We agree on a 1.5 degree target: now who is going to pay for the change?

The Paris (COP 21) commitments evidence a will to act, and France has been in the forefront of government action. But early moves toward higher carbon prices have caused civil unrest, even in France, from those most affected.

“…Decarbonisation doesn’t come without consequences for the average member of the public – and those impacted by those consequences can easily feel like they are being sacrificed on the altar of environmentalism.”

E3G Senior Policy Adviser Camilla Born


Getty Images / ABDULMONAM EASSA / Contributor

“The government talks about the end of the world. We are worried about the end of this month.”

Gilet Jaunes slogan cited in https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/yellow-vests-green-new-deal-by-joseph-e-stiglitz-2019-01

Americans similarly believe in man-made climate change, but they are not willing to pay to stop it: 70 percent of Americans say they wouldn’t pay $10 every month to help cool the warming planet. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/01/do-most-americans-believe-climate-change-polls-say-yes/580957#

The UN Principles for Responsible Investment believes, along with Paul Gilding, that there will be an “Inevitable Policy Response” to climate change. At some ‘tipping point’ within the next 5 years, governments will start to act. But what sectors will they target and why? Paul Gilding and Jorgen Randers’ ‘One Degree War Plan’ is an example policy response based upon a 50% reduction in carbon emissions spread evenly across the 7 major emitting sectors: Energy, Forestry, Agriculture, Waste, Buildings, Industry, Transport https://paulgilding.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/one-degree-war-plan-emerald-version.pdf. Gilding and Randers give no reason for this allocation of the reduction work, other than simplicity.

The UN PRI notes that policymakers have a variety of options available to achieve reductions in emissions, and have given little indication about how they will choose among those options: “Policies to reduce emissions differ in their impact on financial markets, even when the broad technology pathway might look similar.” The UN PRI’s intended research program will look at the relative ‘efficiency’ of various ways of reducing emissions. It is very focused on the uncertainties around the degree of global co-operation and the potential for broad trade disruption if nations protect their economies against imports from countries with lower carbon prices. https://www.unpri.org/climate-change/an-inevitable-policy-response-to-climate-change-when-what-and-how/3580.article

So far, I have not found any attempt to rank emission reduction options according to the social disruption they involve. Let me know if you find any such work. I will be looking further and reporting back on what I find…

2 thoughts on “We agree on a 1.5 degree target: now who is going to pay for the change?

  1. Hi Martha, thank you for picking up this topic. I honestly hadn’t thought about the impact of transitioning to a low-carbon economy from this perspective. I was reading the Wired article you shared and it makes a very valid point about how citizens need to be engaged in the climate change dialogue and conversation. To most people (even those who are conscious) climate change is like this big black box, not many people understand what the transition out of carbon really means! The human side of these policies has definitely been overlooked.
    In this BSR article: https://www.bsr.org/en/our-insights/blog-view/why-we-need-a-just-transition-to-a-low-carbon-world, it says that, “Most studies indicate that climate policies can result in net employment gains of 0.5-2 percent, or 15-60 million jobs globally, with the ILO estimating a net increase of 18 million jobs.” These stats are great from a macro perspective, but at an individual and community level there needs to be dialogue and policy to ensure employment is secured.

    I was reading about this in the Indian context and it seems that till now the narrative is positive and renewable energy will more than offset job loss through coal — it’s actually being seen as tool to lift people out of poverty. If you have some time, read this article.https://sdg.iisd.org/news/irena-increase-in-renewable-energy-employment-could-offset-fossil-fuel-job-losses/

    i’m also reading this report by CISL to see if there’s something here: https://www.cisl.cam.ac.uk/resources/publication-pdfs/justice-in-the-transition-to-a-low-carbon-economy.pdf


  2. Dear Martha, this adds a really interesting perspective to the climate debate. I think the protests in France have shown that even seemingly feasible options can cause social unrest. We see similar challenges in Germany, where a majority of citizens support the government’s plan to increase the percentage of renewable energy to 60% by 2050, but the necessary infrastructure is lagging behind because nobody wants to have it in their own backyard. I wonder, if seemingly well-off countries like Germany and France cannot convince their citizens of the need and urgency to address climate change, then how can we reach scale at the necessary pace?

    One standard that comes to my mind with regards to the question you pose is the Gold Standard for the Global Goals (https://www.goldstandard.org/our-work/new-certification-solutions). It doesn’t directly rank emission reduction options by their social impact, but it does ensure social minimum criteria are met by the carbon projects it certifies. From what I understood they are now also certifying further SDG impacts. Maybe this can help to come towards a more hollistic view combining carbon and social effects?

    Another concept I cam across recently is carbon productivity (http://carbonproductivity.com/). The person I interviewed felt this was a very powerful concept as productivity has a positive connotation – talking about carbon productivity as a carrot, rather than a carbon tax as a stick. I think this adds an interesting perspective to the discussion, as in the end, when it comes to social unrest / acceptance of environmental measures, what counts is not the actual social impact, but the impact people perceive (which can differ significantly). So maybe this is as much a framing and communication issue as a measurement one?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s