Upping the ante: thinking about post-Paris climate strategies that measure up

Routledge author, Laurence Delina discusses the challenges faced by World Leaders post-COP21 Paris conference. His new book, Strategies for Rapid Climate Mitigation: War Mobilisation as Model for Action? is due to publish in July 2016.

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Upping the ante: thinking about post-Paris climate strategies that measure up

Laurence Delina

A new climate agreement will most likely be forged in Paris. A document worthy of international celebration, the Paris agreement is but a first wave in a series of necessary climate action to revert global average temperature back to preindustrial levels. The need to reduce emissions, in a scale and speed suggested by science, remains a colossal challenge that requires reinvigorated strategies.

Globally, countries have agreed to hold the increase in global temperature below 2°C. This December, government representatives will meet in Paris to attempt to layout a course to attain this objective. We know, for a scientific fact, that global emissions must peak soon and fall steeply for a chance to meet this objective. We don’t know yet whether the Paris conference can deliver; however, analysis of the submitted national commitments from a consortium of four scientific organisations suggests that country proposals do not measure up (here and here). With emissions expected to pile up and lock us in a world beyond +2°C warming, climate action does not stop at Paris. It is a milestone, but there is still work to be done. To fall carbon emissions fast, while having some insurance that economies will not collapse, remains a challenge to hurdle. There seems to be a poverty of political will at the international stage, and arguably at the national as well to meet this objective; but there is no poverty of ideas.

Strategies for Rapid Climate Mitigation: war mobilisation as model for action? is written as a Gedanken experiment on how mitigation can proceed – in the scale and speed required – using an analogy provided by the mobilisation for a Great War that encompassed nations, the Second World War.

The war metaphor has been used many times, by politicians, pundits, and even by scientists and academics to make a case for effective climate action. However, analysis whether it is apt was not fully interrogated. Also missing in the discussion is what would it mean to be taken seriously? The book examines the analogy by drawing lessons at wartime to develop contingency plans for a scenario where governments implement steep mitigation programs. These programs are designed as some sort of ‘insurance policy’ that the present generation pay for the benefits of future generations. Readers are provided a picture of how these programs could look like and how they would work.

There is an abundant supply of how-to-do-it literature on addressing climate change, but there is a dearth in terms of a book that is not technology-centred or market-focused, and that looks at the required speed and scale. Strategies is a first of its kind to analyse in detail and in-depth a plausible approach to a crucial issue that builds upon knowledge about climate science and about proven and demonstrated measures that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is meshed with a social and political analysis that draws upon wartime mobilisations of resources to meet a transnational threat, while laying out the shortcomings of the analogy. The governance aspect of the book makes it unique. Although the book provides messy answers to an undeniably complex challenge, the book shows how it is possible to construct strategies that could reduce emissions in a systematic and structured manner while being sensible for policymakers.

Climate change is indubitably the greatest challenge presented to us as a species. This decade remains a critical decade for action. And, we are pressed in time. As a citizen of a country in the crosshair of these consequences, I could not just stand idle and let these impacts ravage not only the livelihoods of my people, but most importantly, their lives. Clearly, the climate issue has been elevated with many people now recognising the important of climate action. But, there are still t’s that need crossing and i’s that need dotting. With current responses not at par with required reductions to ensure the safety of many people’s lives and their livelihoods, Strategies offer an analysis and critical interrogation on a plausible pathway to make effective climate action.

Routledge publishes Strategies in 2016.

Laurence Delina conducts research at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University. He is also a research associate at the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and an Earth System Governance Research Fellow. Laurence is from the Philippines.