Climate Action: A consensus of the sensible can beat polluters' PR

Six steps the world should take to fight climate change

Share
Related Topics

Last month, the most thorough scientific review of climate science in history was released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  However, confirmation of clear, dangerous and present epochal changes in our planet drowned in the noisy coverage of the UK’s carnival-esque party conferences, the US Government shutdown, and coquettish phone calls between Americans and Iranians. 

Alarmingly, fossil fuel interests and climate change deniers were successful in getting into the weeds and flooding the media with sceptical stories, benefiting from the media’s instinct for “balance” even in an area where the science has become uncontroversial, thus giving undue space to extremists peddling modern versions of the Roman Inquisition attacks on Galileo.  The IPCC experts were forced to mount a rear guard action defending the obvious: that our actions are radically changing the planet; that the consequences may be apocalyptic; and that 750 million people are already threatened by an epidemic of disease and community destruction.

As a result, a renewed push for concrete climate action never materialised whereas we should have had a mobilisation of citizens and civil society around concrete, immediate and decisive policies rooted in the scientific and economic rigor of the IPCC report.

What should these climate action policies – ‘a consensus of the sensible’ if you will – look like?

First, governments should lighten the load on citizens’ wallets by phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. Tax payers worldwide pay for climate change twice, once by subsidising dirty fuels to the tune of $1.9 trillion per year (the conservative estimate from the IMF), then again by footing the bill for extreme weather events, floods and droughts fuelled by a changing climate.  Releasing some $2 trillion per year of funding is likely to go most of the way, if not all the way, in paying for solutions to climate change and for adaptation strategies.

Second, natural capital should be priced into companies’ financial performance. Today, economic performance is judged by imperfect markets without any regard to the usage of precious natural resources. As a result, some “profitable” companies and “growing” economies are in fact monsters greedily ignoring the needs of future generations. For example, we already know that some 80 per cent of known fossil reserves cannot be extracted without extremely serious consequences across our economies, yet stock markets continue to assign value to companies on the basis of these reserves, without taking into account the consequences of extracting them. That’s nonsense and the minute it stops, much more capital will flow to opportunities that are correctly priced, for example renewable energy. 

Third, the G20 countries must introduce a carbon price across their economies because carbon markets represent up to 50 per cent of the solution in the fight against global warming. A carbon price is critical to mobilize the private sector (which accounts for 70 per cent of global GDP and 70 per cent of employment) as Government resources worldwide are simply not enough to do the job.  Domestic carbon markets are spreading and linking up around the world, and are likely by 2015 to cover some 4 billion people. Yet fossil fuel industry lobbying continues to deliver watered down versions of this effective instrument or even worse, no carbon price at all for the aviation and shipping industries or for several G20 members happy to lead from the back.  

Fourth, the high population countries of China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines, at the forefront of the suffering from climate change, should turn the UN climate talks on their heads by leading from the front and taking on binding commitments to cut their emissions, irrespective of whether the US, Russia or Saudi Arabia follow. These countries have a unique opportunity to shame everyone else into action and to use performance standards, regulations, and a carbon price to mobilise capital on a large scale and drive a low carbon transformation of their economies.

Fifth, the insurance industry must be pushed to correctly price climate change in its products in two ways:  premiums to insure fossil fuel-based activities should increase significantly to reflect the enormous damage caused by extracting them and using them (oil and gas companies not only benefit from at least $775 billion of direct subsidies per year, their insurance premiums don’t reflect the reality of climate change); and climate risks must become a systematic feature of actuaries’ analysis across all insurance products. 

Finally, China and the US should continue their successful partnership expanding the use of the Montreal Protocol (a global agreement to protect the ozone layer) to cover more harmful gases.  At the recent G20 in Russia, this partnership successfully co-opted everyone else to reduce the equivalent of 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050 by eliminating HFCs.  

The noise surrounding the IPCC report shows how effective the noxious fog pumped out by polluters’ spin machines can be, but we can’t let it hide how derisory current climate action is. 

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SEO Specialist

£21000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an e...

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: personality is so much more important than policies

John Rentoul
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

If children are obese then blame food manufacturers, not Zoella

Jane Merrick
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat