Prelude to Copenhagen: the invisible hand or regulation?

18 10 2009

The UK energy markets, regarded not so long ago as exemplifying the best of the Anglo-saxon model of capitalism, are undergoing transformation. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which is chaired by Lord Turner, has published a report calling for tighter regulation. The message could not be clearer: the invisible hand of the market is failing to deliver environmental reform. The CCC has claimed that so long as the market is left to its own devices, reform will be slow and targets missed. It recommends introducing compulsory emissions caps for cars, feed-in tariffs to assist producers of green power and carbon prices to be set by government at a minimum level in order to encourage ‘clean’ power practices.

Source: The Economist

According to journalist Elisabeth Rosenthal, the biggest obstacle to achieving a new global climate deal in the coming months may be how to pay for it. She cites the fact that up to $1 trillion will be needed to assist developing countries like India and Brazil ‘green’ their industrial infrastructure, as well as significant funds to protect the poorest nations from drought, rising sea-levels and natural disaster. Surely, what we can least afford at this time is inaction.

The impact on the wider economy of passing a US climate bill (which is pending in Congress) is also the subject of some consideration in a WBCSD article. Interestingly, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office has concluded that such a bill would have a minimal impact on the standard of living for Americans.

Climate change: An ‘inequality of responsibility’?

22 09 2009

In an apparent rebuttal to attempts made by the Obama administration to ensure the primacy of domestic rather than international law in any forthcoming treaty over greenhouse gas reductions, emissions and carbon credits, Vandana Shiva wrote in the NewStatesman:

In a globalised economy, addressing pollution by setting emissions levels for each country is inappropriate for two reasons. First, not all the citizens of a country contribute to pollution. As a result of China becoming the world’s factory, its CO2 emissions outstrip those of the US, putting it in first place worldwide. In 2006, China produced 6.1 billion tonnes of CO2; the US produced 5.75 billion tonnes. But in the US, emissions were 19 tonnes of CO2 per capita, compared with 4.6 tonnes in China. And much of China’s CO2 could be counted as US emissions, because China is producing goods for US companies that America will consume. Wal-Mart, for example, procures most of what it sells from China.

In relation to the UK, Shiva highlights the fact that:

.. while only 2.13 per cent of the world’s emissions emanate from the UK’s domestic economy, CO2 is created on the UK’s behalf in China, India, Africa and elsewhere. The global carbon footprint of UK companies is not known, but estimates suggest that emissions associated with worldwide consumption of the top 100 UK products accounts for between 12 and 15 per cent of the world total.

According to Shiva, attempts to ‘offset’ the impact of climate change have so far penalised the poorest countries. In place of light touch regulation, she urges governments and the UN to impose carbon tax on corporations, both for production – wherever their facilities are located – and for transport, which the Kyoto Protocol does not account for.

In the same issue of the NewStatesman, political correspondent James Macintyre also advocates an urgent commitment from rich countries to cut emissions by at least 40% by 2020 to prevent a global warming increase of 2° or more. He asserts there being a clear ‘inequality of responsibility’ for carbon emissions across the world.

The spectre of natural disaster looms largest over poor countries. The total number of floods, cyclones and storms has quadrupled in the past two decades. Over the same period, the number of people affected by disasters has increased from roughly 174 million a year to more than 250 million on average. Environmental threat is acute in countries such as Bangladesh, where 119 million of the population subsist on less than $2 a day. For them and millions of others, talk of climate change is not a fad or fashion, a label to help “modernise” a political party, or the subject of dinner-party self-justification; it is literally a matter of life and death. For their sake, long-standing green campaigners and late-coming progressive converts alike must pray for a deal in December.

India: Solar scheme postponed

11 08 2009

Further to post from August 6 on the potential for solar revolution in India, Gaia Vince has reported today that the government’s 20GW energy plan has suffered a serious setback.

The planned $20bn (£12.1bn) of government investment, which appeared in draft documents for such a scheme, has been withdrawn. Whether or not foreign/private investment will be made remains to be seen.

India ‘world centre of hunger and malnutrition’

2 08 2009

A report by the Indian campaign group, the Navdanya Trust, has outlined  increasing levels of malnutrition in the sub-continent. Environmental campaigner, Vandana Shiva,  who runs the trust, is critical of the effects that genetically modified crops and chemical fertilisers have on Indian farmers. Debt, starvation, drought and suicide plague the rural communities around central India.

Source: article on BBC website.