Profile: Lord Nicholas Stern

Profile: Lord Nicholas Stern

Lord Nicholas Stern, the leading climate economist, author of the widely respected 2006 Stern Review and adviser to the British government, says Australia is well placed to benefit from a carbon price. He told the National Press Club in Canberra this week it didn’t matter if it was a tax or a trading scheme – the revenue could be used to fund new technologies or contribute to a new $100 billion a year UN climate change fund.

Sky Channel ran the complete speech from the National Press Club and summed up his talk in this way:

The move came on the same day as Lord Stern told the National Press Club it didn’t matter if it was a tax or a trading scheme – the revenue could be used to fund new technologies or contribute to a new $100 billion a year UN climate change fund.

‘You could do very well indeed,’ he said.

‘You have to take a 10 or 15 year view of this, you have to make investments, this doesn’t come for free in the short-run, the price of electricity will go up.’

While Lord Stern had ‘thoughtful, reflective’ talks with independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor on Tuesday, he would not comment on Australia’s political predicament.

He laughed off independent Bob Katter’s assessment of him as a ‘lightweight’, saying he was certain the north Queensland MP was a ‘splendid fellow’.


Tom Arup in Sydney Morning Herald (2 September 2010):

ONE of the world’s leading climate change experts, Sir Nicholas Stern, has warned countries such as Australia will face future trade barriers unless it moves to a low-carbon economy.

In a speech to the National Press Club yesterday, Lord Stern said the world should embrace what he called the ”new industrial revolution” of cleaner technologies and renewable energy.

”Not participating in this new industrial revolution runs two types of risk: you drop behind technologically and you risk, not tomorrow or the next day but 10 or so years from now, finding real difficulty in the trade story,” he said. ”Ten or 15 years from now, those that produce in dirty ways are likely to face trade barriers.”

Lord Stern said while he had spent his career arguing against protectionism, trade barriers against countries that did not reduce their emissions were ”right”, although he hoped it would not come to that.

Lord Stern is a strong supporter of a carbon price and the author of the 2006 Stern Review, which articulated the economic case for action on climate change. He is in Australia on a personal trip but has taken time out to meet with major political players, including the independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, who will decide who forms the next government.

Lord Stern would not reveal details of his conversation with the two MPs yesterday except to say they were ”very thoughtful, reflective and well-informed people, thinking very seriously about the problems of the future”.

Lord Stern’s visit comes as Terry Tamminen, the climate adviser to the Californian Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is in Melbourne to address a business conference.

Mr Tamminen told the Sydney Morning Herald he was also meeting Victorian government officials about Mr Schwarzenegger’s proposed R20 climate group, which aims to bring together regional governments from America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

One of the group’s aims is to develop a global emissions trading scheme at a state government level, which could also connect into the European Union’s emissions trading scheme.

Details of the R20 will be launched at a Global Climate Summit in November along with a ”green bank,” backed by the United Nations Development Program, to help participating governments fund low carbon development.

Mr Tamminen said Australia should look to California, which is regarded as a leader in renewable energy industries, as an example of how acting on climate change is good for the economy.

Lord  Stern toured a carbon capture and storage (CCS) institute in Canberra, according to an AAP report.

The author of the influential Stern review for the British government, which examined the cost of climate change inaction, Lord Stern visited the Global CCS Institute on Tuesday.

He is a member of the international advisory panel for the institute, which was launched last year and receives $100 million annual federal government funding to accelerate the technology.

Before his Australian visit, Lord Stern said he looked forward to learning the institute’s progress on CCS, which if proven viable, would capture and store carbon dioxide, reducing emissions from power plants to almost zero.

“We need to begin to overcome as many of the barriers to the technology as quickly as possible,” he said in a statement.


One of the world’s leading economists, Lord Stern was the author of a seminal review for the British Government into the cost of climate action and inaction.
The Stern Review was a major turning point in the worldwide climate change debate, and influenced Australia’s own Garnaut review, by highlighting the importance of a carbon price, climate finance, adaptation policy and international agreement.
Lord Stern is the IP Patel Professor of the London School of Economics, chair of LSE’s new climate change research institute (the Grantham Institute), and member of a high level advisory board to the UN on climate finance.
Lord Stern is a former chief economist for the World Bank, has held high level positions in the British Government’s economic service and Treasury and taught at universities in the UK, France and India.

Lord Stern has been Chair of the Grantham Research Institute since it was founded in 2008.

He also holds the following positions:

  • Chair of the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy; 
  • IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government, the first holder of this position, at the Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD);
  • Chair of the Asia Research Centre;
  • Director of the India Observatory.


Lord Stern was adviser to the UK Government on the Economics of Climate Change and Development from 2005-2007, where he was Head of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, published in 2006.

He was Head of the Government Economic Service from 2003-2007; Second Permanent Secretary to Her Majesty’s Treasury from 2003-2005; Director of Policy and Research for the Prime Minister’s Commission for Africa from 2004-2005; and Chief Economist and Senior Vice President at the World Bank from 2000-2003.

During his time as Chief Economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and Visiting Professor of Economics at LSE, he was one of the founding forces behind the Asia Research Centre, formally becoming its director in 2007.

Research interests

  • The economics of climate change;
  • Economic development and growth;
  • Economic theory;
  • Tax reform;
  • Public policy;
  • The role of the state and economies in transition.


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