Thursday, August 23, 2007

UN throws in towel on climate change

The United Nations is preparing to throw in the towel on achieving further cuts in the emission of greenhouse gases by the world’s industralised nations. Instead, it plans to rely on already discredited carbon trading and offsetting schemes. The cat was let out of the bag by the UN official leading negotiations for a new convention to follow on from the Kyoto treaty, which ends in 2012. He believes that rich nations should be absolved from the need to cut emission if they pay developing countries to do it on their behalf. In fact they should be able to buy their way out of 100% of their responsibilities.

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, says: "We have been reducing emissions and making energy use more efficient in industrialised countries for a long time, so it is quite expensive in these nations to reduce emissions any more.
But in developing nations, less has been done to reduce emissions and less has been done to address energy efficiency." So, de Boer observed, "it actually becomes economically quite attractive for a company, for example in the UK, that has a target to achieve this goal by reducing emissions in China".

This policy shift is a major step back from Kyoto which requires industrialised nations to reduce the majority of emissions themselves, rather than resorting to carbon trading or offsetting to reach their targets. Even the Stern Review for the New Labour government states that all developed nations will have to make emissions cuts of at least 60%-90%, with many developing world countries allowed only a modest increase or a small decrease. And Stern clearly says that these figures “do not incorporate international emissions trading”. In other words, emissions trading is viewed as an add-on to real reductions.

The De Boer approach is already built into the Climate Change Bill before parliament. This insists that emission reductions purchased overseas may be counted towards the UK’s targets. The government claims that this “ensures emission reductions can be achieved in the most cost effective way, recognising the potential for investing in low carbon technologies abroad as well as action within the UK to reduce the UK’s overall carbon footprint”.

It fell to the Commons environmental audit committee to point out that in order for a country to have surplus carbon credits to sell, it must first be overachieving its emissions targets. The committee asked: “Given the challenges that this might entail as targets become tougher, this raises questions over the extent to which the global supply of such credits will in the future be able to meet demand. The government has yet explicitly to address this uncertainty in the extent to which the UK can rely on emissions trading in order to meet its targets.” The committee added that it was concerned that this approach “might foster a false sense of complacency about the progress and policies required to decarbonise the UK”.

The truth is not as complicated as the committee makes out. Behind all the manoeuvring around the Climate Bill and the buying and selling of carbon “credits”, there is mounting evidence that globally, capitalism does not have the capacity or the will to tackle climate change. All it can offer is a façade of action, behind which governments, and now the UN, give wholehearted support to business as usual for the corporations and the richer nations. The case for offsetting capitalism itself with not-for-profit alternatives and a real democratic political system, is stronger than ever.

Penny Cole, environment editor
A World to Win

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Anonymous said...

It's important to differentiate between Carbon Trading and Carbon Rationing. The problem so far is that there has not been an overall global carbon ration agreed and shared out amongst nations. Instead, things like the EU Emissions Trading Scheme only cover a subset of industries and a subset of greenhouse gases.

I am yet to see any evidence that a socialist economy will be any more effective. What is needed is a middle ground that starts with our economies being tied back to a natural resource, rather than based on invented money... and that natural resource, which needs a price, is carbon. A carbon tax of £100 instead of income tax and NI would not only make emitting greenhouse gases very expensive to emit, but it'd also make it cheaper to buy the labour to do things a sustainable way, rather than doing everything by machine.

I'm not saying that our global capitalist economy doesn't need composting. What I am saying is that I never hear any solid solutions from the socialist movement, just complaints and blame. If you want ideas, check out Georgism on wikipedia. It's at least a step from Monopolism to a 'fairer' market, and a move that is practical and conceivable for individual nations.
We need practical solutions, not endless rhetoric while we cook waiting for the next socialist revolution ;)

Anonymous said...

The blog about the UN’s retreat on cutting emissions didn’t talk about alternative approaches – carbon rationing, contraction and convergence, etc. – because it was about the retreat being planned by the UN and the governments of the rich countries, from any attempt to reduce carbon emissions.
Their plan is not carbon rationing - their plan is to do nothing at all.
And that is the problem facing exponents of all these alternatives – however rational and excellent they are, they will never be implemented in our irrational, profit-focused, world.
Frustration at this can open up all sorts of traps. At Climate Camp the presentation on Carbon Rationing focused on getting the government (obviously not the Brown government which wants us to use as much carbon as possible) to take authoritarian steps to impose rationing. They used war-time rationing as an analogy. The speaker was quite abusive of the poor souls heading off from Heathrow on their holidays who were accused of stupidly “fucking over the planet”. They must be forced to change, we were told. Far from coming from the socialists at the meeting, it was from the platform that all the Stalinist-sounding rhetoric came.
Quite apart from the fact that this resort to authoritarianism and contempt for ordinary people is not acceptable in any movement today, the fact is the government is not at war against climate change as it was against Germany in 1939. Quite the opposite – it has declared war on those who want to tackle climate change as the arrests and harassment at climate camp showed.
The best solution for those who have worked so hard developing these rational solutions is to support a social and political transformation that might even implement them. The people could then democratically decide if they are the right way forward and what role they can play in a web of actions to tackle climate change.

Rolly said...

Master Scientists say with conviction that we humanity are responsible for 80% of global warming.

We are destroying our planet - and I'd give us 10 years to rescue it...10 years!