22 April 2007

More gesture politics

Researchers at Open Europe, an economics think tank in Britain, recently reported on the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme. One of its many flaws is that it is inflexible. It covers only:
… CO2 emissions and only from certain plants in certain sectors of the economy. The scheme looks only at limiting emissions from a few industries, rather than looking at how to reduce net emissions from the whole economy at the lowest net cost. Source (pdf)
As well, and unlike even Kyoto, investment in CO2 ‘sinks’ do not count. Of course, the theory might be flawed, but what about the practice? Open Europe’s conclusion is that the ETS represents "botched central planning rather than a real market." Carbon trading has not resulted in an overall decline of the EU's carbon dioxide emissions. So even its own narrow terms, the ETS has failed.

This is typical. Projects like the ETS and Kyoto push all the right buttons. They make us feel good because it looks as though we’re doing something. They give the illusion of success; they point the finger at countries that don’t subscribe to them; they involve the creation of bureaucracies of (often) hard-working, well-meaning people;, and they allow the rest of us to relax, because a lot of people are doing something positive. But they aren’t. The agreements continue, the organisations that administer them go from strength to strength; but the targeted outcome to which these organisations are allegedly supposed to be contributing? No impact whatsoever. The outcome has been hijacked by a political process that rewards activity above all else. And it will continue to be like this until we subordinate all such activity to the outcome that society - not government agencies nor other organisations, but real people - want to achieve.

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