In anticipation of today’s United Nations Climate Summit, business leaders, heads of state and key players in the public and private sectors are striving to determine how best to construct an agreement that will keep the rise in average global temperature below the 2 degree Celsius threshold that scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Among many suggestions and ideas being debated, the good news is that much can be done even without a multilateral international agreement. One key to fighting climate change is facilitating the rapid transition to a clean-energy society.
To achieve the transition at a pace sufficient to make a difference, we can take the following concrete steps:
• Lower the cost of clean energy and encourage energy efficiency. We can support low-cost financing through green banks, tax incentives and other measures that reduce the cost of clean energy projects. This is critical: When clean energy is cost-competitive, markets treat it differently. As Climate Reality Chairman and former Vice President Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreTrump's election fraud claims pose risks for GOP in midterms Don't 'misunderestimate' George W. Bush Why the pro-choice movement must go on the offensive MORE has written, the difference in a market between “more expensive than” and “cheaper than” is like the difference between 32 and 33 degrees Fahrenheit: One is frozen, the other liquid. With low-cost financing and incentives in place, clean energy is competitive or close to competitive now in many places.
• Encourage the deployment of clean energy. By supporting renewable portfolio standards that mandate minimum thresholds for renewable energy, we can help to ensure that demands for renewables do not go unrecognized.
• Level the playing field for clean energy. The International Energy Agency estimates that fossil fuels received subsidies to the tune of $544 billion in 2012 — simply removing these subsidies will go a long way toward making renewables cost-competitive with fossil fuels.
• Put a price on carbon. People all over the world are already paying the cost of carbon in dollars, lives and livelihoods, and we can no longer afford to pay while polluters dump carbon pollution into our atmosphere for free. It is time to correct this market failure and tell our leaders that we support a price on carbon pollution. A price on carbon, through a carbon tax on emissions or cap-and-dividend system, will not only make renewables cost competitive sooner, it will also promote economic growth.
• Support research into renewable energy technologies, batteries and energy efficiency measures. Further research in these areas will aid in the development of products that further lower the cost of clean energy.
• Become a climate voter. We need collective action, particularly in the United States, to support clean-energy legislation and regulation. Government officials listen to voters, so making it clear that a candidate’s platform on climate change is critical to your support can speak volumes.
• Commit to a day of climate action. Beating climate change will take every one of us. Some good ideas for actions individuals can take to tackle climate change can be found at the Climate Reality Project’s website: http://24hoursofreality.org/
•Support the U.N. negotiating process at the U.N. Climate Summit in New York tomorrow, and on the path toward a worldwide agreement in Paris in December 2015. One of the strongest actions a country can make toward reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change is to commit to developing and submitting strong, binding, unconditional greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. Although the U.N. climate process has been bogged down in the past, world leaders are meeting today at the U.N. Climate Summit, where they will voice their support for an international agreement. Citizens all over the world must speak up and tell their leaders that this is what they want.
We face an uncertain future, when it comes to climate change. However, we also live at a time when solutions are already being realized, and we have an opportunity to accelerate that progress for a more sustainable, safer and better future. Let us not squander it.
Berlin is president and CEO of the Climate Reality Project: http://climaterealityproject.org/.