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COP26: Lots of costly promise but no feasible solutions

This week, leaders from across the world are gathering in Glasgow to attend the Conference of the Parties, 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy. This is the biggest meeting on climate after Paris back in 2015, which resulted in participating countries signing an agreement aiming to keep global warming at below 2 degrees celsius. In Glasgow, countries will present their action plans for carbon reduction for 2030 and some developing countries will secure large sums of money to help them move away from fossil fuels. Hopes are big, promises even bigger, but are their methods of fighting climate change the right way to approach the problem?

The goal itself is commendable and important to achieve, but we should not sacrifice consumer choice and freedom to it. Every policy should be examined through the lens of consumer choice, and it should be at the centre of every climate strategy. 

Unfortunately, governments have opted for the combination of restrictions, taxes and bans to tackle climate change. This is quite a costly strategy, and consumers will have to carry the burden of it. For example, to cut carbon emissions, the EU is planning to ban motor vehicle sales from 2030. Motor vehicle drivers are already some of the most heavily taxed consumers. Fuel, ownership, registration and CO2 based taxes are just a few examples of what motorist vehicle drivers have to deal with and now the EU is taking on an even more radical approach. 

Arguably, one of the most disputed parts of the EU’s Green plan is the creation of a sustainable food system, with little to no reliance on pesticides and incentivising organic farming. Green activists demonise pesticides branding them as” dangerous”. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), without them, the farmers would lose 30 to 40 percent of their crops. Organic farming has low yields, whereas to feed the ever-growing population we need to increase our food production. However, in the case of organic farming, we would have to put more land for agricultural production, which can only be achieved through deforestation which naturally hurts the planet, and which is also what COP26 attendees commit to end. These climate strategies are inconsistent and chase their own tail.

Electricity and heat production account for around 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Policymakers are pushing for alternative renewable energy sources, like solar and wind powers, but continue to dismiss the many advantages of nuclear energy. Nuclear power has been pushed to the background because of its bad reputation and accidents such as the Chernobyl nuclear explosion (which was the result of poor management and not nuclear per se). Multiple studies have shown that risks associated with nuclear plants are low and keep declining.

Strategies that policymakers have elaborated entail many false assumptions. Instead of practicing losing combinations of restrictions, bans and taxes, embracing innovation in the above-mentioned sectors would be the right thing to do. Giving innovative technologies a chance is the only way to combat climate change and not leave consumers on the losing end.

In the next blog posts, we will dive into the agricultural, mobility and energy sectors and lay out the Consumer Choice Center’s recommendations on how innovation should drive us forward as we look for the best solution to the climate change dilemma.

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