What governments and policy makers can do

Below are just a few examples of websites and pages which governments should know about and ought to take inspiration from. Initiatives they could take. We should hope that the United Nations, GLOBE, or a similar global body eventually would build up a much more complete guide with this kind of information and inspiration for governments. But til then, I’ve just compiled some ideas and examples here — to show which kind of possibilities there are. Options which most governments unfortunately so far have chosen to ignore.

Content on this page:

Inspiration and food for thought
Legislation inspiration
The education sector
Subsidies and regulation
Policy and Strategy sites


Firstly, consider the idea, which climatologist Dr James Hansen presents in this speech. He suggests a “progressive-conservative approach” which “puts an honest price on fossil fuels” by collecting fees from the fossil fuel industry and passing them on directly to the citizens. “A simple honest, approach,” he calls it.

Would it work?

Here is a transcript of James Hansen’s speech:

“The task of leaving these dirty fuels in the ground and moving on to a bright future for today’s young people cannot be accomplished by trickery and gimmicks such as carbon cap and trade and offsets, with its inevitable horse-trading and lobbying. We must have a simple, honest, across-the-board carbon fee collected from the fossil fuel companies at the small number of domestic mines and ports of entry.

And that money must be distributed to the public 100 percent, equal amounts to all legal residents.

The fee must continue to rise gradually so the public businesses and entrepreneurs have the incentive to make choices and develop products that reduce and eliminate fossil fuel use. This will stimulate the economy as we develop new, more carbon-efficient products and energy sources.

About 60 percent of the people will get more money in their monthly dividends than they pay in increased prices. But to stay on the positive side, they must make wise choices.

Yes, this implies some wealth redistribution. Low-income people, if they try, can gain somewhat. Rich people who have multiple houses and fly around the world will pay more than their dividend. But they can afford it.

This approach can be made international via an agreement between the United States and China. China has many reasons to join, as climate disruption will hit them hard and they need to solve pollution problems.

Other nations will then join, in order to avoid border duties on their products and in order to gain the clean energy benefits.

The United States must exercise leadership. This is the last chance for the liberal left and the conservative right to cooperate for the good of the nation and the world, for the good of young people, future generations, and nature.

What I have described is a progressive-conservative approach. It puts an honest price on fossil fuels, making them pay for their cost to society. It allows all alternatives to compete on a level playing field.

We must demand that the liberal left keep their hands out of our pockets and off of our wallets. Not one dime of the carbon fee should be used to make the government bigger. One hundred percent of the money must go to the public.

Nor should any money, any of the money, be used for subsidizing research on specific government-selected industries. The government is incompetent to choose the best technologies. Let them all compete.

There are existing resources and departments for research development and demonstration.

The public is fed up with self-indulgent partisanship. If today’s parties cannot cooperate on such a simple, honest approach that would stimulate our economy, provide millions of good jobs, a clean environment, and stable climate, then in 2016 there should be a new party. [applause] Not a fringe party on the left or right, but a centrist party, an American party, a party that will take Washington back from the lobbyists and give it to the American people. Thank you.”

Excerpt of James Hansen’s speech

The full transcript is found here: ridenhour.org

Inspiration and food for thought

The story of competition

“A great competitive margin in the world is going to be over carbon and energy productivity. Countries that slip behind are going to damage themselves and their competitiveness and prosperity in the coming years,” said Lord Nicholas Stern, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, on the occation of the Australian Climate Institute’s launch of the ‘Global Climate Leadership Review 2013’.
This video was published on YouTube.com on 25 March 2013

A war on Climate Change

“What kind of mind set eagerly fights a War on Terror, while laying down arms in the face of the more predictable and preventable threat facing our children and grandchildren? A threat that can be fought with tools that could generate $5 trillion a year in renewable energy.”

September 11, 2001, four passenger airliners carrying 227 passengers and crew were hijacked by 19 Al Qaeda terrorists, crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon killing 2,731 people. Nine days later President Bush declared a ‘War on Terror’. The physical damage cause by the terror attack was estimated to have cost America US$ 26 billion. The New York Times 10 year retrospective estimated the total cost to America of the War on Terror after 9/11 to be US$ 3.3 trillion.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans killing at least 1,833 people while damaging and destroying $81 billion worth of property. In response there was no declaration of war. In the eight years since Katrina, little has been done on either the hurricane or thermal runaway fronts even as billions have been spent on the War on Terror.

The Energy Collective – 19 May 2013:
Climate Change vs Terrorism and the Costs of Inaction
Introducing the idea to pump cool deep seawater upward for cooling the hot sea surface as a way to combat hurricanes. By Jim Baird

Press alerts from Environmental News Network

I can recommend you to subscribe to the press alerts from Environmental News Network. They also distribute a daily e-newsletter to 36,000 environmental leaders.

The Environmental News Network is one of the oldest, and most unbiased sources of online environmental news on the web. The network has consistently earned the loyalty of the most respected insiders like the heads of sustainability at Fortune 500 companies, government leaders or leaders of the largest non-profits.

Sign up here

Legislation inspiration


The 28 countries leading the way on climate change legislation

BusinessGreen Plus has mapped out where some of the most significant climate legislation was passed in 2013.

Bolivia: Passed the Framework Law of Mother Earth and Integral Development for Living Well
China: Published a National Adaptation Plan and made progress in drafting its national climate change law
Costa Rica: Introduced a draft General Law on Climate Change which is expected to pass in 2014
Ecuador: Passed a decree establishing the Intersectoral National Strategy for Climate Change
El Salvador: Adopted a National Climate Change Strategy
Ethiopia: The Environmental Protection Agency was upgraded to the status of a ministry with the formation of the Environment and Forest
France: Made a series of policy recommendations following the conclusion of a National Debate on Energy Transition, including reitterating President Hollande’s commitment to reduce the share of nuclear power and curb energy use
Gabon: Passed Resolution No. 20/2013 on Sustainable Development
Indonesia: Extended its forest moratorium
Jordan: Passed a National Climate Change Policy
Kazakhstan: Introduced a pilot emissions trading scheme
Kenya: Adopted the 2013-2017 Climate Change Action Plan
Mexico: Adopted a National Climate Change Strategy
Micronesia: Passed a Climate Change Act in late 2013
Mongolia: Signed a bilateral agreement with Japan to create a Joint Crediting Mechanism to help offset its GHG emissions
Mozambique: Adopted the 2013-2025 National Strategy for Climate Change
New Zealand: Announced an unconditional emissions reduction target of 5% to be achieved by 2020
Nigeria: Approved the adoption of a National Climate Change Policy and Response Strategy
Poland: Adopted the Polish National Strategy for Adaptation to climate change
Poland: Adopted a National Strategy for Adaptation
Russia: President Putin signed a decree adopting a target to cut GHG emissions by at least 25% based on 1990 levels by 2020
Rwanda: Approved the Second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (2013-2018)
Sweden: Passed an act creating tax incentives for biofuels
Switzerland: Overhauled its CO2 Act to increase ambition
Tanzania: Passed a National Strategy on REDD+
United Arab Emirates: Launched a mandatory Energy Efficiency Standardisation and Labelling Scheme
United Kingdom: Passed the Energy Act
USA: President Obama announced a Climate Action Plan desgined to hit the country’s GHG emission reduction targets and prepare for the impacts of climate change

» Source: businessgreen.com

The Guardian – 27 February 2014:
Report hails international progress on climate change laws
Almost 500 laws to tackle climate change have been passed in countries which account for nine-tenths of global emissions, a study has found.Much of the action in the past year has been taken in emerging economies, including China and Mexico, while “flagship legislation” has been passed in eight countries, most of them developing nations such as Bolivia, El Salvador and Mozambique.

Partnership for Climate Legislation

Globe is launching a new international initiative, the Partnership for Climate Legislation, to help legislators across the 66 nations develop, advance and implement climate change laws.

On 27-28 February 2014, legislators from over 50 countries will convene for the 2nd GLOBE Climate Legislation Summit in Washington DC. The summit will begin with a discussion of national legislative efforts to be hosted by Senator Edward Markey in the Senate of the United States of America.

During the summit, senior officers of the United Nations and World Bank will join 100 legislators to receive the findings of the 4th edition of the GLOBE Climate Legislation Study (now expanded to cover progress on climate legislation in 66 countries).

» Read more on www.globeinternational.org

California and Mexico have passed a General Law on Climate Change

The world’s first Law on Climate Change was California’s Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, which the Californian legislature passed in 2006, signed by Governor Schwarzenegger. It set the state’s 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal into law. In 2010, the law survived an initiative challenge, Proposition 23.

The first developing country, the only one in Latin America and the second one in the world to pass a General Law on Climate Change was Mexico, in 2012.

The example of Mexico is said to have inspired countries such as Costa Rica. Deputy Alfonso Perez Gomez, from the governing National Liberation Party and president of the Costa Rican Congress’ Permanent Commission on the Environment, stated in April 2013 that his country is working on a law similar to Mexico’s.

“We hope that this serves as a model for other countries,” said Deputy Ortiz, adding that the first challenge facing parliamentarians was to explain the law to State bodies, including the Executive, and thus be able to apply it.

The World Bank’s Director of Sustainable Development for Latin America and the Caribbean, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, maintained that with the Mexican law and similar ones in Colombia, Brazil and other countries, the region will be at the global forefront in terms of pro-environment initiatives. The World Bank works closely with the GLOBE initiative in Latin America to drive this development forward.

The Global Legislators’ Organisation (GLOBE) supports national parliamentarians to develop and agree common legislative responses to the major challenges posed by sustainable development.

With headquarters in London, offices in Beijing, Brussels, Mexico City, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and members in 70 countries, GLOBE is reshaping international politics on sustainable development. GLOBE supports legislators through national chapters which provide economic and policy support to develop legislation and monitor how it is implemented.

The Mexicans, for instance, have established a GLOBE chapter consisting of 53 legislators (Deputies and Senators) from the seven political parties represented in Parliament.

GLOBE and legislators are collaborating with their counterparts to ensure that when governments of the world meet in 2015 there will be a raft of countries with new national climate change frameworks.

» Read more: worldbank.org

» globeinternational.org


Legislate against SLCPs

When it comes to climate change and energy transition, reaching global — or even national — consensus on what we want is not an easy task. There are so many ways we could go. In order to speed up the process of decarbonising our societies, here is a proposal from scientists: let’s focus on something we don’t want, and which is relatively simple to eliminate: the black carbon and methane emissions, the so-called short-lived climate pollutants, which allegedly account for as much as 40 percent of current global warming.

Government and state agencies keep meeting at summits and conferences to discuss how to deal with the rising CO2-levels in the atmosphere. And they keep saying they need more time to develop greenhouse gas-reduction programmes. But the tipping-point clock is ticking, the CO2-levels keep rising when they should be falling. Time is running out for us, if we want to save our grandchildren from disaster.

Under this kind of time pressure, here is one thing we really have no excuses not to deal with instantly within our own domains and at a local and national level: Campaign aggressively against the SLCPs! Ban them where ever possible! Invest in education about them!

Because… who have heard of the SLCPs? Have you?

Continue reading here

The value of reporting

Global Reporting Initiative – 10 January 2013:
GRI reporting: Public sector progress
For a sustainable global economy, transparency and accountability are just as important for the public sector as they are for international business — and this message is catching on fast. As reporting by companies continues to become an imperative, public sector organizations are also realizing the value of reporting – for their own sustainability, and for them to be accountable to the people they serve.

Greenbiz.com – 3 May 2013:
Get ready: Sustainability reporting becoming inevitable
In the article “GRI Reporting: Public Sector Progress,” you’ll see that sustainability reporting has expanded to cities, states, universities, airports and marine ports. Last year, a U.S. state agency became the first to produce its own sustainability report. By Mike Wallace

Rules directing the electric utility industry

Renewable Energy World – 5 April 2013:
The Regulatory Energy Reform Imperative
Reforming our patchwork of rules directing the electric utility industry is essential. By Pete Pedersen, Managing Principal, Renova Partners and Brightfields Development

Require Solar on Every New Home

Grist – 9 May 2013:
California town of Sebastopol will require solar panels on all new homes
Sebastopol in Sonoma wine country – the liberal stronghold of 8,000 residents – this week became California’s second city to require that new homes be outfitted with panels to produce solar energy. By John Upton

Green Tech Media – 1 March 2013:
California City Wants to Require Solar on Every New Home
A Republican mayor campaigns for a historic requirement for solar on new homes. Rex Parris, the mayor of Lancaster, California, wants every new home in his city to host solar. And starting next January, that could be a reality. By Herman K. Trabish

Favourizing green initiatives

The Guardian – 28 March 2013:
Call for ‘green badges’ and free parking for electric cars
Parking charges exemption and removing yellow and red line restrictions will improve take-up, thinktank says. By Adam Vaughan

Climate Change Legislation

Law 2050 – 12 March 2013:
Envisioning Law for the Black Swans of Climate Change
Blog-post about the directions law might take in response to sea level rise. By J. B. Ruhl

Politicians: Set the world on a path to sustainable development

There is a growing realisation that national legislation and scrutiny, and therefore the role of legislators, are the critical elements of any successful strategy to set the world on a path to sustainable development. GLOBE supports legislators through national chapters which provide economic and policy support to develop legislation and monitor how it is implemented. With headquarters in London, offices in Beijing, Brussels, Mexico City, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and members in 70 countries, GLOBE is reshaping international politics on sustainable development.
» Home page: globeinternational.org

“For the price of the Iraq War, the U.S. could have gotten halfway to a renewable power system.”

David Roberts in Grist on 8 April 2013

Ideas from a Danish youth group

A group of 50 young Danes met each other at a seminar in February 2013 where they discussed the problems with environment and climate change. They ended up writing an appeal for a “transition to a sustainable future now” which they handed it over to the chairman of the Danish Parliament and to EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

“We face historic challenges that require a historic transition. With this call, we appeal to the European Commission and to the members of the European Parliament to look up, recognize the need for fundamental changes and join us pave the way for a sustainable future. The world is out of order — let’s help each other fix it.”

“The never ending hunt for more oil, gas and coal leads to the depletion of the reserves and increasing prices, but also to increasing environmental costs and disastrous climate strain. The hunt for short-term profits undermines the possibility for sustainability in the long run. The fact that we do not pay the right price for fossil fuels and other resources means that future generations will pay an unbearable price. Today environmental irresponsibility is profitable. Polluters do not pay enough.”

In their appeal, they roll out a list of ideas and suggestions — among them to create a transition council, an ‘exploratorium’, an ecological tax, a green and social GDP, green investments, discount rates for sustainable transition projects, pushing pensions funds to make sustainable investments, a society bank, a ‘national service’, recycling, work sharing, a youth fund, a transformation in agriculture, room for new green urban spaces, and a ‘national project of enlightenment’.

Actually, a bunch of constructive, good ideas:

“The challenges are many and profound. We are far from knowing all the answers. But we have the will and the power to become part of the transition. We are confident that a sustainable course is possible. We even have the impression that it will be reviving, exiting and fun.

Here are some of our suggestions for solutions and new initiatives:

The transition council is a multidisciplinary council of specialists, authorised to advice politicians and qualify the necessary decisions to initiate and continue a sustainable transition of the society. The council must regularly articulate holistic transition visions in close cooperation with the civil society and give recommendations and guidelines for sustainable societal development.

The exploratorium is a project contributing to the development and testing of new technologies and creative solutions in coherence with local needs on citizen’s initiatives. The project is financed by the state and provides credit and consultancy for entrepreneurs with new ideas for social and environmental sustainable production.

An ecological tax reform consists of increasing the taxes on environmental damage and decreasing the taxes on work. Higher taxes on pollution and resource consumption will increase the incentives for resource efficiency, innovation and technological development, while lower tax on work will increase employment.

A green and social GDP will incorporate natural capital and social aspects in the yearly statement of the total national wealth. This new measure is a reform of the existing GDP-measure, where depletion of nature and negative social effects are set against the total national income.

Green investments are vital, if the transition is to gain momentum. In this regard we have three proposals:

• Lower the discount rate for sustainable transition projects: Such projects are often fundamentally different from conventional construction projects, because of higher investment costs, lower operation costs, avoided environmental costs and long lasting benefits. A significantly lower discount rate for such projects will make many more of these cost-effective.

• Create incentives for the pensions funds to make sustainable investments: Pension funds possess huge assets, which should be invested in long-term projects within sustainable energy, collective transportation and sustainable construction. By changing the focus from short-term profits to long-term investments, the pension assets can be invested in sustainable projects.

• Establish a society bank: The society bank is a public investment bank with the goal of allocating funds for sustainable investments leading to permanent jobs. Here private actors can place their savings at state guaranteed competitive interest rates. Furthermore the pension funds are obliged to place a certain percentage of their assets in the bank.

National service must be about the obligation to take care of nature and each other. Everywhere in the municipalities there are tasks not carried out, these regard nature restoration, nature conservation and care in local communities. The existing military national service is transformed to cover environmentally and socially sustainable projects. This will make it possible to solve urgent problems not profitable on market terms.

Use again and again and again… is a break with the culture of use and toss, a transition to a circular economy, where resources are recycled in closed circuits, and products are designed to last as long as possible. Examples of ways to support this development are to rent instead of to own, a drastically expanded deposit system and increased tariffs on resources and packaging.

Employment will be increased by several of the already mentioned proposals, but furthermore we suggest:

• Experiments with work sharing: By shortening the workweek new jobs can be created on the basis of existing production. Work sharing has been criticized for weakening competitiveness. We suggest experiments with work sharing in businesses not in competition overseas. A shorter workweek can increase quality of life for the individual, the family and local communities by allowing further engagement in leisure and community activities.

• A sustainable youth fund: This fund has the objective of creating job opportunities by financing sustainable projects launched by young people. The fund is targeted at newly qualified, unemployed and untrained under the age of 35. Thus it is to contribute to a culture of flourishing and sustainable entrepreneurship.

Our agriculture must be transformed to sustainable biological principles based on circuits, where nutrients stay in the system, the application of chemicals is stopped and the fossil energy is taken out of production. Agriculture must be seen as a caretaker of nature. The monoculture of today, dominated by fodder cultivation for meat production, must give way for more divers production forms respecting the climate and focussing on national food security.

Urban nature must be given more space and freedom. Fewer cars and less asphalt will make room for new green urban spaces. Unused public spaces will be transformed to urban farming and ornamental gardens. While increased biological diversity, public transport and cycling create more friendly cities for inhabitants of many species.

Sustainability as the new normal must be promoted through a national project of enlightenment. Citizens must be engaged in the transition, qualified, motivated and informed. Therefore funds must be allocated to campaigns like the Brundtland-campaign in the 1980’s and Agenda 21 from the beginning of the 1990’s. Sustainability must become a mandatory discipline in all schools.

» Read the full declaration: Omstilling-nu-ENG.pdf


The Education Sector

Teach our children in school. Put climate change on the curriculum.

The Guardian – 17 March 2013:
Climate debate cut from national curriculum for children up to 14
New draft guidelines for key stages 1 to 3 criticised by scientists for ‘abdicating duty to future generations’. By Juliette Jowit

The Guardian – 18 March 2013:
Move to drop debate on climate change in schools faces backlash
Educationists, student groups and environmental organisations condemn government plans as political interference. By John Vidal

Subsidies and regulation

Take a look at the German model

Renewable Energy World – 8 March 2013:
Join the Solar Freedom Cause to Reduce Rooftop Installation Costs by 50%
Although panel prices have plummeted in the past five years, installling a rooftop system in the U.S. costs twice as much as it does in Germany. The cause: According to Solar Freedom Now, it all boils down to ‘soft costs’. By Meg Cichon


Renewable Energy World – 18 March 2013:
Abu Dhabi Boosts Solar Power 10-Fold with Shams CSP Plant, Plans for Increased Growth
“The new $750 million concentrated-solar plant will produce 100 megawatts of power by harnessing the sun to heat liquids and create steam to turn turbines. That differentiates the facility, called Shams 1, from a photovoltaic plant, which uses panels to convert sunlight directly into electricity. (…) The Middle East’s most extensive renewable-energy program is in Saudi Arabia. The country is seeking about $100 billion in investments to generate about 41,000 megawatts, or a third of its power, from solar by 2032.” By Anthony DiPaola, Bloomberg


Constructing a transnational climate change regime

“The manifest inadequacies of the inter-state negotiating processes central to international climate change policy create a pressing need for innovative modes of governance. This paper proposes one promising and feasible approach: constructing a transnational climate change regime.

A transnational regime would forge stronger cross-border links among non-state actors and organizations, allowing them to address climate issues in a coordinated and collaborative manner. It would operate at multiple levels of authority and scale, enabling transnational institutions to directly engage and address intra-governmental, sub-state and societal actors within target countries. In this way the regime would bypass the governments of recalcitrant states, and of states lacking governance capacity. A transnational regime would also manage recalcitrant states by focusing advocacy, creating demonstration effects and otherwise mobilizing pressure on governments.

Transnational regime entrepreneurs using a strategy of orchestration could deploy a range of incentives and other tools of influence to enroll, support and steer participating organizations, and to encourage public and private targets to accept voluntary standards and programs. The regime would complement inter-state actions where they exist, and would partially substitute for them where they do not.”
Constructing a Transnational Climate Change Regime: Bypassing and Managing States. By Kenneth W. Abbott, Social Science Research Network, February 2013.

The application of international legal norms to climate change policies
The development of an international climate regime on climate change should be informed by numerous international norms that have ethical significance including the “no harm,” “precautionary,” and “polluter pays” principles, and numerous soft-law principles on human rights and duties of sovereign states. The application of these principles to any climate proposed change regime raises ethical questions.
Ethics and Climate, 6 March 2013

Climate Policy and Strategy sites

International Energy Agency

Energy Technology Perspectives, World Energy Outlook, Technology roadmaps, Oil Market Report, Scenarios and projections…
» See: iea.org/audiencehubs/forgovernments

Ethics and Climate

This site contains over 100 articles and a dozen videos on ethical issues raised by climate change. The site seeks to help policy makers and interested citizens understand the ethical dimensions of climate change issues in contention in policy debates.
» See: blogs.law.widener.edu/climate

Climate Strategies

Climate Strategies is a not-for-profit organisation that “provides world-class, independent policy and economic research input to European and international climate policy.” Climate Strategies works with an international network of experts to bridge the gap between research and policy, and “provides unrivalled analysis for international decision-makers in the fields of climate change and energy policy.”
Climate Strategies is supported by broad spectrum of national governments, businesses and foundations.

Climate & Development Knowledge Network

The Climate and Development Knowledge Network supports decision-makers in designing and delivering climate compatible development. They do this by combining research, advisory services and knowledge management in support of locally owned and managed policy processes.
» Home page: http://cdkn.org

British Members of Parliament about climate change

The Independent – 15 November 2006:
Climate change: What MPs think – D to F

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