Long-term climate policy, which is generally considered to have four phases: analysis, thinking, implementation, and mitigation (negotiating and implementing to implement the policy) will be a central issue at this week’s United Nations COP24 conference in Katowice, Poland.
We know that massive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are necessary, or we will have devastating climate impacts. The headlines suggest that industrialized countries, including the United States, can reduce their emissions and slow climate change only at costs well above the price of inaction.
So it is perhaps surprising that wealthy countries are increasingly putting forward better climate policies. In the last decade, the frequency of populist attacks on big business has decreased. Members of the left have become more vocal opponents of environmental tradeoffs, and generally support limits on carbon emissions. Even the left-wing parties are more likely to propose tax hikes on energy and mining industries, than in the past.
These policy changes have made countries like Norway and Japan more willing to back cap-and-trade schemes to reduce emissions and more inclined to support the transfer of funds to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change.
When rich countries and rich people give to help poor countries adapt to the climate crisis, they can solve the problem. Under the 1990 UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), rich countries have been allowed to buy credits from developing countries to reduce their own emissions under projects in the developing world. With this program, rich countries can support the meaningful transformation of their energy systems in the developing world.
Such projects are usually designed to reduce emissions from power plants and factories. The project design comes from the projects themselves, and often involves reducing emissions from a specific source to produce an alternative, less-carbon intensive form of energy. This eliminates the need for extra and expensive investments in new technology that would otherwise cause emissions from these sources to increase in the short run.
A growing list of nations have initiated or expanded funding programs to promote cap-and-trade projects, including the European Union (27 member countries) and Norway (three members). Norway is not only a rich country, but it is also one of the world’s most generous grant programs to “protect the climate” (though it also has the fourth-largest natural gas reserves in the world). They support projects in the energy sector, and also directly support land use change, forestry, and biodiversity (which require little investment in new technologies). They also provide to other countries carbon offsets.
In the US, progressive congressional leaders have long argued that America should contribute more to poor countries to help them cope with the impacts of climate change, which will disproportionately hit the poor and exposed populations. Democrats in Congress have proposed the Green New Deal, which would fund the adaptation of poorer countries to climate change by investing in this Green New Deal, and using the money to provide high quality medical care, education, and other necessities for the most vulnerable communities.
A progressive, Democratic Congress can address climate change, while also investing in basic needs for all the people of the world, rich and poor.
The environmentalist, commentator, and author Richard C. Cook is the author of The Cooling World: The Collapse of Industrial Nations and the Coming Age of Independent States. The views expressed are his own. Follow him on Twitter @RichardCCook
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.