Climate Change is happening and its impact will be beyond anything experienced in modern society.

But how do we combat Climate Change? 

 

Shouldn't our governments take measures? Are they doing enough? Why are they not doing more?

This page explains what governmental action can achieve and what they cannot achieve in the fight against Climate Change.

Governmental Action

 
What has happened?

Since the 1970’s, the environment has been on the agenda of international conferences. Every few years new conferences have been organised to provide Frameworks from which to draw up international agreements on environmental policies. 

Often, as with the Rio de Janeiro Conference or the Millennium Goals, these environmental goals have been linked to social and economic development.

Climate Change has only come in the picture of international conferences since the Kyoto Agreement (1993), which, for the first time, stipulated a voluntary intention of countries to limit CO₂.

In 2015, after 40 years of international conferences the biggest agreement on Climate Change by far, the Paris Climate Agreement (COP21), was reached.

Still, up to now, international governmental efforts  have been unsuccessful in limiting global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions:

 

 

Despite 25 major International Environmental Conferences

human caused greenhouse gas emissions increased with 80% from 1970 to 2010.

Source - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

 

Sources:

Source - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Source - Wikipedia

Source - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

 

Governments can incentivise their country into emitting less GHG by subsidizing carbon-low behavior and taxing carbon-intensive behavior.

Given the enormous challenges and immediate threats of Climate Change today, in recent years a number of countries have made promises aiming at reducing their future GHG emission. Notable examples:

  • Sweden pledged to phase out all GHG emissions by 2045

  • The European Union has pledged to cut GHG emissions with 40%

  • China has pledged to peak GHG by 2030

Source - Climate Action Network International

What CAN be done by Governments

 

Sources:

Source - Reuters

Source - Euopean Commission

Source - Climate Action Tracker

Source - The Climate Action Network (CAN)

 

In recent years  multiple countries have indeed pledged to reduce GHG emissions. However, 3 major facts need to be addressed:

  • The current 2030 pledges are by far the most ambitious ever made on an international level.

  • There is already serious concern about if the pledges are going to be met.

  • Even if all COP21 2030 pledges are kept, for most Western countries, 80% of the GHG reductions will still need to be achieved in the period 2030-2050.

Source - Climate Action Tracker

What isn't being done by Governments?

Source - Climate Action Tracker

As an international community we are:

Making Promises that we have never met in the past

Not on track on achieving these goals

Pushing 80% of the work ahead of us to after 2030

 

Sources:

Source - Climate Action Tracker

Source - The Independent

Source - European Commission

 

Unfortunately, there are some limitations inherent to our modern world society that cause governmental actions not to have achieved more in the past and do not expect to achieve the goals needed to fight Climate Change effectively:

1.International Level

As Climate Change is an international problem, governmental action requires close international cooperation. Our global society has only as recently as 72 years ago made it first successful attempt in international cooperation.

 

The founding and workings of the United Nations have proven the enormous complexity and sometimes sheer impossibility to have 190 nations to agree on policy.

Even on a smaller scale, the European Union proves both the benefits and the difficulties of trying to have 28 member states adopt the same policy.

2. Top-down Approach

Many studies have been performed on the positive and negative sides of a top-down policy approach. What is clear, is that bigger the organization, the higher:

  • The need for a large organisation and operation to be created
     

  • Frequency increases of policies implemented not matching the local needs
     

  • The risk of increasing bureaucracy, slowness and even corruption in implementation.

3. Short-term vs Long-term

Climate Change is a problem that requires a long-term commitment.


However, representative democratic governments most often are elected for a period of 2-5 years. This means they are being evaluated by the voters in 2 to 5 years to get reelected.
 

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3. Elected representatives mirror society

Democracies are designed to have its politicians represent its constituents as best as possible.

This logically means that our governmental representatives are a mirror of our society and as a general rule will not implement policies that are not wanted by its voters.

In short:

Why aren't Governments doing more?

While beneficial for assuring democracy, this system does not reward long-term thinking

If we are not prepared to make the sacrifices needed to combat Climate Change, our politicians will not either

Source - The Straits Times

 

Sources:

Source - The Straits Times

Source - Harvard University - 'Representing Future Generations'

Source - Oxford University - 'Now for the Long Term'

Source - University of Vermont - 'Rationality and politics in long-term decisions'