07 March 2007

"Carry on polluting"

Larry Lohmann, writing in the New Scientist is skeptical about carbon trading:

Arguably, the US sulphur dioxide trading programme of the 1990s helped business save money in meeting modest short-term reduction targets for a single substance. But global warming require a more radical solution: nothing less than a reorganisation of society and technology that will leave most remaining fossil fuels safely underground. Carbon trading...just encourages the industries most addicted to coal, oil and gas to carry on as before. Carry on polluting
I broadly agree with Mr Lohmann in that carbon trading will not meet the challenge. And it seems that, in New Zealand anyway, there is a very large bureaucracy devoted to administering carbon trading, and a similarly large effort on the corporate side devoted to gaming the system. Carbon trading looks elegant, but its goals are modest and:

Only big firms can afford to hire carbon accountants, liaise with officials and pay the costs of getting projects registered with the UN. Yet these are often the companies that local people battle hardest against in defence of their livelihoods and health.
Carbon trading then seems likely to be a corporatist non-solution to the climate change problem. Something designed to keep economists busy, and to annoy and deceive the public with higher prices and the appearance that something’s being done.

Well, regular readers of this blog will know that I favour Climate Stability Bonds, which would prove as radical as necessary in meeting the challenge: their impact would be commensurate with the scale of the problem, rather than what is politically possible under the current – corrupt – system.

What’s necessary? Mr Lohmann suggests: “Public investment, shifting subsidies away from fossil fuels and toward renewables, conventional regulation, support for the work of communities already following or pioneering low-carbon ways of life, requiring that businesses pay the costs their competitors incur in developing green technologies…” Climate Stability Bonds would probably encourage investors to develop all these, and more, initiatives, and they would do so without the laborious, energy-sapping, process-obsessed negotiating that after a lengthy gestation has given birth to… carbon trading.

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