Why Climate Policy Has Failed

And How Governments Can Do Better

The world is witnessing an alarming outbreak of weather disasters—giant wildfires, deadly heat waves, powerful hurricanes, and 1,000-year floods. There can be little doubt that this is only the beginning of the grim toll that climate change will take in the years ahead. Today, the central question is whether our political systems can catch up with the geophysical realities that threaten our lives and livelihoods. As world leaders struggle to design and adopt policies that can slow the pace of warming and mitigate its consequences, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, this November will be an important test.

How do we evaluate the success of past climate policies? The best indicator is carbon intensity, which is a measure of carbon dioxide emissions divided by global real GDP. Figure 1 displays the levels of carbon intensity between 1990 and 2019. There are small fluctuations in the annual changes, but the trend is basically a straight line showing a decline of 1.8 percent per year.

Why is this important? The central goal of climate policies is to bend the emission curve downward. Yet even with all of the international agreements of the last three decades—the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, the Copenhagen accord of 2009, and the Paris climate accord of 2015, along with 25 conferences of the parties—over the same period the rate of decarbonization has remained unchanged.

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Πηγή: foreignaffairs.com

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