Incentives and Sanctions Are Key to Climate Progress: Light

Dr. Andrew Light, left, discussed climate change policy with Bittu Sahgal.
Dr. Andrew Light, left, discussed climate change policy with Bittu Sahgal.

MUMBAI, July 15, 2010 - As the threats of climate change grow more evident, world leaders are negotiating mechanisms to share responsibility for the necessary clean-up. Achieving the balance between development and low carbon emissions has been a controversial and heated process, but we are finally seeing progress on this front.

This is according to Dr. Andrew Light, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, in conversation with Bittu Sahgal, Editor of Sanctuary Magazine. The two spoke at Beyond Copenhagen: Life in an Era of Climate Change, a program hosted by the American Center, Sanctuary Magazine and the Asia Society India Center.

Light explained that the 2009 Copenhagen Summit was successful in yielding an operational agreement among countries. The next step would be enshrining and implementing these ideas in an international treaty. Light estimated that 120 countries have already aligned themsleves to the Copenhagen standards, and the remaining countries are scheduled to do so by the end of 2010.

Copenhagen was also successful in breaking the structure of the Kyoto Protocol, wherein only developed countries had to reduce emissions in the first phase. The science, Light said, indicates that such a graduated approach will not do. Instead, the Copenhagen Summit took off from the Bali Conference, gaining commitments from developed coutnries to help finance low-emissions development in developing countries.

Light also explained that the Obama administration in the US did more to mitigate climate change in the first four months in office than Clinton and Bush did in their combined tenures. The US had also committed $1.9 billion for the $30 billion global fund to help developing countries mitigate climate change while pursuing development in the next 2 years. India is currently the single largest recipient of such money because of its need and capacity to handle such funds.

What the world needs, Light said, is for governments to make structural changes that incentivize people to emit less pollution, make it hard for people to access environmentally unfriendly products, and create the infrastructure for people to use clean energy for their daily use. We need realistic targets to keep our momentum strong, and as a global community we need to select the parts of the world that are most important for us to save. How we deal with this problem will not only drastically impact future generations, but the  children of today as well.