A safe world for generations to come over a slightly bigger TV today…?
There are many simple and effective measures that can be taken by governments around the world, which would not cost much, but which would have a huge effect on our chances to beat climate change. Most will result in structural reforms that lend themselves to an economy which is friendlier to the environment. Key among these is the levying of carbon taxes to address the negative externality of CO2 emissions which isn’t costed into the market today.
Here’s a break-down of a few points I consider critical in our effort in reducing the rate of warming;
- Massive reforestation and re-wilding programs (including mangroves)
- Expansion of ocean blue zones and land-based nature reserves
- Governmental commitments to make all their operations carbon-negative — including immediate electrification of government vehicles (conversion of existing vehicles is now possible) and purchasing of solely renewable energy
- Massive deployment of solar power by Middle-Eastern governments to take advantage of all that sun
- International support for the green corridor across the Sahara
- Immediate and broad-spanning deployment of carbon taxes, incl: 1. A standard, recurring assessment of corporate supply chains and resulting taxation based on the amount of carbon they emit (applied to all companies with revenue over €50M per year) 2. Pegging carbon credits at €200/ton (across the EU and all US states) — a single system that can be relied upon 3. A sales tax on carbon intensive products (eg. red meat)
- Massive funding for nuclear power (fission and fusion) with an emphasis on making it safe
- Major funding programs for Carbon Direct Removal initiatives (incl. Direct Air Capture), made easier by creating a market through setting a high price for carbon credits
- Reframe a country’s progress and success away from GDP growth and towards more purpose-driven measures such as a country’s carbon-footprint, rate of education, life expectancy, obesity levels, wealth gap and air quality. By doing this we step away from our obsession with growth (itself carbon-intensive) and towards metrics people actually care about and which make a difference in life, aka Donut Economics.
- The UN to establish an annual ranking of all countries based on the level of effort they’re making to tackle climate change. Inputs to the ranking could include percentage of GDP spent climate mitigation including infrastructure projects, renewable energy and the electric mobility transition, but also a population’s awareness of the issue and the relative amount of clean energy used on their power grids. Countries are effectively people, and applauding as well as shaming world leaders among their peers will be effective.
The time for excuses and inaction is over. The latest IPCC report shows the effect of our emissions is greater than we thought, and, to add insult to injury, it’s going to be difficult to keep warming below 2.0 Celsius, let alone the 1.5C previously seen as ‘safe’. The measures above may slow GDP growth but given the choice, I’d take a safe world for generations to come over a slightly more spending power today, any day.