Governments have the power to create climate-positive change at scale. The burden to get it right is huge and progress is slow. Discussion at the highest levels, between governments and scientists in forums such as the UN will yield the big solutions. Beyond phasing out fossil-fuels, there are many policy and other changes that can be made which will have positive impacts.
The following suggestions can be adopted by policy-makers and governments, many of which can be implemented immediately.
Advocacy and being informed
- Provide climate change education throughout society, not just in schools.
- Create an environment where pro-climate action is seen as co-operative, where each individual’s activity is helping someone else and that it is mutually beneficial.
- Create an environment where there is perceived fairness in everyone’s (individual, corporate, government) contribution to climate change mitigation efforts.
- Encourage cycling.
Improve power sources
- Build more renewable and nuclear power plants, and decommission fossil fuel ones.
- In sunny regions, install solar photovoltaics.
- Build biomass power plants (but only after prioritising renewables).
- Plant energy crops to grow biomass for energy generation.
Policy and regulation
- Ban new fossil fuel exploration.
- Ban deforestation.
- Ban hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale gas extraction, as it releases methane.
- Reduce unnecessary gas flaring.
- Make product carbon footprint labelling mandatory.
- Improve energy rating labelling (e.g. like “Energy Star”).
- Impose carbon emission penalty pricing (“carbon pricing”).
- Introduce regulations on product longevity and durability.
- Introduce regulations on use of particular materials that produce lower emissions during manufacture.
- Introduce regulations on the system of carbon offsetting projects to ensure that the cost-to-action ratio is high and provable. Create a rating and labelling system.
- Introduce targets to reduce methane and other greenhouse gas emission from industry, with meaningful penalties.
- Make a climate-conscious review of fossil fuel subsidies that incentivise fossil fuel production and remove them.
- Implement mandatory carbon capture and storage (CCS) for remaining fossil fuel services (including, e.g. steel production).
- Mandate speed reductions in shipping.
- Increase funding of nuclear fusion research.
Change travel habits
- Make public transport more affordable.
- Make alternatives to frequent air travel more affordable, e.g. high-speed trains.
- Build cycle lanes and make safer-cycling improvements.
- Improve green spaces to encourage engagement with, and appreciation of, nature.
- Increase energy efficiency of buildings across the country.
- Incorporate climate-impact considerations into all government decision-making and activities.
- Change energy supply for government properties to “green” (non-fossil fuel) sources.
- Stop investments in fossil fuel producers — review investments and pension funds.
- Increase carbon dioxide removal functions, preferably through natural processes. Natural processes include afforestation and reforestation, and creation of natural carbon sinks such as forest soils.
- Increase tree planting projects.
- Plant “green roofs” in urban areas (reduces energy demand of interior cooling, along with other benefits).
Innovation to reduce emissions
- Create a tax credit system like that for R&D, but for iterative improvements in product efficiency.
- Develop more efficient air conditioning units and technologies.
- Fund research of, and implement, improved energy storage technologies for use alongside variable renewable energy supply sources (e.g. wind, solar, etc).
- Fund research of, and implement, lower-carbon emission fuels (“synthetic fuels”).
- Increase electrification, or switch to low- or zero-carbon fuels (such as bioenergy or hydrogen), in certain difficult areas, such as the operation of electricity generators, petrol-engine devices such as industrial lawn mowers, etc.
- Increate electrification of the transport system, with accompanying efforts on reduced carbon outputs from power stations.
- Support developing nations to adopt climate action strategies, in particular for migrating from fossil fuel power supplies and for improving access to grid energy supply (especially where the supply is decarbonised).
- Accelerate actions to reduce HFC use (under the Kigali amendment of the Montreal Protocol), such that the 80% to 85% reduction can be achieved sooner than 2040.
- Accelerate actions to reduce methane emissions (under the Global Methane Pledge (see here and here); such that the reduction of at least 30% can be achieved sooner than 2030.