What Is the Greatest Obstacles to an Agreement on Climate Change


Modifications have properties that make these analyses extremely difficult. For example, in recent decades, governments have collectively committed to slowing global warming. But despite intensified diplomacy, the world could soon face the devastating consequences of climate change. While these steps are important for raising awareness and reducing some emissions, “everything is quite small compared to governments around the world putting in place strong climate policies,” Michael Greenstone, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, told CFR`s Why It Matters podcast. This CFR calendar has followed the UN climate negotiations since 1992. It is not denial, but the economics of reducing emissions that is the real obstacle to containing the climate crisis. Limiting climate change requires global efforts. A MOLECULE of CO2 emitted in India or China has the same effect on the climate system as a molecule emitted in the United States. There is general agreement that limiting the magnitude of climate change requires significant action by all major GHG emitting countries, including developed and rapidly developing countries, whose relative share of global emissions is increasing rapidly (see Figure 3.1). Nevertheless, there are many different perspectives on how to define each country`s responsibility to contribute to global efforts.5 Some argue that U.S. action must be subordinated to the actions of other countries, given the economic disadvantages that the country could face if it committed to significantly reduce its emissions without similar commitments from other countries. Others argue that the United States, as the country with the largest historical share of greenhouse gas emissions and one of the highest per capita GHG emission rates, has an ethical obligation to significantly reduce domestic emissions, even if there are no commitments from other countries. Still others suggest that there will be significant economic benefits in leading the development of new technologies to combat climate change.

There is no easy way to reconcile these disparate views, but it is clear that a strong and credible U.S. policy to reduce domestic emissions will help advance international efforts to do the same. The many complex features of climate change discussed here – which cover scientific, political, economic, psychological and other dimensions – are not problems that need to be fully “solved” before decision-making and action to combat climate change can be pursued (see Box 3.2). Rather, they are inherent characteristics of climate change that need to be recognized and understood in order to develop sound intervention strategies. As discussed later in this report, many potential policy measures could be considered reasonable investments in the future of our country, regardless of the complexity and uncertainty that result. Now in its 11th year, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group connects more than 80 of the world`s largest cities, representing more than 600 million people and a quarter of the global economy. Founded and led by cities, the C40 focuses on combating climate change and promoting urban policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks while increasing the health, well-being and economic opportunities of urban citizens. The current president of the C40 is the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes; The three-time mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg, is chairman of the board of directors. C40`s work is made possible by our three strategic funders: Bloomberg Philanthropies, Children`s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and Realdania. To learn more about the work of C40 and our cities, visit www.c40.org, follow us on Twitter @c40cities or Instagram @c40cities and like us on Facebook in www.facebook.com/C40Cities.

Every five years, countries should assess their progress in implementing the agreement through a process known as the global stocktaking; The first is scheduled for 2023. Countries set their own targets, and there are no enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure they achieve those targets. Many cities, businesses and organizations are developing plans to reduce emissions, responding to the UNFCCC`s call to become carbon neutral by the second half of the century. In the United States, more than six hundred local governments [PDF] have detailed climate action plans that include emissions reduction targets, despite the federal government`s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Meanwhile, investors are investing more money in climate-friendly funds. In early 2020, BlackRock, the world`s largest asset manager, announced that it would avoid investing in companies with severe climate risks. Large companies like Amazon and Starbucks have also committed to carbon neutrality. Some have gone even further, saying they will be carbon negative, removing more carbon from the atmosphere than they release. However, critics have accused some of these greenwashing companies of presenting themselves as environmentally conscious while continuing to practice harmful practices. The de facto coalition that currently opposes climate action is made up of interest groups that own carbon-intensive assets (such as oil companies) and low-income groups that would mostly be short-term losers in a rapid transition. Compensating for the latter and isolating the former is politically essential. “The first key feature of climate change that puts it in conflict with previous environmental problems is that it is a global pollutant and not a local pollutant.

[if] I release a ton of CO2 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, or London, it does the same damage to the globe,” Knittel said. “Compare that to local pollutants, where if I release a ton of sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxide in Cambridge, most of the damage stays near Cambridge.” The causes of inaction can be difficult to track, in part because challenges can cause other challenges. For example, the inability to attract funds to adapt to climate change has emerged as a major problem for many cities. However, this problem can be attributed to a lack of expertise on climate change and climate action, which meant that the side effects of climate action could not be quantified, resulting in the lack of a convincing business case for climate action, which then meant that funds could not be allocated to climate action. This helps explain why so many important measures that should be feasible are simply ignored. This CFR backgrounder compares the actions countries are taking to combat climate change. Take India, for example, which accounts for 7% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions, making it the fourth largest global emitter after China (27%), the United States (15%) and the European Union (10%). This is despite the fact that India`s per capita energy consumption is about one-tenth that of America. And even if that number doubles by 2030, it will still be only half of what China was in 2015. Of course, the whole world would benefit from a cooperative solution.

But without a binding international agreement or a supranational authority capable of implementing a global green policy, few countries have an incentive to participate in sufficient mitigation efforts – so that everyone is in a worse situation. There are also significant delays in human reaction systems. Greenhouse gas emissions are to a large extent integrated into social infrastructure (para. B example, buildings, power plants, modes of settlement and transport) and in human habits and organizational routines, few of which change rapidly. Market incentives that impact capital investment leave little room for consideration of consequences on century or longer time scales. However, in order to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare to adapt to the effects of climate change, transformative changes are needed, for example in the way the country produces and uses energy (see Box 3.1), builds buildings and transport infrastructure, and treats water and other natural resources. It will also require significant changes in consumer choices, travel behaviours and other decisions at the individual and household level. Overcoming the inertia of the status quo in promoting these types of transformations will pose challenges for government, industry, agriculture and citizens. Part of the difficulty in developing and gaining public support for sound climate change strategies stems from the inherent complexity of the issue. Some of this complexity is related to the physical science of climate change; But understanding and responding to climate change also raises many social, economic, ethical and political challenges.

The chapter highlights some of the unique challenges of climate change that need to be considered when designing the country`s intervention strategies. .