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Cap and Adapt: Failsafe policy for the climate emergency

Author: Edwards, L., and Cox, S.

Publication: Solutions

The article explains development of a potential national-level climate policy framework that is capable of quickly eliminating fossil fuels and their emissions, and of accomplishing this with high certainty while also protecting society and the economy. The framework’s name is Cap and Adapt. If a wealthy high-emitting nation (or a club of a few such nations) were to adopt this policy framework, it may be able to inspire other nations to follow suit. In this way, the Cap and Adapt framework could begin to break the deadlock the Paris Agreement poses against the deep and rapid mitigation of climate change that the global public is increasingly calling for. Cap and Adapt’s policy structure is: (1) a fast-falling cap on a nation’s extraction and imports of fossil fuels on a strict, simple schedule to a zero emissions end-date that will be set in the initiating legislation; (2) adaption to the cap via Green New Deal like policy that builds non-fossil fuel energy-source and energy-use infrastructure, improves energy efficiency, reduces demand for energy and provides a just transition; and (3) additional adaptation to the cap when and to the degree necessary, through by-quantity rationing of fossil fuels (and possibly other energy). Rationing will come into play only if the Green New Deal effort does not keep pace with the required, legislatively-set fast decline of fossil fuel extraction, or if an intra-national need for equity arises. We believe policy based on this framework will be as failsafe as humanly possible for meeting a strict national target for climate mitigation and, at the same time, for protecting the function of the nation’s society and economy. The article’s case study is the United States. It looks ahead to a likely increase in public demand for climate action by the time a potentially new president and more progressive Congress take office in January 2021. Its goal is to inspire full development of an actual Cap and Adapt legislative policy by that time, for consideration if that window of opportunity opens. Windows of opportunity in other nations should be explored as well.


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