04 December 2012

Another climate change shambles

Practically half of the EU’s renewable energy currently comes from wood and wood waste ... but a lack of sustainability criteria for measuring its environmental impact is stoking fears of a hidden carbon debt mountain.  Source
This highlights the flaw of using anything other than outcome-based policy for relationships that we just do not yet understand. Under the current system our politicians, preoccupied as they with things like the economy, identify 'renewable' as good, and burning trees as 'carbon neutral'. The result:
If living wood is simply burned for energy, a temporary carbon debt can be created until CO2 emissions caused by the release of all the carbon it has absorbed, and the loss to the carbon sink, are compensated for by fully-grown replacement trees. Climate scientists say that this time lag can run over many decades – sometimes centuries – causing environmental tipping points to be reached in the interim that render any expected eventual carbon savings moot.
This is what happens when we rely on our well-meaning, overworked, distracted or scientifically challenged politicians and bureaucrats to craft a policy that is supposed to anticipate our rapidly expanding knowledge. We are relying on them to identify a relationship - that between energy source and climate change - amidst myriad variables, using current science. Then we assume that they have tackled the problem. They haven't.

Here's another idea: target what we actually want to achieve. If it's a reduction in fossil fuel use, target that. If it's climate change, target that. Contract out the identification of the relevant relationships to people who are motivated to get the answer right and to adapt to our rapidly expanding scientific knowledge. We can best do that for long-term, complex goals by issuing Social Policy Bonds.

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