Thursday, February 08, 2007

Climate change: hope and reality

Those who, despite all the evidence, live in hope that pressure on governments will produce action on climate change are in a difficult bind today. The European Commission’s decision to water down plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from cars demonstrates once again that corporate interests will always win out in Brussels (and every other capital, for that matter). Intense pressure from car manufacturers ensured that the EC backed down on its plans to enforce a 25% cut in carbon dioxide emissions from new cars by 2012, and instead set a target of a 12% reduction. By 2012 new cars sold in Europe must on average emit no more than 130 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometre (g/km CO2). This target is, in fact, considerably weaker than a target the EU set in the mid-1990s calling for new cars to emit on average 120g/km by 2012. As Jos Dings, of the European Federation for Transport and Environment, explained: "The Commission has proposed to weaken an 11-year-old climate target for new cars just five days after the global scientific community warned policymakers to take serious and urgent action on climate change." The EFTE said that transport is the only sector which has increased its C02 emissions in Europe in the last 15 years. For example, in 2005, the UK had the fourth highest average emissions of the EU15 countries. To meet the 2008 target in the UK, average emissions from new cars must fall by more in the next two years than they have in the last nine years. It is simply not going to happen.

The commission’s proposals were due to be made two weeks ago, but were postponed at the last minute in order to heal a split on the issue within the 27-member European Union. While some Eurocrats favoured tougher measures, political leaders decided otherwise. German car manufacturers wrote to the commission warning of factory closures and job losses and other corporations like Ford and Toyota piled on the pressure. Then German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, vowed to fight moves to impose a compulsory cap on vehicle CO2 emissions. The result is the half-baked set of proposals which will have no effect on climate change. In the end, putting the words "green" and "cars" in the same sentence is a nonsense, whatever fuel efficiencies are achieved. Manufacturers live or die by year-on-year increases in sales because, naturally enough, raising total profit is what motivates production. As things stand, whatever comes out of the EC, we will still end up with more cars clogging the highways, polluting towns and villages. This is simply not acceptable, nor sustainable. A real plan to tackle the ecological crisis requires a shift away from car dependency towards cheaper (or even free) public transport, moving jobs closer to where people live and a comprehensive reorganisation of economic life in favour of not-for-profit production. Some will say that this is an impossible task, given the dominance of the global corporations and the political elites they effectively sponsor. Better to go on lobbying governments and encouraging individual actions in the hope that rational argument will win the day. The EC decision on emissions shows, however, that this approach is rooted in fantasy. We might as well face the fact that the capitalist system will not and cannot solve the ecological crisis which it itself is responsible for creating. The new publication Running a Temperature, published by A World to Win, outlines practical alternatives and solutions that take us beyond the failures and restrictions of the market economy. Get yourself a copy and start building the momentum for the radical, revolutionary change that the situation demands.

Paul Feldman, communications editor


Anonymous said...

Cutting Co2 emissions will never change the climate. Lower amounts of Co2 in the atmosphere will have no impact on climate change, long term temperature change is just a normal fluctuation on this planet.(In case you don't know).

Robbie said...

In reply to supercilious, there are no peer-reviewed scientific papers which support his arguments, and a vast weight of evidence by a number of organisations who have no reason to lie.

On the other hand we have oil companies funding spurious nonsense such as his. I wonder why they might want to do this?

Anonymous said...

The only peer-reviewed scientific papers which support CO2 level induced climate change are written by borderine scientists and peer reviewed by the same.

Robbie said...

‘Evidence-based’ research? Anti-environmental organisations and the corporations that fund them

Trevor said...

I do have some sympathy with anonymous's comments. The idea that Global warming is entirely down to industry, cars and ccow farts is spurious. The planet's climate is affected in a much greater and holistic way than this simplistic model. Solar activity which is increased even in the minimum cycles is a factor, methane (a far worse green house gas than CO2)venting from the ocean floor from immense gas hydrate deposits is another. increased releases of gren hose gas from increased seismic activity and eruptions is another of these factors are covered in the favoured adopted research modalities.

The fact is that the research sponsored by either side of the debate is simplistic. On the one side the Oil companies sponsor that research that will give them a charter to contiinue to abuse the environment. On the other side the conclusions that will drive a new aspect of capitalistic endeavour through supposed Green industries will once again be modelelled on the very capitalist model of corporations, profit greed, shareholders, options and excess etc which the researchers claim to be counteracting.

Let's face it there has been climate change and tectonic change throughout the earths history. Pristine Ice core samples show ice ages, global warming which occurred before man invented fire let alone the internal combustion engine. Perhaps It is naive to think that we are not living in a time of such natural change.

However at a time of dwindling environmental resources, the cse for dismantling the status quo ccapitalist model has never been clearer.But class war against 4X4s while fun just won't get us anywhere near defeating the real causes of our problems.