wind turbine Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Right Time for Climate Action

There is never likely to be a perfect moment for introducing new climate policies, but long-term problems require policies that send long-term signals. That is why now is always as good a time as any to take action.

PARIS – During most of the roughly three decades since climate change became a global concern, governments optimistically assumed that a green transition would happen naturally over time, as rising fossil-fuel prices nudged consumers toward low-carbon alternatives. The impediment, it was believed, was on the production side, as gushing returns on oilfield investments spurred ever more ambitious exploration.

Today, the tables have turned. With oil prices languishing around $40 a barrel, fossil-fuel companies do not need governments to tell them to stop investing. The challenge has moved to the consumer side of the equation. With fuel prices so low, what can be done to change consumption patterns?

To be sure, there are some signs that cheaper energy could generate enough growth to drive oil prices back up. But nobody predicts a rebound strong enough to prompt the radical transformation that will be required if countries are to meet their emissions-reduction goals.

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