A new direction for climate policy

Rapid advance in addressing climate change is now possible for the first time in 15 years because global climate policy crashed in 2009, according to The Hartwell Paper, a new international report co-ordinated at LSE, published on Tuesday 11 May.

After the failure of the international climate policy meeting at Copenhagen last December, LSE Mackinder and the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford, were commissioned by an international consortium of funders to chart a new way forward.

Nuclear power may be experiencing a revival.  In the US, President Obama announced new loans for the industry, and nuclear is viewed as a key lowcarbon power source in Britain, Japan and China. However, new plants continue to be far more expensive to build than coal and other fossil fuel plants, due to the safety, waste, and proliferation concerns, both real and imagined.

The result of three months’ intensive work by a group of 14 authors from Asia, Europe and North America, ‘The Hartwell Paper’ argues that a radical change of approach is required, given that the 1992 United Nations international climate policy framework has failed to produce any discernable real world reductions in greenhouse gases. So the crash of 09 is a crisis that must not be wasted.

The paper explains how the global economy can be moved away from its dependence on fossil fuels in harmony with economic recovery and with public approval. This decarbonisation is achieved as a by-product of pursuing more pragmatic and popular primary goals, including expanding energy access, energy security and, ultimately, making energy less expensive and more abundant. Unless fractured public trust is rebuilt, nothing can be done. So the key for completing the job is for policy makers to focus on the first steps, and not on outcome targets or timetables. Current policies fail because they are back to front, politically and technologically. They also misinterpret the core message that scientific research on climate issues gives to policy-makers.

Lead author LSE Professor Gwyn Prins said: ‘The raising up of human dignity is the central driver of the Hartwell Paper, replacing the preoccupation with human sinfulness that has failed and will continue to fail to deliver progress.’

The paper sets out access, sustainability and resilience goals. It also makes the case for vigorous and early action on non CO2 climate forcing agents like black carbon and tropospheric ozone. It then argues for rebuilding of public trust via successful improvements in energy efficiency and new energy technology innovation in decarbonised energy supply funded by a low hypothecated (dedicated) carbon tax.

You can read the Hartwell Paper here.