State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Taking Steps (Together) in the Right Direction

By Mariel Tavakoli

Graphic: Deutsche Bank

As the threat of climate change becomes more imperative, it is important to maximize the impact of environmental policy. The latest 2012 Climate Change Policy Tracker report released by Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors (DBCCA) in partnership with the Columbia Climate Center (CCC) shows that while current policies lead to emissions reductions, there is still significant distance to go to reach “safe” levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases by 2020.

The bank program’s partnership with the Climate Center reflects Deutsche Bank’s recognition of the large climate change issue facing our planet and its commitment internally to increase sustainability and invest in environmental research. Deutsche Bank aims to be carbon neutral by 2013 and has created an Environmental Steering Committee supported by its Climate Change Advisory Board to coordinate environmental initiatives.

The Global Policy Tracker project began in 2009, before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Since then, it has annually compared the impact of global policy on projected emissions.  The stated goal of the Global Policy Tracker is to “quantify the impact of government regulations and targets on emissions of carbon dioxide over time.”

Ultimately this applied research aims to inform policymakers of the most effective policies with regards to carbon emissions reduction. Looking at the international policy suite in February 2012 (a total of 616 policies), the Tracker concludes that mandate policies that change the energy mix or reduce emissions in a specific sector are more effective than economy-wide emissions reduction targets. It was also found that mandates to increase efficiency abate the largest amount of carbon globally due to China’s aggressive policies, yet on a country scale, greatest abatement can result from efficiency or renewable mandates depending on the policies in place.

Now in its fourth year, the partnership between the Columbia Climate Center and bank’s Climate Change Advisors will become even more valuable as world leaders reassess global environmental policy and progress in the follow-up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (more commonly called Rio+20).

UN secretary-general speaking at Rio+20. Photo: CS Monitor

A major theme of Rio+20, which took place June 20-22, 2012, was the effective implementation of an institutional framework that promotes sustainable development.  Further, energy remains one of the seven critical issues addressed at the conference. As the United Nations becomes increasingly invested in environmental issues, it must work to understand the needs of our planet as a whole while grounding these goals in practical policy.  In this way an effective yet realistic institutional framework can be created.

In the formation of new sustainable development goals for the upcoming years, the Global Policy Tracker will be invaluable as a resource for the formation of the kind of policy that works for the global community as well as for individual countries. In addition, the partnership of companies and organizations from different sectors to work for a common international goal is ultimately a necessity to create a stable system of sustainability.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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