WHAT WE CAN DO: GOVERNMENT

For all the talk of civil society and the global village, it is national governments that remain the world’s most influential players. While the world’s richest billionaires top out at $100 billion and the largest corporations approach $1 trillion, the total wealth of the world’s largest economy – the United States – approaches $100 trillion. Individuals, NGOs, and corporations are all completely overshadowed by the resources that nation-states can avail themselves of.

Consequently, the support of the world’s governments will be critical in driving the transition to sustainable development.

There are many ways governments can help get this ball rolling:

  1. Promoting energy efficiency. Companies using less energy and raw materials to create products will be more competitive, lowering prices, increasing profits, making more jobs and paying more taxes. There is still a lot of scope for improvement – the world’s average energy intensity, or GDP per unit of energy used – is only 60% of that of the leading developed nations, such as the UK and Denmark.
  2. Decoupling policies. Disassociating utility profits from the amount of energy they sell and setting revenue targets instead. California implemented such policies in 1981, the result being that the average Californian now consumes a third less electricity and emits 55% as much CO2 as the average American. Governments should legislate decoupling policies, and set up commissions to inform companies of best practices.
  1. Upgrading vehicle fleets. Replacement programs for vehicles to increase gas mileage or to go electric will decrease CO2 emissions while providing a boost to manufacturing. In particular, China is making a big push in this direction; the Chinese now buy more electric vehicles than any other country, and it now looks set to become a leader in this field.
  2. Supporting noncarbon energy. The Paris Agreement identified two sources of energy: Those that emit greenhouse gases, and those that don’t – sources such as nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar power. The optimal energy solution for any country is a mix of these four energy sources. Nuclear power fully meets requirements for reducing CO2 emissions. Thanks to existing nuclear power plants, some 1.8 billion tons of CO2 are not emitted annually. Consequently, nuclear power already makes a tangible contribution to the fight against climate change. Even so, its full potential remains unrealized.
  3. Supporting nuclear power. Nuclear power is relatively cheap, very clean, and still, statistically, the world’s safest energy source. Unlike wind or solar power, nuclear power can also provide reliable base load power, including to remote communities that would otherwise have to rely on diesel generators, by packing them onto floating modules. Consequently, nuclear power can play an indispensable role in completing the “Green Quadrant” of clean, renewable energy. Governments should work to clear up public misperceptions about nuclear power and recognize it as a crucial component of any serious sustainable development strategy. As the corporation with the world’s biggest portfolio of foreign nuclear power plant construction projects, amounting to 33 NPP Units across 12 different countries, Rosatom is well-placed to play a major role in bringing closer the dream of a clean, renewable energy future.
    Individual efforts to reduce the carbon footprint are commendable. More and more companies are finding out that environmental stewardship is not a barrier but a means of generating more profits. However, their efforts may be for naught if they are not supported by government policy. Due to the far greater administrative and financial resources at their disposal, the world’s nation-states remain indispensable in moving our world towards sustainable development