“This will be one of the most difficult negotiations I’ve ever been involved in,” Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist at the World Bank, said on Friday, as leaders from more than 100 countries converged on Katowice, Poland, for an official high-level gathering for the UN climate change conference that begins on Monday.
Mr. Stiglitz, who has received nods of support from both Republican and Democratic administrations for his stances on climate change, said that negotiations around greenhouse-gas emissions-reduction targets would be tough because they would look at how many tons of greenhouse gases a country has emitted by 2050.
Last year’s Paris climate accord included the goal of limiting global temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels, meaning a sharp reduction in emissions is necessary to stay under that threshold.
Mr. Stiglitz said that emissions, and how they were calculated, had not been addressed for almost 40 years. If other countries were not to make that same transformation from polluting to clean energy sources, he said, the climate challenge would get even more difficult in the decades to come.
“The problem is that if you wait until you reach your target, it will get more difficult to move,” he said. “Technology is moving faster. The world is moving faster. We have to respond to this reality that not enough is being done.”
Mr. Stiglitz said one way to compare countries would be their potential global change, by different measures, to meet the 2-degree warming goal by 2100.
“If India came in as one of the greatest emitters in the world,” he said, “and we might get there by 2100, because it’s on the path that we’re on right now.”