US leaders need to and can do much more to stabilize the climate and improve their economy. The 2017 US administration and Congress should work urgently to build bipartisan support for a carbon-fee-and-dividend (CFD) law, which would enact a rising fee on coal, oil and gas production and imports, and send the revenue to American households through equal monthly dividends. By the twentieth year, this law would cut US carbon emissions by twice as much as promised in the United States’ 2015 pledge to the United Nations, while simultaneously expanding the US economy and improving Americans’ health.

New legislation is possible. Business and the public have shifted. The kernel of a winning bipartisan coalition has emerged in each house of Congress.

This remedy has the best chance of passing Congress because it embodies core values of both conservatives and progressives. CFD will benefit most US economic sectors and occupations. And CFD is more likely than any other legislative option to survive repeal attempts.

Situations of hostility and distrust have occurred before. Leaders in some situations have reached agreements on particular issues while continuing to fight over others. US leaders should reduce political risks by recruiting a broad coalition of economic, environmental, health and faith organizations to support a historic bill.

Climate scientists agree that human activity has been changing our planet’s climate over the long term. Without serious policy changes, scientists expect devastating consequences in many regions: inundation of coastal cities; greater risks to food production and, hence, malnutrition; unprecedented heat waves; greater risk of high-intensity cyclones; many climate refugees; and irreversible loss of biodiversity. Some international relations scholars expect increased risk of violent conflicts over scarce resources and due to state breakdown.

Environmentalists have been campaigning for effective policy changes for more than two decades. The world’s governments have been negotiating since 1995 as parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Their 2015 Paris Agreement created a new regime for joint action; among other things, it is the first UN climate agreement to oblige all parties to make some contribution. Each party made a pledge pertaining to the period 2020 to 2025 or 2030. But it is widely agreed that if they are all implemented, together these 2015 pledges will still fall far short of what is needed to meet the collective goals and avoid widespread catastrophes. Important details of the Paris Agreement itself also remain to be negotiated. Nor is the UNFCCC the whole of international climate governance. Many initiatives have also been launched by smaller sets of countries, national governments, provinces, cities, civil society, and private investors and companies.  

This project is designed to generate improved ideas for both the UNFCCC process and other possible sites of climate governance. During 2015 we published nine policy briefs and papers, which can be found below. The ideas in two of them appeared in Paris during COP21. Several offered original recommendations for more effective action outside the UNFCCC. A new series of publications will appear during 2016-2017.