The Brazilian Proposal, that aims to create standards based on historical emissions data, is the only fair and efficient way to ensure greenhouse gas emission standards are met.

The field of public policy aims to provide solutions to complex societal issues through government initiatives.  As I discussed in my September 28 blog, a conclusive connection has already been made between humans and global warming.  The question from here on out is what do we do?

The Brazilian Proposal was first made in May of 1997.  According to the UNFCCC website, it proposed that different emissions reduction standards be set for parties according to the impact they have made historically on temperature rise.  The benefit of this approach is that it allows developing countries to continue building an economic infrastructure while at the same time holding them accountable to emissions standards.

Although many would argue they should be allowed to build an economic infrastructure without global emissions standards, climate change is a global issue and for that reason we can no longer afford to rely on coal and other harmful pollutants.  The field of sustainable development is rapidly emerging at many universities around the world & through graduates of these programs I believe nations can thrive while being environmentally conscious.

With developing nations doing their share, the focus turns to the United States who it can be argued are largely to blame for temperature change looking at historical emissions data.  In order to meet the proposed goal set by many climatologist of a 70 to 80 percent reduction of the year 2000 greenhouse gas emissions levels by 2050, I would argue in favor of, “A steadily accelerating reduction rate with absolute reduction reductions that peak and then decline” (Luers, A, et. al: 15).  This approach would address the problem immediately yet gradually, which allows time for future technological innovation to develop that can more rapidly address this situation later.

Along with major environmental policy is the concern for the economy and the affect policy will have on the public.  Although our goal in shaping environmental policy is to ensure the well being of the Earth, it is a known fact that because our economy is largely based on fossil fuel intensive growth that emissions standards can harm economic growth.  With an economic shift could come immense strains on public sector budgets, higher prices for normal goods, job losses, and reduced incomes all because of the inclusion of the environment as an external costs.

According to the National Priorities Project this is the current federal government spending.

According to the National Priorities Project this is the current federal government spending, with very little going to the environment.

Therefore, at this critical juncture there must be a complete political reform in Washington.  Firstly, we must integrate an environmental awareness into educational curriculums so that future generations are at least knowledgeable about the environment.  In addition to future planning, the government and companies must shift their priorities and therefore funding.  For instance, the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act allocated $39-Billion for energy programs that aim to build a new economy around clean & secure energy, thus bringing their discretionary budget for the Department of Energy up to a projected $33.9 billion in 2009 (according to the Office of Management & Budget).  Although a step in a positive direction, there is a huge discretion between this $33.9-Billion discretionary budget and the $654.7 Billion discretionary budget for the Department of Defense.

Looking at these budgets shows us that our current priority is defense and not the environment, something that must be addressed with climate change policy.  By investing more into the environment for the creation of green jobs and technological innovation, as well as providing government subsidies to companies to ensure the price of goods does not dramatically increase, I believe we can lessen the impact of lower-emissions standards for the public while addressing climate change in a sensible matter.

Change is on the way, but will we embrace it?

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One Response to “The Brazilian Proposal & A Shift in Priorities”

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