A New Global Protocol for International Climate Agreements

A New Global Protocol for International Climate Agreements

History has shown that international climate agreements, policies, and mandates don’t work. From the Paris Agreement all the way back to the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, we have tried mandating reductions in carbon footprint, with little success.

At the Paris Agreement, it was finally recognized that handing down mandates wasn’t working. Instead, the Agreement asked countries to set their own goals. While this might seem like an equitable idea, it isn’t very effective in reducing the overall global carbon footprint in time to avoid catastrophic, irreversible environmental harm.

After all, when China says they will start reducing their carbon footprint beginning in 2030, it means that from now until 2030, their carbon footprint will continue to grow. In fact, China’s carbon emissions are increasing so exponentially that in the next nine years, they may completely wipe out the reduction in the global carbon footprint made by the rest of the world.

It’s time for a new global protocol—and with ICEMAN, the United States could lead the way.

For some time now, the United States has had a bad reputation when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. When I presented the concept of ICEMAN at a Zero Emissions conference in Oslo, after the presentation, someone stood up and said, “I can’t believe something that advanced came out of America!”

“Well,” I replied, “It’s because I was born in Norway.”

ICEMAN offers the United States the opportunity to become a leader in reducing our carbon footprint—and establishing a new global protocol climate agreement. We can show the world how combatting climate change can be accomplished in a free market economy.

The U.S. federal government can implement a regulation requiring a Carbon Factor Index number on all imports entering the U.S. This will incentivize manufacturers in foreign countries who export to the U.S. market to reduce their carbon footprint far better than government or international mandates—thus lowering the total carbon emissions in that country and in the world.

Even without regulation from the federal government, ICEMAN will influence manufacturers in countries like China that import to the United States. If consumers in the US start buying products with higher CFI values, manufacturers in China will have to reduce their carbon footprints and get better CFI values in order to remain com­petitive in the marketplace. This will in turn impact the carbon footprint of the entire country—even going so far as to fundamentally change its infrastructure. For example, a manufacturer in China consuming electricity from a coal-fired grid will be pressured by market forces to install renewable energy to be able to compete against US manufacturers that are on a renewable grid or that have already installed renewable elec­tricity.

If implemented in the United States, the impact of ICEMAN will extend far beyond this country. What the U.S. does, Europe will follow, and the rest of the world will too. It’s not too far-fetched to say when the US adopts ICEMAN, it may have a global impact on reducing carbon emissions worldwide.

Manufacturers worldwide will have to reduce their carbon footprints in order to be competitive in the world market. Market forces alone will pressure other countries to invest in renewable energy infrastructure. As manufacturers gravitate toward regions with low-carbon infrastructure, companies that want to attract business and industry will have to step up. It is possible that entire countries will attract industry based on their low-carbon infrastructure.

Industries may be drawn to countries like Norway, which has a 99 percent hydroelectric grid. Currently, Norway doesn’t have a lot of industry. In fact, Norway’s biggest export is oil. Norway isn’t competitive in the world manufacturing market because labor costs are relatively high—but once the marketplace really starts to consider carbon foot­prints, Norway will become much more competitive due to its 99 percent renewable grid. Even if companies are paying a little bit more for labor, it will be exceeded by the overall competitive advantage they’ll gain in the marketplace as a result of ICEMAN.

Countries with high-carbon infrastructure, meanwhile, will come under pressure to rebuild their infrastructure to be more carbon-neutral, to prevent the industry from moving away. And developing countries will have the incentive to build low-carbon infra­structure to attract industry to help develop their country. When I was invited to speak in Myanmar, the term “leapfrogging” was used, meaning building a renewable infrastructure without making the same mistakes industrialized countries made in their beginnings.

The U.S. could encourage this by requiring every product imported into the country to have a CFI value on it. They wouldn’t have to mandate products that have a CFI above a certain level; market forces would take care of that. All they would have to mandate would be that the product simply has to have an Index value.

ICEMAN could even contribute to more aggressive climate actions, like placing tariffs on high-carbon imports. When I presented ICEMAN to the Norwegian parliament, a gentleman who at the time sat on the parliament’s standing committee on the environment explained, “We are importing products from China. We don’t know the carbon footprint of these products. If we know what the CFI values of the products are, we can establish a tariff system on imported products below a certain CFI value.” If market forces don’t kick in as strongly as we anticipate globally, countries could put tariffs on imports that don’t meet a certain Carbon Factor Index level. That would put pressure on those countries, such as China, to conform to carbon-level standards.

I don’t particularly care how governments use the Carbon Factor Index. I’m not a legislator or policymaker; I leave that in the hands of the experts. But I believe ICEMAN offers an opportunity to create a new global protocol for international climate agreements—one that will be much more effective than those implemented in the past.