Editor’s Note: C3 Solutions was excited to be at COP26 in Glasgow to promote economic freedom. “Letters from Glasgow” provided regular updates from our team on the ground. Scroll down to find the topics in order below:
- November 9: Conservative Gathering at COP Confirms Climate is no Longer a One-Party Issue
- November 8: British MP Liam Fox offers a Reaganesque “Time for Choosing” for Conservatives on Climate”
- November 5: Capitalism is the Cure, not the Disease
- November 5: The American Energy, Jobs, and Climate Plan
- November 3: Remove Barriers to Accelerate Energy Innovation and Deployment
- November 3: The Virginia Election Just Scrambled COP26 for the Better
- November 2: Panic at COP26 Increases the Risks of Climate Change
- November 1: The Counterporductive Nature of Climate Alarmism
- November 1: COPtimisim! 3 Reasons to be Hopeful During COP26
By Jeff Luse
COP26, the annual United Nations gathering to discuss climate change, is in its second week in Glasgow, UK. As might be expected since it deals with the touchy issue of climate change, COP26 has attracted many protestors and activists who are demanding that various governments do more. These activists have protested in the streets, held up traffic, and even called for an end to capitalism.
While the media will focus primarily on these protests, elsewhere in Glasgow conservatives gathered yesterday to promote sustainable climate solutions at the “Climate and Freedom Symposium” hosted by C3 Solutions, the British Conservation Alliance, the Clean Capitalist Leadership Council, and the Grace Richardson Fund.
The Symposium included an impressive slate of panelists, including the Rt. Hon. Dr. Liam Fox, MP, Member of Parliament in the UK; The Rt. Hon. Dan Albas, MP, Shadow Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Canada; ExxonMobil board member Andy Karsner; policy experts from The Heritage Foundation; members of the Austrian Economics Center; and many more.
Here are a few of the key highlights:
Dr. Liam Fox kicked off the Symposium with a keynote highlighting the importance of the free market in addressing climate change. Dr. Fox argued:
You can find his full remarks here.
Next, the Rt. Hon. Dan Albas explained what Conservatives in Canada are doing to advance free market solutions that benefit the environment. Specifically, Conservative MP’s are looking to lessen the economic impact that Canada’s carbon tax has on businesses and development. In his view, free market supporters need to come to the table with real, durable solutions for the sake of environmental and economic progress:
“We as free market thinkers need to come with real answers because the dislocation that we have between decision-makers who come with ideas that are not fitting solutions, that do not feel that the people that they’re impacting and putting out of business, they are not thinking of them.”
History also happened during the Symposium when Chris Barnard, Policy Director at the American Conservation Coalition, announced the launch of the International Declaration on Market Environmentalism. The Declaration, which has been read in over 93 countries, has more than 150 signatories representing 60 nations. The agreement assesses that climate change poses a real risk and “free markets and human ingenuity provide the most powerful means to overcome such risks.”
Specifically, the International Declaration affirms four principles: Market Economy, Private Property Rights, Decentralization, and Innovation and Optimism.
The remainder of the day included discussions explaining how economic freedom is good for the environment, the role of sustainable finance, international trade and treaties, policy solutions for scaling innovation, and business strategies for clean capitalism.
The Climate and Freedom Symposium is emblematic of what direction conservatives are moving in. Rather than standing on the sidelines critiquing the big-government agenda of the environmental left, free-marketeers are offering durable solutions that meaningfully address climate change. While the tent is big, and proposed solutions vary, what we have seen this year at COP26 and specifically at the Climate and Freedom Symposium, is that climate is no longer an issue that conservatives are running from. Rather, it is an issue that they are ready to win.
You can watch the full Symposium here.
November 8: British MP Liam Fox offers a Reaganesque “Time for Choosing” for Conservatives on Climate
By John Hart
Dr. Liam Fox, a Member of the British Parliament, kicked off our Climate & Freedom Symposium this morning with a fantastic and important speech. Just as President Reagan offered moral and intellectual clarity, and reality-based inspiration, with his “A Time for Choosing” speech, Dr. Fox described why innovation, creativity and economic freedom offer vastly more benefits for people and the planet than the darkness of the degrowth movement.
You can read his entire speech here.
By Drew Bond
“Capitalism is Killing the Planet!” reads the poster pictured below from the streets of Glasgow, Scotland during the 26th United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) meetings. It’s telling how out of touch with reality the people are who posted this poster. Some form of capitalism allowed them to have that sign made and some degree of political freedom allowed them to post it.
The name of the game at this 26th UN COP conference is not capitalism kills, thankfully, but rather one of “climate ambition.” Climate ambition is international diplomacy speak for when countries from around the world line up to up the ante on their previous “Nationally Determined Contributions” or NDCs to one-up one another on who can say that they will get to a net zero carbon economy the fastest. It’s a round-robin of one-up-man-ship. Thus is the nature of political ambition.
Don’t get me wrong, global gatherings of countries, businesses and people who are making commitments to strive for a cleaner planet is a good thing, a very good thing. There’s a lot of smart, well-intentioned people here who truly want to make the world a better place and are sincerely trying to save the planet.
The problem is that too often it’s all about prose and pageantry over real progress. None of the G20 countries who made commitments in the original Paris Climate Agreement are meeting their commitments. So to make new and more ambitious commitments seems, well, quite ambitious.
Here’s a thought experiment. What if capitalism could save the planet? What if “climate capitalism” was the name of the game instead of climate ambition? After all, isn’t ambition inherent in capitalism? The idea of striving to win a competition based on merits is in fact very capitalist. And capitalism thrives best in free markets where merits win over cronyism or mandates.
Capitalism, like it or not, is certainly not perfect but is quite necessary for environmental progress. This isn’t opinion or theory but fact. In our recently published report that we are promoting at this conference, we found that free economies are twice as clean as unfree economies.
It’s clear that expanding economic and political freedom around the world leads to greater technological innovation and greater prosperity for both people and our planet. So what is needed is not more ambition but more economic and political freedom, aka capitalism. So to my activist friends, both with posters and all the pageantry, how about we demand real action now? It’s time for the most ambitious of climate actions. It’s time to expand political freedom. It’s time for climate capitalism.
By Nick Loris
As dialogue on climate policy continues to flow in Glasgow, Republican Senators Dan Sullivan (AK), Kevin Cramer (ND) and Cynthia Lummis (WY) have been busy tackling the issue in the states. Their recently unveiled American Energy, Jobs and Climate plan largely strikes the right tone on facts, principles, and policies.
The plan largely comports with C3’s overarching message and policy objectives: climate change is a global challenge and expanding economic freedom in the U.S. and around the world can raise standards of living while reducing the risks of human-induced warming.
Key facts include:
- As the U.S. economy grew 25 percent since 2005, power-sector emissions fell by 27 percent over the same time period. This is largely because of supplies of cheap natural gas but also an increase in renewable energy.
- China is responsible for more than a quarter (28 percent) of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire developed world combined.
- Future emissions growth will overwhelmingly come from non-OECD nations.
- Exporting liquified natural gas from the U.S. is cleaner than piped gas from Russia and would be cleaner for countries whose economies are coal dependent.
Key principles include:
- A plan to reduce global emissions rather than solely concentrating on the U.S. If the U.S. were to reach net zero, the climate impact would be barely detectable, so a global perspective is imperative.
- A plan centered on innovation, utilizing domestic resources and the free market rather than taxes, mandates and regulation.
- Policies that ensure energy affordability, reliability, enhance national security objectives and reduce emissions.
Key policies include:
- Comprehensive permitting reform that will enable companies to build and use more clean technologies rather than jumping through complex regulatory hoops and fighting litigious anti-development activists.
- Natural climate solutions that can take advantage of advanced farming techniques and active forest management that will wisely steward the land for economic benefit but also sequester more carbon dioxide.
- Expansion of domestic mining and processing of rare earth elements that are essential to renewable energy, batteries and many other technologies essential for our military and daily lives.
- Additional research and development that can be a catalyst for economic and climate innovation.
Much of the Biden administration’s climate agenda has focused on carrots (subsidies) for various clean energy technologies. As we mentioned in an earlier post, global decarbonization will depend on cost reduction and the widespread deployment of low-emission and emission-free technologies. Breaking down government-imposed barriers is essential for both cost reduction and deployment. The American Energy, Jobs and Climate plan is a welcome and necessary step in that direction.
By Nick Loris
In remarks about clean technology deployment at COP26, President Joe Biden emphasized that “Innovation is the key to unlocking our future.” Agreed. Innovation is the key to a more prosperous, enjoyable, and healthier future with a cleaner environment. It is the key to reducing the risks of climate change. When it comes to the government’s role in driving innovation, however, innovation means different things to different policymakers.
In the same speech, President Biden remarked that climate goals won’t be met through “government action alone.” Agreed and moreover, innovation best happens when it is led by the private sector, not the government. Entrepreneurs have and will continue to develop climate-friendly energy supplies, agricultural practices, natural solutions, industrial processes, and effective technologies to directly remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Surely, government research, development and demonstration can be a catalyst to innovation. When applicable, public-private partnerships can, too.
Nevertheless, a central focus for policymakers in the U.S. and around the world should be to remove the government-imposed barriers to deployment and cost reduction. As Matthew Yglesias stressed in an article that details various regulatory challenges with clean energy technologies, “permitting obstacles are a huge barrier to short-term increases in renewable power and an even bigger barrier to longer-term developments that at least might unlock enormous amounts of zero-carbon advanced nuclear or geothermal projects.”
Yglesias goes on to say, “Demolishing these barriers is more important than further spending on R&D and innovation.” Not to say that spending on R&D isn’t important, it clearly is, but as Yglesias also noted, “Not because no innovation is needed, but because deployability will unlock not only private R&D but also the kind of practical learning-by-doing that has taken solar from ‘this is technology that works’ to ‘this is technology that’s cheap.’” Similarly, Bill Gates argues that reducing the “Green Premium” will be pivotal to the widespread global adoption of cleaner technologies.
We can have reasonable disagreements on the role of government in accelerating innovation. It is also worth mentioning that subsidies to established technologies can misallocate resources, entrench special interests, erect barriers to competing technologies, and reduce the incentive to lower costs and be competitive without the subsidies. Yet, building back better and cleaner will be best achieved when legislators and the administration do the dirty work of removing regulatory obstacles to cost-effective clean technology deployment.
By John Hart
The most important agreement reached so far during COP26 was made far outside Glasgow. Last night, the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia elected Republican Glenn Youngkin to be the state’s next governor in an upset victory over Democrat Terry McAuliffe that will shake up the climate debate.
Virginia’s off-year election is an extremely reliable bellwether that predicts each party’s success in the midterm elections that decide control of Congress. When the president’s opposing party wins Virginia, it almost certainly does extremely well in the mid-terms. For instance, in 2010 (President Barack Obama’s first midterm) Republicans gained 63 seats in the House of Representatives and six seats in the Senate after Republican Bob McDonald won the Virginia governor’s race handily with 59% of the vote. In 2022, Republicans only need to win about five seats to take control of the House of Representatives, a relatively easy task that looks almost certain after Youngkin’s upset win. Taking control of the Senate will be more challenging for Republicans but they only need one chamber to fundamentally change the power dynamics in Washington and end the Democrat’s trifecta of power (Democrats control the White House, Senate and House).
The anticipated power shift has big implications not just for the near future (2022) but the present. President Biden’s infrastructure and climate agenda is languishing because Democrats have taken themselves hostage and begged Republicans to not shoot. Youngkin’s win significantly weakens Biden and House progressives who have ignored climate scientists by linking climate action to unrelated social goals like universal pre-school and single-payer, government-run health care. Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda and the bipartisan infrastructure package will face even more obstacles after last night and will have to be further streamlined.
COP26 delegates who want to understand where American politics is headed should pay close attention to the Conservative Climate Caucus and its chair, Representative John Curtis (R-UT). Curtis did an exemplary job of articulating the conservative climate vision on a recent appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation and in this joint op-ed with our president and my fellow co-founder, Drew Bond.
Curtis and other members of the Republican delegation who are headed to COP will be promoting economic freedom and amplifying the core conservative message that free economies are twice as clean as less free economies.
Partisan Democrats and central planners may be in a state of despair but there is broad and enthusiastic bipartisan agreement about the essential approach to climate action Bill Gates expressed very well in a recent post:
“Technological innovation is the only way the world can get to zero … [W]e need to invent new ways of doing them that are green. Then, after we invent them in the lab, we need to ‘commercialize’ them—that is, make them effective, reliable, and cheap enough that people want to and can afford to buy them.”
COP26 delegates and world leaders should note Gates’ use of the word “only.” As we often argue, innovation isn’t just a tool in the toolbox; it’s the engine.
Congressional Republicans and Democrats will still have a spirited debate about what it means to “commercialize” technology and how to do that, but power has shifted to the center where people who want some government and limited government can find agreement, especially in areas like research and development and infrastructure modernization. Weakening House progressives, who are obstructing broad bipartisan agreement, will open the door much wider to climate action that can pass. Strengthening the hand of members like Curtis, who has the temerity of being good on science and math by mentioning debt, will also lead to progress and durable solutions. If Members of Congress join Curtis in the real world of finite resources and discuss shifting priorities instead of raising taxes or printing money the range of options will expand even further.
Finally, last night’s results prove that the Republicans can win by focusing on core principles and their brand rather than Trump’s brand. Youngkin kept the former president at arm’s length and dramatically outperformed the former president in Virginia. Youngkin’s success is a blueprint for Republicans nationally, which bodes well for durable solutions on a host of fronts, including climate policy.
By John Hart
One of the first rules of water safety is don’t panic. When you find yourself in deep or dangerous waters staying calm can keep you alive. Flailing makes you sink.
World leaders gathered at COP26 have largely ignored that advice. As expected, the opening speeches featured a rhetorical arm flailing race.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the world is “one minute to midnight” and that climate change is a “doomsday device.” Prince Charles said COP26 is the “last chance saloon” to stop climate change while the UN Secretary General António Guterres said, “We are digging our own graves.”
Filling the venue with rhetorical methane overheats the conversation and makes it harder to forge consensus and durable solutions.
When the Republican delegation arrives in a few days they will likely take a more nuanced approach that will confront the risks of climate change responsibly without the risk enhancing flailing.
A better approach was stated well by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who said, “The challenge of combating climate change … will be met by those who are largely not in this room. It will be our scientists, technologists, engineers, entrepreneurs, industrialists and financiers that will chart this path to net zero – and it is up to us as leaders to back them in.”
Morrison’s comments were largely in line with our free economies are clean economies report that shows that free economies are twice as clean as less free economies. Policy humility in the face of superior private sector actors is a virtue that is elusive for central planners. Economic freedom is the solution. Innovation isn’t a tool in the toolbox; it’s the engine.
Earnestness and emotion have their place, but for COP26 to be successful world leaders should follow the advice of Abraham Lincoln.
“Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy,” he warned in 1838. Instead, Lincoln said we need solutions, “[H]ewn from the solid quarry of sober reason … Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defense.”
To move COP26 beyond panic and pandering, the Party of Lincoln would be wise to apply Lincoln’s timeless advice.
By Nick Loris
Hanna Ritchie, head of research for Our World in Data, penned an important piece for Wired where she warns about the unintended consequences of climate catastrophism. She cautions that we need to stop telling our children they will die from climate change because it creates a sense of hopelessness, empowers denialism and is bad for mental health. She writes:
Later in the piece, she argues:
By Nick Loris
For international climate conferences, level setting expectations is as much a part of the process as the policy negotiations. Historically, these summits, known as Conference of Parties or COP, have had high prospects but failed to deliver. Echoing the sentiments of many pundits, The Economist warned that COP26 will be “crucial but disappointing.” No matter the outcome of the next two weeks, policymakers and the public should feel optimistic about the problem of climate change and about climate solutions.
- The worst climate outcomes are becoming increasingly unlikely. Despite some of the rhetoric that climate change is an existential threat to humanity, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report communicates that global greenhouse gas emissions would have to increase significantly to reach the most extreme temperatures and most catastrophic climate scenarios. The probability of that happening is not zero, but it’s shrinking, and that’s a good thing. To be clear, there is still risk and cost for the current emissions trajectory, and policymakers cannot ignore the low-probability, catastrophic outcome scenarios. But the imminent doom and gloom projections are far less likely than alarmists make them out to be.
- Economic growth and emissions reductions can go together. Ensuring that people have access to affordable power and have better living standards, while tackling climate change sounds like a daunting task. At the very least, the common perception is that one must be sacrificed for the other. But the reality is that we can decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions increases. Largely through private sector investments where natural gas is displacing coal, the U.S. has demonstrated leadership in reducing emissions without any major legislation in place. As the Breakthrough Institute emphasized in an April report, 32 countries (many of which have high economic freedom scores), have had an absolute decoupling of economic growth and emissions.
- Plenty of low-hanging policy fruit to go after. Much of the defeatist attitude around COP is that the problem is too big, coordinating international actions is too challenging and country-specific commitments are too underwhelming to keep warming in check. Skepticism, particularly of countries like China and Russia to play ball, is justified. However, there are numerous policy initiatives policymakers should champion that drive private sector investments in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Policies that establish efficient permitting, incentivize technology-neutral investments, expand trade, promote natural climate solutions, and protect private property rights are solutions developed and developing countries should get behind.
Over two weeks, journalists, delegates and pundits provided many narratives of catastrophe, failure and disappointment. Instead, we should approach the challenge of mitigating the risks of climate change with urgency and optimism and with policy solutions that empower climate entrepreneurs.