Worldwatch Paper #138: Rising Sun, Gathering Winds: Policies to Stabilize the Climate and Strengthen Economies

November 1997
Christopher Flavin and Seth Dunn
ISBN: 1-878071-40-8
84 pages

The climate change debate is undergoing a seismic shift--beyond a paralyzing preoccupation with the cost of addressing the problem, and toward an active awareness that bold steps to stabilize the climate could create some of the largest economic opportunities of the twenty-first century.

Quantum leaps in technologies for improving energy efficiency and harnessing the energy of sunlight, wind, and plant matter have made it possible to reduce greehouse gas emissions dramatically while raising income levels, lowering energy bills, and creating new jobs. The test for policymakers is to tap this growing potential with a rich mix of tools. This paper reveals that a surprisingly modest combination of measures employed by several national governments in recent years--reducing fuel subsidies, setting energy efficiency standards, forging industry covenants, providing incentives for renewable energy--can simultaneously slow climate change and spur economic development.

The authors compare the climate policies enacted by 10 industrial countries, ranking them by their relative strength. They show that effective measures have been pioneered in industrial and developing nations alike, providing important lessons for all countries as they embark upon an era of vigorous policy innovation.

The same human ingeniuity that created the climate problem is now urgently needed to solve it. By collectively rising to this challenge, and gathering the political will to move aggressively, we can avoid serious climate disruption and increase economic properity as well.