09 July 2009

Two degrees or 350ppm?

The G8 countries have approved a target of 2° C rise in global average temperature above the natural, preanthropogenic climate, that they resolve should be avoided. But would 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere be a better target? Frankly, given that the agents ultimately charged with achieving the target are governments, I don't think it matters. There will be no accountability and no penalty if the target is not achieved. Instead - you can hear it now - there will be excuses. Administrations change, and politicians are expert at evading and deflecting blame. They will be able to blame vagaries in measurement, or in the scientific relationships; or previous administrations, other countries' administrations, 'unexpected' events, ...the list goes on.

Broad target setting is all very well. It does, indeed, underpin the entire Social Policy Bond concept. But there has to be motivation as well. Government and its agencies are paid to perform activities, to stop other people performing activities, to allocate funds, to ensure compliance with rules - and a whole host of other things, not all of them useless. But they are not paid to achieve outcomes. Climate change is a huge, urgent challenge. Well-meant targets must be backed up by powerful incentives so as to reward success and penalise failure. And that's where Climate Stability Bonds should enter the picture. The G8 (or the United Nations) could still set broad climate-related goals. They could still raise the funds to reward investors in the bonds. But, by issuing the bonds, they would be contracting out the achievement of climate stability to people who are motivated to succeed, rather than merely paid to turn up to work. A huge, and quite possibly a planet-saving - difference. Look under 'climate stability' here to find out more.

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