Big Picture Climate Change Contraction & Convergence

Carbon Rationing – A Chance Interview with Andrew Ross at the G20 Climate Camp

Down at the G20 Climate Camp today, I had the opportunity to meet up with people I know from Climate Change work all over the UK and beyond.

Don’t be tempted to dismiss the Campers as sensationalism-seeking wildcats : we’re talking about a collection of some of the finest Science, Policy and Society minds there are, with a bit of the Press mixed in for good voyeuristic effect.

I sat down with Andrew Ross from the Scottish Carbon Rationing group

Our discussion covered the Holyrood 350 initiative, Scottish Energy independence and which global policy is best to manage Carbon Emissions.

The Scottish Parliament is currently considering a Climate Change Bill which would make the British Parliament, which “sits” at Westminster, look like a bunch of worthless wasters.

All the best academics and lobbyists and political activists are working on this initiative, and I really hope they can join the Carbon Neutral Nation club :-

“The Maldives – the island nation threatened by rising sea level as a result of global warming – is attempting to become the world’s first carbon-neutral country…Five other countries – Costa Rica, Iceland, Norway, New Zealand and Monaco – have signed up to a UN-backed plan to become zero net emitters but none intend to achieve carbon neutrality as quickly as the Maldives, a nation of island atolls which is highly vulnerable to rising sea levels.”

Andrew and I also compared notes on the push for Scottish Energy independence. There is a deep cultural resentment amongst the Scots, allegedly, that the English stole all the Oil and Natural Gas resources of the North Sea.

But now, it could be payback time as the Renewable Energy resources in Scotland are the best in Europe. Scotland could well declare political independence from England based on this Energy wealth.

On the subject of the global management of Carbon, Andrew Ross has been giving good consideration to the “upstream” pricing method proposed by Oliver Tickell in what he calls Kyoto2 :–

My resistance to this is founded on two things : one is that producers of Fossil Fuels are transnational, with their power bases in the Global North, and so there would be increased wealth imbalance in a system of Carbon pricing which was targeted at the producers.

Secondly, any Carbon pricing would cause general inflation, and lose any relative disincentive pretty quickly, because we are all highly dependent on Fossil Fuels currently.

In other words, if you make people pay ten times more for their transport fuel, it would only have an short-term impact on their behaviour, cutting the use of fuel for five to ten years; after which, the whole Economy would have inflated, so the price of fuel would become relatively cheap again.

Andrew was also still considering the “historic responsibility” angle of Carbon Emissions – the Global North having been primarily responsible for Climate Change through “free” emissions in the past. How should that be accounted for, if it should ?

I said to Andrew that my conclusion is that I don’t think we can consider past guilt, because it would interfere with agreeing a global treaty, much like the artificial division of nations into separate groups causes deep disagreement in the Kyoto process (and also the proposed Greenhouse Development Rights strategy).

I said that my thinking now is that the only possible thing that all the countries in the United Nations negotiations process on Climate Change could be sure to agree on, would be a framework of equal Carbon rights, per person, globally.

This framework of “Equity and Survival” : Equal Carbon Rights, has a name : Contraction and Convergence :-

One reply on “Carbon Rationing – A Chance Interview with Andrew Ross at the G20 Climate Camp”

Hi Jo, thanks for the mention of K2. The inflationary effects of a modest carbon price will be small in comparison with, for example, variations in oil price. But there is a way around even this – and the historical equity issue. This is for the rich countries to kick-start the Carbon Fund by injecting cash and guarantees against the Fund’s borrowings so that expenditures can begin immediately, rather than waiting until the cash raised from a carbon price comes in. Then developing countries will get an immediate benefit and inducement to participate. This is all the more important in the current economic downturn and with the need for a Global Green New Deal – which this initiative would create.

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