As Paul Matthews pointed out in the comments section of a previous thread, Richard Tol has a new paper, called The Structure of the Climate Debate. In it he argues for a specific climate policy (low but rising carbon tax); celebrates the Paris agreement for handing back the responsibility to nation states; and discussing possible reasons for the lack of progress in climate policy over the past two decades.
The paper is well written and I suggest you read it in full. I will restrict myself to a few comments for now. These comments relate to the proposed carbon tax and the reasons for the lack of progress.
"First-best climate policy is simple: A uniform carbon tax, rising steadily over time, is all we need... A carbon tax is ... the cheapest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. ... Over time, the carbon tax should rise. ... Higher carbon taxes would lead to deeper emission cuts... The above discussion about the impacts of climate change suggests that a modest carbon tax can be justified, but that more ambitious goals may be hard to defend."
The argument presupposes a switch from carbon intensive processes and products to less intensive. However, making fossil based energy more expensive will hurt consumers, especially the poor. Politicians are therefore not in a position to guarantee a long term policy a la Tol. Given enough pressure they will bow.
Rather than relying exclusively on welfare economics applied to climate policy, it would be useful to take on board some insights from political scientists about voting behaviour and the political process.
The modest carbon tax would make sense if complemented by a policy of innovation in the energy sector so that it makes economic sense to switch to low and zero-carbon products. Existing renewable energy systems cannot be scaled up to provide us with such an alternative path (nuclear aside--which is politically contested in many countries). As is well known, these arguments have been made in the Hartwell Paper and by others.
With regard to the lack of progress Richard points to the self-interest of bureaucracies and politicians. The former want to extend their remit and resource base, the latter want to engage in grand-standing. While this may be true, he overlooks the direct motive of trying to pre-empt a rise of green votes. After all, as Richard remarks, a majority in all countries is in favour of doing something about climate change (I am not so sure one can believe the added clause "even if energy becomes more expensive"--this seems to be the crux, see above). Politicians engage in cheap talk when pandering to these potential voters. At the same time it opens up opportunities to engage them in serious debates about practical solutions.