17 December 2015

Paris will fail

Why I think the Paris deal on climate change, which concluded on 12 December, will fail.
  • It may not be enough. It targets, using ossified science, cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. But what if that achieves nothing? What if the climate continues to change much more than expected, because the deal's underlying calculations and assumptions are wrong? What then? The emission cuts are a supposed means to unspecified, but crucial, ends. It would be preferable to do the hard work of identifying exactly and explicitly what those ends are, expressed in terms of impacts on human, animal and plant life, perhaps combined with social and financial targets. Then we could target those ends directly and, importantly, measure progress toward them more accurately.

  • It may be too much, in the sense that resources could be diverted into reducing gas emissions and away from projects that could have a much more positive impact on human, animal and plant life. 

  • No buy-in. Ordinary people don't know or care about greenhouse gas emission volumes. What we do understand is adverse climatic events, and their effects on humanity and the environment. If we were to target those directly not only would we be solving real problems more efficiently, we'd also have more public understanding and commitment to the process. In short, you would get buy-in from the public, which is as essential as it is absent from the Paris agreement.
That said, the $100 billion to be transferred from the rich countries (that is, their taxpayers) to the developing countries (that is, their governments) to adapt to climate change could be useful - if that's where the money actually ends up. But, on past form, what isn't spent on luxury goods or otherwise squandered will end up in Swiss bank accounts.

To read more about how Social Policy Bonds could be applied to climate change see my paper here, or recent blog posts here, here and here.

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