Megan Hall: Welcome to Possibly, where we take on huge problems like the future of our planet and break them down into small questions with unexpected answers. I’m Megan Hall.

Here at Possibly, we usually talk about the little things you can do to chip away at climate change. But of course, we need to do big things too. 

To talk about that, we’re turning to our friends at the Trending Globally podcast- Sarah Baldwin and Dan Richards.

Welcome, Sarah and Dan!

Sarah Baldwin: Hi Megan

Dan Richards: Hello!

Megan Hall: Trending Globally did an episode where you asked policy experts a pretty big question….

Sarah Baldwin: Yes, we wanted to know- what is a burning climate change issue that nobody's talking about.

Megan Hall: And what did you find out?

Sarah Baldwin: one interesting conversation we had was with Jeff Cogan, he's the director of the climate solutions lab at Brown University’s Watson Institute.

Dan Richards: Here was his answer:

Jeff Cogan: One thing that I think not enough people are focused on is what a climate focus for US foreign policy means for the rest of US foreign policy. 

Megan Hall: What does Jeff mean by that? 

Dan Richards: Well, think about it this way- when the US is working with other countries, there’s lots of negotiation and cutting of deals, right? We do something for you, you do something for us…

Sarah Baldwin: But our country only has so many of those carrots and sticks to get other countries to work with us. 

Dan Richards: And if we use them up on deals NOT related to climate change, then we risk not having leverage when it comes to making deal ABOUT climate change. 

Megan Hall: I see. Did he give any examples?

Sarah Baldwin: Yes, here’s a big one: trade. Jeff says if we’re serious about climate change, we should band together with other countries that have pro-climate policies. 

Jeff Cogan: And then to support those countries, we need to have trade tariffs on anybody who is not doing that same level of pro-climate environmental policy to protect the producers inside that climate club from unfair competition.

Dan Richards: Which would make it economically attractive for countries to join, especially China.  

Jeff Cogan: Because they are the number one emitter in the whole world, or 25% of global emissions right now.

Dan Richards: But here’s the rub -- and here’s what Jeff is talking about.

Sarah Baldwin: Right now, the US is already thinking about a massive overhaul of the way it trades with China. You’ve maybe heard about this in the news as ‘trade-decoupling’. As Jeff puts it: 

Jeff Cogan: If you are serious about climate change, you can't do decoupling for other reasons, because then you lose your leverage on climate policy.

Megan Hall: So, what is the US supposed to do?

Sarah Baldwin: Basically, hold on to its bargaining chips. And when it’s time to negotiate with China on climate change: 

Jeff Cogan: what we want to do is to put to China as nicely as possible to a choice of saying, Listen, you can be in the club with us. Or you can not do that, your sovereign choice. But then you're outside of the club, and your access to trade and finance from US and Europe is now much reduced, if not eliminated.

Dan Richards: And Jeff thinks that if we really hold onto those chips for our climate negotiations, we could make a big reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Jeff Cogan: That's a bold claim to have, because unfortunately, there is a lot of hostility, obviously, between the US and China right now. But I think that this is the kind of thing that all three of the major economies in the world are interested in making happen.

Megan Hall: Wow. Fingers crossed. Can we talk about another issue next week? 

Sarah Baldwin: Sure!

Dan Richards: Why not?

Megan Hall: Great! 

Dan Richards and Sarah Baldwin are the hosts of Trending Globally, a podcast produced by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. 

You can hear more by subscribing to “Trending Globally” wherever you listen to podcasts.

That’s it for today. To listen to more episodes, go to the public’s radio dot org slash possibly. 

Possibly is a co-production of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown’s Climate Solutions Initiative, and the Public’s Radio.