The following solutions could develop into Game Changers for the Climate:
Resisting the extraction of fossil fuels is the only way to keep them from disrupting the climate. It makes fossil fuels more expensive, fossil fuel projects more risky to investors and motivates a shift to potentially more benign energy alternatives. This systems analysis clearly shows that the cheap supply of fossil fuels is a key driver that keeps us heading in the wrong direction – and a strong lever for change. Due to global energy markets, the opposite approach – “reducing emissions” – just shifts them around. Like a balloon where you increase or decrease pressure at certain points, which just shifts the shape, but not the overall size of the balloon – which is determined by how much coal, oil and gas comes out of the ground and flows into the balloon. “Emissions reductions” happen automatically when extraction is successfully impeded – avoiding most of the strenuous work of traditional climate campaigning.
As long as there is no legally enforceable negative consequence for pushing the fossil monster economy forward, people will continue to do it and explain away the problem. Once you can go to prison for doing so, people will shift course very quickly. A few examplary cases could have an extraordinary impact. Finding possibilities to do so under existing law is one strand of this work. Another one is creating new laws that would make it possible to bring polluters to justice. Compensation lawsuits are suing the biggest fossil fuel companies (carbon majors) for climate change impacts. If one lawsuit gets through, this precedent will allow everyone who has climate change related damages to get compensation payments from the company (or others) in the country, making them go bankrupt very quickly.
- Quantitative Easing for the Climate (p.19-21)
If banks can be bailed out, why not the climate? Central Banks can print more money and use it for priority projects in society. Since an energy transition and stopping CO2 emissions is a global priority, we can use this tool for buying the fossil fuel companies and shut them down. For the United States it is estimated that buying up the top 25 oil and gas companies would cost half as much as the Iraq war. See also this collection of resources on quantitative easing by Quantitative Easing 4 the People.
This amazing approach has the potential to shift the mainstream of economic activity and entrepreneurship towards solving environmental and social problems, becoming climate friendly would be just one of them.
- Subsidy Reform
Our governments continue to throw billions of subsidies into fossil fuels every year, making them much more competitive in the market place. When we manage to correct this situation, ending fossil fuel subsidies and instead financing clean energy through intitiatives such as a Global Renewable Energy and Energy Access Transformation (GREEAT) Programme, the energy marketplace will look very different – and fossil fuels will be the losers in many more places where they are still standing strong today.
- Lobby Work and Transparency in Policymaking
This systems analysis points to the critical role of the fossil fuel lobby in keeping fossil systems in place. Their influence on political decisions is huge. By creating more transparency and explicit limits on their influence on policy-makers, climate friendly policies will be much easier to pass and our societies will stop pushing for more fossils and can start to focus on what’s important in life.
FTAs are rigging the game, but in the wrong direction: they make it more difficult for ambitious climate policies to get through, protecting the incumbency and those with interests in fossil fuel extraction. We must find ways to “defuse” these dangerous tools which are being used to perpetuate the destructive status quo of fossil fuel dependency.
- Fossil Divestment & Engagement
Fossil fuel companies are still often seen as “normal” today, although their standing is decreasing. By convincing ethically inclined investors to drop their investments in fossil fuel companies, a new narrative gets established where fossil fuel companies are doing something morally wrong. As the business case for fossil companies worsens through competition by cheap renewable energy, this narrative and the economic case reinforce each other. Engagement practices such as shareholder activism can amplify these voices within the company and shorten the time until companies correct their course. Because much of the fossil frontier is being opened up by private companies, divestment and engagement are important efforts to turn the tide from the outer limits inwards.
Having an example to point to of persons, cities or nations that have managed the transition to 100% clean energy would be an important psychological game changer. So far there are many plans, but real-life examples of full transitions still need to be achieved.
- Transition Funds
These financial mechanisms create a link between our fossil fuel addiction and the transition road. The more we spend on fossils, the more money we raise for getting rid of them. Examples: US President Obama’s Oil Tax for Sustainable Transport, the Fondo Futuro para México, the Future Box.
We hope to draw more conscious citizens and institutions into these efforts that could just turn out to be essential roads for our future on this planet. Please feel free to get in touch if you have identified additional game changers or would like to get involved with one of them.