Anthony Giddens says that all the books about climate change that he read proposed revolutionary solutions. Although, with his latest book – The Politics of Climate Change, Polity Press 2009, the prestigious sociologist brings into the public sphere new concepts and original approaches climate policy or risk society, he records numerous positive steps. I propose a tour of this “track record” of climate change positives.
1. Except for Germany and Denmark, in the top league fighters against climate change there are those countries that have concerns related to their energy security and not necessarily to global warming.
They have reduced emissions and focused on energy efficiency policies for purely economic reasons.
Coupling of energy efficiency policies and climate change counteraction is a good lesson to follow, despite criticism of radical environmentalists. Obama, during the election campaign, perfectly understood the energy security/climate change action binomial.
2. Hence, continuity of climate policies is affected by the left-right political spectrum.
Until now, effective policies have been conducted, in general, by regimes of the center-left.
The Scandinavian countries are an example of continuous application of such policies and they invariably had center-left governments.
However, climate policies must be consensual and the result of agreements, in principle, between absolutely all political parties.
3. A tool that operates effectively via coercive force of the state is the emission tax. Carbon should have a price – from here goes climate policies. The great advantage of taxes compared to other climate policy lies in the fact that the imposition is universal and compulsory. To the extent that taxations are reconciled with social equity (the poor are the hardest hit by tax charges), taxes are the optimal climate policy making. The European Trading Scheme, the EU carbon market solution, was eventually embraced only because Member States could not agree on carbon tax harmonization.
4. Subsidies for renewable energy is a fourth component of a climate policy’s success. They give a stable base for investment in an era where gas prices and oil fluctuate.
5. Nuclear energy, many analysts assert, may be part of the energy mix of many countries, despite fierce opposition. Concerns related to use of nuclear energy are significant, however. Personally, I oppose nuclear for many reasons. But Anthony Giddens is a sociologist and applies mere statistics. For many developed countries, a high risk of not reaching their targets of reducing emissions without the use of energy generation in nuclear reactors should be considered.
6. Relocation of industries has made the Western manufacturing sector to steeply decline in the past two decades. The West is depending on the goods “made in China” or produced in other developing countries. Western carbon emissions would be thus much higher if production was not transferred to Eastern markets. Therefore, global equity in reducing carbon emissions shall be a key factor in Copenhagen.
“All governments face deep dilemmas in reconciling climate change and energy policy with sustaining popular support, especially in times of economic difficulty. […] In order to cope, governments will have to resort to a range of strategies while at the same time trying to foster a more widespread consciousness of the need for action. The habits and routines of everyday life stand in the way, but the key problem is the difficulty of getting people to accept that the risks are real and pressing.” (Giddens, 230)