and Lord Nicholas Stern, and in the aftermath of the historic Paris Agreement last December, the world has set a clear path towards a rapid decarbonization of the economy by the end of mid-century – which in turn offers immense opportunities to achieve a net-zero emissions global economy.

To realize the potential of these untapped opportunities, it is necessary “to create institutional capacity, to have a better planning, better delivering – in order to have better projects in the pipeline,” explains Calderón.

“We need to put money, to put very capable people to train and to strengthen the institutional capacity either of governments or private sector – especially in less developed and developing countries.”


The current trajectories indicated by the national pledges brought to Paris are not consistent with the ultimate goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, as stated in the agreement. Caught in a cycle of low investment and low growth, the global economy needs to transform its current infrastructure investment system, prioritizing the areas that will pave the way to a prosperous net-zero future.

“We need to remove fossil fuel subsidies, right now,” emphasizes Calderón. “Or, in other words, we need to establish the right economic incentives to move towards all the way sustainable projects in particular in infrastructure. That implies putting a price on carbon, everywhere.

“Secondly, we need to invest private – but in particular public – money in research and development. It is incredible that in the 80’s we were investing more than double public money than today in research and development for clean energy.”

Felipe Calderón speaking at the Business & Climate Summit in June 2016


To achieve the targets set out both in the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, upwards of US$6 trillion in global investment is required annually in sustainable infrastructure in the next 15 years – more than double the current level, a policy paper by Zia Qureshi indicates.

For this reason, “we need to rebound the financial framework in order to decide the most appropriated financial instruments, according with each circumstances,” continues Calderón. “For instance, it is clear that in developed countries private projects, private financing is the most important source for financing sustainable infrastructure. However, in developing countries it is clear that governments – public money, public budget – is the main instrument to do so.

By investing 1% GDP in infrastructure, advanced economies will achieve a 1.5% increase in GDP in four years, with even greater growth in developing countries, he said at the Business & Climate Summit.

“The highest potential is of course in less developed and developing countries, because they have not got the infrastructure yet, so almost everything is yet to be built. They have an incredible opportunity to make the right decisions today, and avoid all the mistakes we have made everywhere. But at the same time, paradoxically, they either have not money to do that, or they have not the institutional capacity and knowledge.”


After many decades of promises from developed countries, it is time to move from ambition to action, underlines Calderón. For example, “development banks at the international level could provide some kind of technical advice at the beginning, so to design the right projects.

“The project, then, could generate its own payback – so that finance would flourish everywhere. I think that it’s possible, but we need to start the engine in some way, and we can do that.”

Developed countries must help developing countries to keep the momentum created by the Paris Agreement and push their economy towards the future net-zero pathway. “We have had incredible promises coming from the governments everywhere, concludes Calderón, “now it’s time to deliver. Sustainable infrastructure is not one way among others, it is the only successful story of growth for the future.”


This year’s Climate Week NYC will be pivotal in scaling up the level of ambition addressed by Calderón, bringing together the world’s most influential leaders from government and business in a series of high-level events to drive climate action.

With a focus on North America’s leadership on innovation, technology and clean energy, Climate Week NYC will once again showcase how tackling climate change drives profitability, while leading us toward net-zero emissions.

To scale up the clean economy we need to “use better energy, better” – as a networking event hosted by The Climate Group on September, 20 will illustrate. Members from the RE100 and EP100 corporate campaigns will collaborate on finding solutions and best practices to use 100% renewable electricity or doubling their energy productivity, respectively.

Putting a price on carbon, a crucial issue for Calderón, will be the focus of the event “Internal price on carbon – A corporate perspective from India” on September, 22. Organized by World Resources Institute India, the event will illustrate case studies and presentations from key Indian businesses on how such policy tools are driving innovation while reducing emissions in the region.

The “Carbon Forum North America”, organized by the International Emissions Trading Association, will focus on how the North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership – set up by the US, Canada, and Mexico – will influence the pathway marked by the Paris Agreement.

As highlighted by Calderón, addressing infrastructure and finance is the key priority in achieving ambitious climate goals while ensuring a fair and sustainable global development. One of the sessions of the Concordia Summit during Climate Week NYC, between September 19 and 20, will concentrate on this aspect, bringing together prominent global leaders.

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