WE continue to buy goods made by companies who show no interest in reducing carbon emissions.

No government would create overt pro-environment policies that hurt business. But there could be a way for governments to act responsibly and for individuals to force change.

Industry pollutes; we buy their products; if we are serious about improving the environment, we should only buy from companies that produce low carbon emissions.

We are told carbon numbers when booking flights or trains, so why not have all products with carbon emissions ratings?

Governments could have three critical roles.

The first would be to regulate the ratings system. Individuals, companies and public agencies could choose to buy only from low-carbon-emission firms. If this purchaser pressure became popular, firms based in the highest-polluting countries would need to smarten up or pack up.

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The second government role would be to incentivise investment in low/no-polluting infrastructure.

In the meantime, goods would be more expensive to produce, and we would then know the real cost of saving the planet.

Rather than the buyer bearing all of the additional cost, the third role of government would be to provide tax breaks for purchasers.

Voluntary action has failed. Nothing much has changed in the 28 years since the 1992 Rio Summit.

By conflating purchaser power with government regulations, the planet just might breathe a sigh of relief.