This week, the campaigning organisation Friends of the Earth took the bold step of publishing their critical negative analysis of Carbon Trading. It is clear that money, alone, cannot buy you Carbon Emissions reductions, and as we come up to Copenhagen, it is essential that we reach beyond the ifs, buts, greys and muted tones to a framework that can be made to work, agreeable to all : Contraction & Convergence from the Global Commons Institute :-
A market-based system for Carbon control stands a good chance of failure. The accountants will be counting in money instead of Carbon, and we may end up with a market that doesn’t regulate Carbon, but merely regulates funds flow instead.
Also, the mechanisms to create tradeable Carbon in such a Carbon market are not guaranteed. Schemes to create Carbon credits from special offsetting projects worldwide for the “Clean Development Mechanism” have not had such a great success rate.
Even if you abandon the “market” element and simply do funds transfer for Mitigation and Adaptation as Gordon Brown has recommended to Europe in the last month will not necessarily ensure that the money gets spent on controlling Carbon in the target countries, and certainly won’t require Carbon to be cut in the countries putting up the money for the fund.
We need to step outside of the money thinking yet again and look at the possible ground rules for an international deal on Carbon emissions reductions and how it could be made to work.
A fascinating insight into the two main frameworks out there (in German) has recently been published :-
asking the question “How fair is fair enough ?” :-
The Contraction & Convergence framework, proposed and promoted by Aubrey Meyer of the Global Commons Institute is the subject of the doctoral dissertation of the first writer in that article, Katrin Simone Kraus, in translation the title as :-
“Contraction & Convergence and Greenhouse Development Rights : A critical comparison between two salient climate-ethical concepts”
Here’s a quick analysis of why Contraction & Convergence can work at the Copenhagen talks next month :-
1. No historic guilt
The developed/industrialised countries don’t want to be made to account for the pollution of their forebears. Interpretation : the Fossil Fuel corporations don’t want to be closed down tomorrow. OK, then, let’s have a gradual phase-out of Carbon : a timeline, a scale, a plan. This is “Contraction”. Let’s not try to induce guilt in any bloc to have to pay out to other blocs for historical mistakes. Countries such as the United States of America, and the Europe bloc would agree to this notion. Their argument is quite valid : why should we be penalised for the past when we had no idea we were causing damages ?
2. Everyone matters
Let’s accept that the only possible global deal will treat every person as having an equal right to shares of the atmosphere. If there is an open auction for the remaining Carbon shares of the global safe budget, the rich will win and the poor will not be able to have any kind of economic or social development. So let’s say everyone will end up with the same Carbon rights, per person. Then at least in theory everyone will have the same access to Energy and industry in future, when the development has been done. This is “Convergence”. The developing nations and undeveloped nations will agree to this, as it gives them a window to carry on developing before having to submit to stringency. The industrialised nations will accept this proposal, as it gives them a window of opportunity in which to respond and change infrastructure and sourcing to comply.
3. The poor are currently under-polluting
If we all agree on Convergence, then currently the under-developed nations are getting less than their fair share of access to their rights to pollute – so let them sell “trade” their unused spare Carbon rights to the rich. This is the only basis for a workable, ethical Carbon market – trading in so-called “hot air” – Carbon rights that exist under the framework but do not involve efforts to de-Carbonise. This will pay for green development in the Global South – pay for the poor to develop in the ways that they wish to, ensuring a Low Carbon future. The Global North can pay to overshoot their Carbon rights for a while longer. Everyone can agree to this proposal.
How easy life would be if everyone could see the beauty and logic of this framework for Carbon control !
It meets the scientific requirements on de-Carbonisation in order to stabilise the Atmosphere.
It involves the minimum of funds flow, so it is very cost-efficient. Instead of paying to clean up after Climate Change damages, it prevents and precludes them.
It’s ethical, in its goals of equality and its outcome of survival for all.
There does not appear to be any other mechanism that all parties could agree on.
It really is time that the British Government came out into the open and admitted that their best negotiating position is Contraction & Convergence.
They are already using the language of “carbon budgets” at home. Now they need to use that language in the international United Nations talks :-
Here’s what Michelle Chan of Friends of the Earth had to say about the Subprime Carbon Report :-