All policy is climate policy
The recent Norwegian election has shown us that the country has a gross misunderstanding of ‘climate policy’ – but they are not alone. Autumn is the season for several other critical European elections, and it is clear that the entire European community needs to shift its understanding of what it means to make and implement a climate policy that works. No longer an isolated topic, climate policy has taken on a much broader definition, with climate change, mitigation, and adaptation affecting every aspect of society and becoming a vital aspect for policymaking across the board.
The summer of 2021 has brutally illustrated what we can expect with increasing climate change: wilder, wetter, and warmer weather creating enormous societal challenges. In the US, we have seen unprecedented drought, weakening the country’s food production system. These same conditions have led to massive wildfires in the Pacific Northwest, and across Greece, Siberia, and Canada. Conversely, Germany, Belgium, and China have been flooded. Turkey? Simultaneously burning and drowning.
The conclusions laid out in the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states scientific evidence for why this is happening. In essence, unsustainable GHG emission levels caused by human activity. The report also confirms just how little time humanity has left to avoid climate change’s worst, irreversible consequences. This is not well-meaning advice. It is the UN Secretary-General’s and the IEA Director-General’s clear message stating additional exploration permits cannot be granted, as we have already found burnable fossil fuel amounts that will push us beyond our carbon budget and thus above the Paris Agreement goals.
As Norwegians, it has been downright disappointing to see the reactions and statements given across the Norwegian political landscape. Instead of accepting and investigating ways to slow down the search for new oil, the contrary has been placed on the table: subsidizing Norway’s most pollutive industry. This isn’t just a weak climate policy for today, it’s a devastating social policy for tomorrow.
The report states that an immediate and sharp decline in global greenhouse gas emissions will, at best, still give us an average global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees celsius. In this optimistic but unlikely scenario, we must prepare for extreme weather and a new global climate reality. This includes improving waterways in neighborhoods to battle flooding, improving house foundations that sit on eroding and unstable soil, changing the way we manage forests because of forest fires, and modifying food systems to comply with hotter, dryer weather. We must also prepare to shift capital away from education, health, and care services to finance the necessary climate adaptation and risk mitigation programs needed to meet our changing climate.
Climate policy can no longer be seen as a stand-alone and isolated policy. Simply put, we can no longer talk about politics regarding societal development without talking about climate policy:
- Climate policy is agricultural policy because global warming poses a serious threat to the food supply chain and the conditions of an unstable agricultural system.
- Climate policy is fiscal policy because investments locked up in fossil energy and technology are at risk of becoming “stranded assets” (assets that have lost their capital value due to climate change) and available too little too late.
- Climate policy is business policy because the right measures provide the business community with a future unaffected by tax regimes (such as the carbon border tax) or financial frameworks (such as the EU taxonomy).
- Climate policy is foreign policy as rising sea levels, disappearing water and food supplies, and destructive hurricanes create mass geopolitical instability and refugees.
This list goes on, with climate policy also being public health policy, school policy, emergency preparedness policy, energy policy, defense policy, and transport policy. It is no longer about electric car chargers or road construction. Instead, it is our inactions profoundly affecting countless welfare benefits and opportunities at all levels well into the future, regardless of whether you are a farmer, business leader, teacher, or health worker.
The contours of the consequences we so desperately want to avoid are already appearing. The sooner we accept that climate policy is no longer an isolated topic in the political debate, the sooner we are able to make concrete and effective decisions that will benefit all.
This guest article was authored by POW Norway and translated to English from its original version. Special thanks to authors Ida Amble Ruge, Chairman of the Board of POW Norway and project manager / advisor within sustainable business strategy, Brita Staal, President of POW Europe, specialist in climate & sustainability strategies, Charlott Johansen, General Manager of POW Norway and advisor in planning, climate and environment, Nikolai Schirmer, skier and ambassador for the Riders Alliance, POW Norway.
Protect Our Winters is a global climate organisation rooted in the outdoor community. Our chapters work year-round to help spread climate advocacy and policy changes that limit global warming caused by man-made climate change.