If I were to design a policy initiative, I would like to implement a system that holds people and businesses accountable for their climate actions by informing them of the carbon-footprint left by their actions. Over the last few years New York City has taken numerous actions to help change behavior by forcing businesses to publish certain pieces of information in locations easily accessible by their customers.
Some of these early initiatives have been taken in order to reduce the prevalence of obesity in New York City. For example, fast food restaurants must label their food items with their calorie counts on the menu, and if an item has a high sodium content, that item also must be labeled as such. An example from a Chipotle Mexican Grill can be seen below:
New York City also has implemented a new inspection grading system, in which letter grades of the restaurants sanitary state are displayed in the front window of the restaurants. This program has had immense success because people do not want to eat at restaurants with B’s and C’s when there are cleaner options available. In addition, the city publishes the results of the inspections, and you can find out there was a dead rat in the kitchen of your favorite restaurant that received a B. The ratings can be seen below:
If businesses across America were given inspections like this on their climate behavior, people would naturally turn to climate friendly places as people prefer safer options. This program would be especially effective if next to every thermostat was the carbon footprint number. The goal of this initiative is to make everyone feel responsible for climate change by pointing out their negative impact. By holding people responsible, they’ll be guilted into changing their ways since everyone wants to be the best that they can be.