All energy and climate solutions are local

Read the full story at SmartPlanet.

The climate movement isn’t dead; it’s just gone underground.

The United Nations climate summit in Rio de Janeiro ended with participants gnashing their teeth and issuing a long string of condemnations, calling the final report the “longest suicide note in history,” “a failure of epic proportions,” and “a colossal failure of leadership and vision from diplomats.” The inability of world governments to come to any binding agreements after two decades of negotiations, wrote Mark McDonald for the New York Times, “shined the spotlight on global timidity.”

Color me unsurprised.

I have long maintained that creating policy around emissions gets the problem backward, by focusing on what comes out of the tailpipe instead of what goes into the engine. We should be incentivizing solutions, not penalizing emissions, because carrots harness human desire and ingenuity, while sticks merely arouse resistance. Further, it makes no sense to simply clamp down on fossil-fuel emissions without replacing the displaced energy. This is why I have advocated a feed-in tariff as the best policy approach, over alternatives like cap-and-trade.

Now that some 50,000 people have flown home in disgust (generating an estimated 300 tons of CO2 in the process) after the Rio summit, perhaps we can put an end to this futile search to get a world of 6.8 billion people to agree on a single target. Perhaps we can finally start focusing our attentions on solutions that work, right now, at home.

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