Individual and political action on climate change

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Individual and political action on climate change can take many forms, most of which have the ultimate goal of limiting and/or reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, toward avoiding dangerous climate change.

Political action[edit]

Political action can change laws and regulations that relate to climate change, such as tax incentives, greenhouse gas emissions limits or establishing a regulatory framework within which carbon trading markets can operate. Political action can also gain media and public attention to climate change. Political action from the community, however, is often challenged by interests within the fossil-fuel industry.[1][2] Some climate change sceptic groups are independent of the fossil-fuel industry, such as the Australian Youth Climate Change Council (AYCCC).[3]

There are many forms of political action on climate change including letter writing, direct lobbying, and public shaming of politicians and media organizations. Political action campaigns require building a base of support at local level.

Protest movements[edit]

There is an increased awareness of the importance of global warming as a factor in a range of issues. Many environmental, economic, and social issues find common ground in mitigation of global warming.[4][verification needed][unreliable source?][relevant? ]

A number of groups from around the world have come together to work on the issue of global warming. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from diverse fields of work have united on this issue. A coalition of 50 NGOs called Stop Climate Chaos launched in Britain (September 2005) to highlight the issue of climate change.

The Campaign against Climate Change was created to focus purely on the issue of climate change and to pressure governments into action by building a protest movement of sufficient magnitude to effect political change.

Critical Mass is an event typically held on the last Friday of every month in various cities around the world wherein bicyclists and, less frequently, unicyclists, skateboarders, inline skaters, roller skaters and other self-propelled commuters take to the streets en masse. While the ride was originally founded in San Francisco with the idea of drawing attention to how unfriendly the city was to bicyclists, the leaderless structure of Critical Mass makes it impossible to assign it any one specific goal. In fact, the purpose of Critical Mass is not formalized beyond the direct action of meeting at a set location and time and traveling as a group through city or town streets.

One of the elements of the Occupy movement is global warming action.

International political frameworks[edit]

Kyoto Protocol[edit]

The primary international policy framework currently in existence is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), specifically the Kyoto Protocol, which sets emissions limits for many of the world's most economically developed nations.

The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme[edit]

Under Kyoto, countries with targets can elect to reach these targets in co-operation with other countries. The European Union has decided to work as a unit to meet its emissions targets. The European climate change program attempts to do this by utilising an emissions trading scheme known as the European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme. The principle of this scheme is quite simple: to make their legally binding commitments under Kyoto, countries can either make these savings within their own country, or they can buy these emissions reductions from other countries. These other countries would still need to meet their Kyoto targets, but the use of a free market system ensures the reductions are made for the least possible costs. Most reductions are made where these reductions are cheapest, and the excess reductions can be sold on to other countries where such cuts would be less economically viable.

Contraction and Convergence[edit]

The concept of Cap, Contraction and Convergence, as a replacement to the Kyoto agreement, has been recently gaining ground. The idea here is that the limits to carbon emissions need to be capped at 350-450 parts per million, currently considered to produce a raise in world temperatures above pre-industrial levels of between 1 to 2 degrees Celsius. It is currently believed that further increases would bring about major positive feedbacks (the burning of forests and the loss of carbon from soils and oceans) which currently limit greenhouse gas emissions, and would lead to a run-away global warming similar to the Eocene period, during which there was no ice at the poles.

To sustain this figure, it is proposed that on equity grounds, all people should be allocated an equal carbon footprint (currently about 2 tonnes per person, which by 2050 could fall to 1.5 tonnes per person through population increase). World per capita carbon emissions, currently in excess of 4 tonnes per person needs to contract to those levels, if these targets are to be met.[5] As a result, in the name of global and inter-generational equity, policies needing to be instituted need to converge, over a fixed period towards this figure for every country. A trading regime, whereby which countries in excess of these figures (from example the US at 20 tonnes per capita), purchase carbon credits from a country using less than its allocation (e.g. Kenya at 1.3 tonnes per capita), is considered by many as the best way of solving this problem.

For example the Contract and Converge strategy has now been adopted by India, China and many African countries as the basis for future negotiations. The UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution said in 2000 "the UK should be prepared to accept the contraction and convergence principle is the basis for international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions".[6]

Sub-national level action[edit]

Some states, regions, and cities in the world are taking the lead on developing emissions reduction methods in the absence of federal policy, and may provide models for future national efforts. Their efforts are achieving real measurable emissions reductions and by pursuing policies and programs that have climate benefits, they have promoted state economic development, improved air quality and trimmed their vulnerability to energy price spikes. In the long run, addressing climate change will require comprehensive national policy and international agreements. However, in the absence of federal policy, states and regions are taking the lead on developing policies that may provide models for future national efforts.[7]

Ghent, Belgium[edit]

The city promotes a meat-free day on Thursdays called Veggiedag,[8][9] with vegetarian-only food in public canteens for civil servants and elected councillors, soon in all schools, and promotion of vegetarian eating options in town (through the distribution of "veggie street maps"). This campaign is linked to the recognition of the detrimental environmental effects of meat production, which the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization has established to represent nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

United Kingdom[edit]

The town of Totnes in Devon through its "Transition Town Totnes" Project has adopted an Energy Descent Plan, as a response in answer to the twin problems of greenhouse gas emissions and peak oil. As a result of a series of large, well attended public gatherings with key experts from around the world, and the organisation of a number of special interest groups, the community has come together with lecturers and trainers shared with Schumacher College, through a process of participative strategic planning, to hone their skills in project development. As a result of the initiatives in Totnes, a large number of other communities have started "Transition Town" projects, and there are now more than 400 around the world,[10] ranging from small communities to whole cities (e.g. Berlin).

The concepts of including food miles or carbon neutral labels on packaging has been gaining interest in the UK.[11]

Individual action[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hamilton, Clive (2007), "Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change"
  2. ^ Paul Ehrlich "Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future" ISBN 978-1-55963-484-7
  3. ^ "Policy Document No. 1". Australian Youth Climate Change Council. Retrieved 2009-04-30. [dead link]
  4. ^ http://www.oecd.org/document/11/0,3343,en_21571361_37705603_41530635_1_1_1_1,00.html Sustainable Development: Linking economy, society, environment OECD
  5. ^ CarbonSense
  6. ^ Meyer, Aubrey (2000), "Contraction and Convergence:The Global Solution to Climate Change" Schumacher Briefings 5, published by Green Books on behalf of the Schumacher Society
  7. ^ Engel, Kirsten and Barak Orbach (2008). Micro-Motives for State and Local Climate Change Initiatives. Harvard Law & Policy Review, Vol. 2, pp. 119-137. Retrieved 2008-05-18. 
  8. ^ "Ghent's veggie day: for English speaking visitors" on Vegetarisme.be
  9. ^ "Belgian city plans 'veggie' days" on BBC News (2009-05-12).
  10. ^ "Transition Initiatives Directory". Retrieved 30 Dec 2011. 
  11. ^ NPR: Taking a Practical Approach to 'Green' Living

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Regarding Climate change policy of the United States, see "The Climate War" (2010) by Eric Pooley deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek ISBN 978-1-4013-2326-4