The imperilled international consensus to act on climate change

by Milan on October 20, 2011

in Climate change, Economics, Ethics, International relations

Preventing dangerous or runaway climate change requires all major economies to reduce their usage of fossil fuels and therefore their production of greenhouse gas pollution. Some jurisdictions, including the European Union and Japan, have taken the lead in implementing carbon prices and other policies to achieve those outcomes. Other jurisdictions, including Canada and the United States, have done very little about the problem.

The lack of action from some major economies is undermining the prospects for cooperative action. The European Commission and Japan are both considering adopting less ambitious climate goals, given inaction in the United States and elsewhere.

If all states do nothing, the world commits itself to a suicide pact. For basic reasons of fairness, countries that have not yet taken substantial actions must start to do so. This is especially true for prosperous countries like Canada.

Furthermore, taking action now makes good economic sense. When countries and companies continue to make investments that ignore climate change, they are putting billions of dollars into investments that are not compatible with the low-carbon future we need to achieve. At some point, people will realize how serious a problem climate change is, and see the need to build low-carbon infrastructure. Countries that built high-carbon infrastructure first will need to wastefully scrap it, then make the necessary investments for a low-carbon future. It would be far more efficient to get things right the first time.

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