I receive another letter from Iain Duncan Smith MP on vellum yellow with sickly pale green type. “Dear Mrs [sic] Abbess”, the letter reads, “Further to our previous correspondence regarding Stop Climate Chaos Big [sic] campaign, please find enclosed a reply from Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary.” I asked Iain Duncan Smith in person for his own and personal support for a strong Energy Bill. What did he do ? Pass my letter on to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). I would have prefered a personal commitment to the issue, but, sadly, it was not to be.
The Rt Hon continued, “I hope you find his letter reassuring…” Reassuring ? What ? Am I some kind of emotionally incontinent complainant ? “…and helpful. However, please don’t hesitate to contact me again if I can be of further assistance.”
“Shale gas could solve the world’s energy problems : It’s anathema to environmentalists, but shale gas is a new fossil-fuel source that could power the world for centuries : By Christopher Booker 7:30PM BST 07 May 2011”
They’ve never had it so cold. The British have just shivered through another long, centrally heated winter, and people are receiving enormous gas bills. Social campaigners and parliamentarians are rightly concerned that a clutch of harsher winters and risingenergy costs could reverse gains made in tackling fuel poverty. The UK Government’s recent Budget announcement to reduce fuel poverty assistance payments is another blow to maintaining decent and warm homes for the vulnerable, the elderly and children. Proposals to cap the amount that energy companies can charge people in their bills is welcomed by some, but feared by others – as it could jeopardise energy company funding for the Green Deal – a free-to-the-consumer loan scheme for insulation and renewable energy installation. And there’s another problem waiting in the wings. Unlike the United States and Australia, the average British home doesn’t have air conditioning, and it costs real money to install it. If outsized summer heatwaves continue to pop up more frequently in Europe, UK households will face “cool poverty” in summer – a lack of cooling.
“Solar Power Discovery Dims Future of Photovoltaic Cells : Posted by Francis Rey on April 18, 2011 : University of Michigan researchers made a breakthrough discovery on the behavior of light, which could alter solar technology from now on. Professor Stephen Rand, Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Physics and Applied Physics, and William Fisher, an Applied Physics doctoral student, found out that light, when traveling [sic] through a nonconductive material, such as glass, at the right intensity can produce magnetic fields 100 million times stronger than previously deemed possible. During these conditions, the magnetic field has enough strength to equal a strong electric effect, producing an “optical battery” that leads to “a new kind of solar cell without semiconductors and without absorption to produce charge separation”, Rand said…”
When did Colonel Muammar Gaddafi learn of threats from the world’s major oil consumer countries against his rule ? Was it in early 2011 ? Or was it several years earlier ? On the public stage, he has been deliberately reduced to a figure of fun, and his message advising non-aggression and protection from aggression is being lost. He is now a desperate man :-
PRESS RELEASE : TV ECO CHAPLAIN TUMBLES HOUSE OF CREDIT CARDS
The Revd Peter Owen-Jones, the whole nation’s media chaplain, will be sharing from the heart at a Green Christian London conference ‘End of the Age of Thorns’ on 5th March 2011.
He will be opening up about a new relationship with money, and how we can survive the credit, jobs and services crunch by digging for our spiritual roots.
In his BBC TV odyssey, Britain’s favourite vicar tried living without his cheque book in the series ‘How to live a simple life’, and travelled the world to peer into the human soul in the fascinating ‘Around the World in 80 Faiths’.
Now he comes back down to Earth in central London, bringing his unique, accessible style of presentation, to share the good news of life after moneymaking, in an all-day conference organised by Christian Ecology Link.
The programme for the ‘End of the Age of Thorns’ features a wide range of talks and workshops asking questions about the ecology of money and life after mass marketing. What are the green shoots nurturing a new economics? Is there prosperity without growth? And can society grow up and leave consumerism behind?
“Christians ought to be distinctive as consumers. Our shopping bags should reflect our values.” (Professor Tim Cooper)
Sustainability expert Professor Tim Cooper will lead a group learning the fundamentals of Green Economics; Ashley Ralston will guide a process looking at shopping as if the planet mattered; and Ruth Jarman will host a workshop on greening up the day-to-day life of church communities.
“The church needs to consider why its members so readily succumb to high street temptations despite clear Biblical warnings about materialism. We cannot expect Christians to be immune from the psychological and socio-cultural pressures that lead to excessive consumption.” (Professor Tim Cooper)
END OF THE AGE OF THORNS : SURVIVING CONSUMERISM
Christian Ecology Link Conference: Saturday 5 March 2011, 11am to 5pm, St John’s Church, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8TY (opposite the entrance to Waterloo station)
Come and explore spiritual roots for a new economics, for our own humanity and all life on Earth. Engage with Peter Owen-Jones on a new relationship with money and how we can challenge the consumerist age we live in.
“Christians are not prepared to tolerate economic injustice, and work hard to make the system better. But there is an elephant in the room. We take endless economic growth of the system for granted. And we wonder why we are failing to stem the extinction of fifty species every day, greenhouse gas emissions are out of control, and our children have becomes pawns of the market. Economic growth has become a cancer on the earth, and an abuse of the image of God in us.” (CEL Chairman, Paul Bodenham)
“God did not create a world with infinite resources for humankind to plunder. He created a world with finite resources for us to nurture. Some people argue that technological advance will enable consumerism to persist. We would do well to note that God also created people with finite minds. Perhaps people will not work out solutions in time. What then? We must address people’s values, not just their minds.” (Professor Tim Cooper)
Peter Owen-Jones is a long-time supporter of CEL and a popular speaker. You will probably have seen at least one of his fascinating BBC TV series: ‘How to live a simple life’, ‘Around the World in 80 Faiths’, and ‘Extreme Pilgrim’.
He is a Church of England vicar in a parish near Lewes in East Sussex; writer of several books including Letters from an Extreme Pilgrim (2010) and Psalm: The World’s Finest Soul Poetry in a Contemporary Idiom (2009); and founder of the Arbory Trust, the first Christian woodland burial site.
Tim Cooper is Professor of Sustainable Design and Consumption at Nottingham Trent University, a founder member of CEL and former CEL Chairman. He is author of “Longer lasting products; alternatives to the throwaway society” (2010) and “Green Christianity” (1990).
“Green Economics” : Tim Cooper will run two different sessions combining input and discussion. Both sessions will be self-contained so you can go to both, or just one.
“Shopping as if the planet mattered” : Bring your own ideas to share, led by Ashley Ralston, CEL trustee and a director of Better Tomorrows.
“Greening the church in daily life” : Eco-congregations are not just for Sundays. They should give every member the chance to change their life. Come and discuss ideas and experiences that can help people start on a journey of a lifetime, including CEL’s ecocell programme, led by Ruth Jarman, CEL trustee and climate change campaigner.
“We should be no less distinctive in our consumption ethics as in our sexual ethics. Christianity is as much about showing distinctive love to third world suppliers by insisting on ‘fair trade’ goods as it is about showing distinctive love to our husbands and wives by being faithful.” (Professor Tim Cooper)
“Jesus was forthright about the ‘deceit of wealth’, and yet we’ve fallen for this one big time. There is an alternative, but like any therapy, the treatment will be painful. A lot of people want to be the place where that healing makes a start, but don’t know how. That is why we have launched ‘ecocell’, to bring people together to make a journey in discipleship to find freedom, for themselves, for society and, we hope, for the earth.” (CEL Chairman, Paul Bodenham)
Ambient, sustainable energy is all around us, and sooner or
later we will find the ways to make use of it for the good of all.
The following is an appropriately edited transcript of a
conversation on the Claverton Energy Research Group
forum online, and was written by Nick Balmer, a consultant
in renewable energy.
…The huge scale of the possible changes for all concerned is
causing all of the current Titans in the [energy] industry to deploy
the full force of the media [and their] PR [public relations] in an
attempt to manipulate the public and policy towards their own way
of thinking, or in such a way as to protect their own vested interests.
The great thing is that these issues are being aired out in the open,
and groups like [Claverton Energy Research Group forum] allow
people with knowledge of these affairs to debate these issues openly.
The big problem is that each of us has only a very detailed
understanding of some small fraction of the total issue.
Most of the public and government only has a very slight knowledge
of the total issue, and has had only limited access to ways to find out
in detail what is going on.
As Egypt is demonstrating today, everybody now has a voice and as
Wikileaks shows, sooner or later everything will come out into the
All of us are struggling to come to terms with this explosion of
access to knowledge.
It is quite clear that lots of bubbles are being burst as a result of
the Global Financial implosion and the huge expansion in available
Just as banking and property has been shown to be an unaffordable
Ponzi scheme and to be vastly over-inflated, UK energy policy is now
coming under huge scrutiny.
We can now compare our energy systems with other countries.
Due to the huge geological accident of fate, since the 1700’s in coal,
and 1970’s in oil and gas, we have been extremely fortunate in being
able to live way beyond the lifestyle standards of most of the World.
We have not had to adapt.
Other countries that didn’t have this advantage had to change over
Places like Denmark, Austria, Germany [and so on] have made huge
changes because they had less energy from fossil resources.
Now we have reached the peak or crunch point, we find ourselves well
behind those countries that had to adapt earlier.
Everybody is concentrating on the Capital cost of deploying per
MW [megawatt] and overlooks the cost of fuels.
The cost of fuels over time is massively more important than the
CAPEX [capital expenditure on investment].
So even if windfarms cost 20 times per MW or GW [gigawatt] more to
build than nuclear or coal or gas, in the scheme of things,
[wind power] is always going to win, because the fuel is free and
unlimited for centuries to come.
Similarly [solar power technologies], or even more effective,
household insulation and cutting energy use.
And yet the media and government are blinded by the barrage of PR
and media from the energy vested interests who are working with
every muscle to stop this coming out into the open.
I often meet financiers in my work trying to promote and support AD
[anaerobic digestion of biological waste for the production of
renewable methane], biomass, solar and wind projects.
I am always struggling to prove to them that I have an offtake [return
on investment] and the fuel supply. This is often really hard to do
[but] I only have to do this for seven to 12 years to make my business
cases stack up.
I was really depressed at the end of one such presentation and
discussion, when one broadly sympathetic banker who had turned me
down said that he was having even worse problems with largescale
How do you predict the price and supply of coal forward for 25 years
or more ?
It has jumped 17% in recent months.
How do you prove that you are going to have offtake for huge power
stations in future years ?
Demand dropped 8% in 2009.
How do you raise the equity or debt for a billion [pound] project when
banks don’t want to lend more than £30 million each ? Imagine how
many banks that would take ?
We have reached a tipping point in our economy, sustainability and
Yes, the existing mega-power companies are fighting as hard as
Mubarak today to hold onto power, but they represent the past just
as surely as he does.
Those companies can rejuvenate themselves, unlike the Egyptian
If they don’t, there are an increasingly large number of smaller and
more active players coming into the market.
The average household pays somewhere around £1,300 a year for
its heating and lighting.
The companies that come forward with a way to do that for £1,000 is
going to capture the market very quickly.
I have friends in Austria who only pay 65 Euros for services that I
pay £1,400 for.
They do this through insulation, triple glazing, solar and biomass energy.
Most [UK] households have less than £400 per year discretionary
disposable income. This prevents them making changes to their houses
they desperately want and know they need to make. This can
drop their energy demands hugely.
If somebody can unlock that Gordian Knot the benefits would be
enormous as there are something like 27 million households.
At a time when household debt is at an all-time high, incomes are
shrinking, and 40% live on ether government salaries, state
pensions or benefits.
Energy is a very high part of these households’ outgoings – if you
pay £1,300 a year and your house only brings in £11,000 to £20,000
A 50% increase in the £1,300 could bring great distress, and
possibly even civil unrest here.
The increases fossil power [companies] need to make their systems
bankable will increase energy bills. This will feed straight through into
government liabilities because 40% of us live on government payouts.
If government can drop the cost of heating and lighting quite easily
by £100 to £500 per household per year while at the same time
provide employment for hundreds of thousands of White Van men
cutting energy uses, doesn’t this make far more sense than building
unsustainable power stations that will have to be [bankrolled] by the
government, who will then have to buy back electricity at a price our
communities cannot stand ?
Project a similar calculation onto transport fuels and you get even
At $80 a barrel [of oil] industry is shrinking and relatively few
renewable fuel business cases work. At $100 a barrel most renewable
fuels can compete.
At $120 a barrel almost any alternative beats oil, and that is before
you start to look at issues like fuel security and the environment.
Although the battle is one of David and Goliath, or the Dinosaur and
those early mammals, between the new energy industries and the
existing vested energy industries, [it] has only one outcome.
It is only a matter of the co-lateral damage along the way.
Like Mubarak, it is clear they must go. Are they going to go
gracefully, or are they going to smash the place up first ?
An unidentified group has taken advantage of all the turmoil in Egypt, gone undercover, and attacked a gas pipeline, which means that supplies to politically moderate Jordan (and the more hardline Syria) will be cut off.
Who planned this ? It’s probably too early to say, but I can think of several possible answers to the question, and none of them are pretty.
“Gas pipeline to Jordan, Syria set ablaze in Egypt…Unless the pipe is repaired quickly, it could become a big problem for Jordan, a country already spending heavily in fuel subsidies, a Jordanian senior official said….”
“IEA reveals fossil fuel subsidies top $550bn : Report warns kick-backs for fossil fuels are skewing energy markets and holding back renewables investment : By Andrew Donoghue 08 June 2010 : The global fossil fuel industry currently enjoys subsidies worth more than $550bn (£382bn) a year, according to a major new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) that will increase pressure on world leaders to phase out fossil fuel subsidies ahead of a crucial meeting of the G20 group of nations later this month. The research, which was released at a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Busan, South Korea over the weekend, reveals fossil fuel subsidies amounted to $557bn in 2008 – up from $342bn in 2007. Enormous subsidies are skewing energy markets and inhibiting the uptake of more sustainable energy sources, the IEA warned. “The IEA analysis highlights that the price signal from subsidy phase-out would provide an incentive to use energy more efficiently, and trigger switching from fossil fuels to other fuels that emit fewer GHGs,” the report said…”
“Fossil Fuel Subsidies Are 12 Times Support for Renewables, Study Shows : By Alex Morales – 29 July 2010 : Global subsidies for fossil fuels dwarf support given to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and biofuels, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said. Governments last year gave $43 billion to $46 billion of support to renewable energy through tax credits, guaranteed electricity prices known as feed-in tariffs and alternative energy credits, the London-based research group said today in a statement. That compares with the $557 billion that the International Energy Agency last month said was spent to subsidize fossil fuels in 2008. “One of the reasons the clean energy sector is starved of funding is because mainstream investors worry that renewable energy only works with direct government support,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of New Energy Finance. “This analysis shows that the global direct subsidy for fossil fuels is around ten times the subsidy for renewables.”…”
“G20 agrees on phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies : 25 September 2009 : The world’s largest economies agreed on Friday to phase out subsidies for oil and other carbon dioxide-spewing fossil fuels in the “medium term” as part of efforts to combat global warming. But Group of 20 leaders at a two-day summit meeting here did not advance discussions about financial aid for developing nations dealing with climate change, exacerbating concerns that U.N. talks to form a new climate pact are in peril. Some $300 billion a year is spent worldwide to subsidize fuel prices, boosting demand in many nations by keeping prices artificially low and, thus, leading to more emissions. The agreement — backed by all of the G20 including Russia, India and China — was a victory for U.S. President Barack Obama, whose credentials for fighting climate change have been marred by dimming prospects that the U.S. Senate will pass a bill to reduce emissions before the December U.N. meeting…”
Seems like it’s a done deal…apart from an issue that should never be forgotten in all global negotiations : economic development.
India, for example, has a policy to keep down the price of diesel fuel – a strategy to promote economic development. They won’t be ready to cut subsidies :-
“Diesel subsidy withdrawal unaffordable, says minister : 04 February 2011 : New Delhi: India cannot afford to withdraw the subsidy on diesel and it has to continue till poverty disappears from the country, union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah said on Friday. Speaking at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit here, Abdullah said India gives a lot of subsidy on diesel and, if withdrawn, it will only increase inflation. ‘Diesel subsidy has to continue till poverty disappears from the country,’ he said while reacting to Canadian parliamentarian Stephane Dion’s appeal to phase out diesel subsidy…”
The Americans and the Europeans calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies could be interpreted as a lever to block the economic development of the Global South – as much of the price-fixing is conducted by developing nations.
It could be argued that the United States and “her allies” want to retain economic dominance – what better way than blocking economic progress in the Global South and making it appear to be a Climate Change measure ?
In addition, much of the financial support for energy projects in the Global South is indirectly awarded to the fossil fuel industry via the international aid cash coming from developed nations and the international agencies. And the fossil fuel producers and engineering companies are not going to be willing to let that source of revenue dry up.
If international aid for energy projects gets stopped, so does a lot of economic development until “technology transfer” of Renewable Energy can be ramped up :-
“23 November 2009 : Andrew Mitchell: Ending Labour’s support for polluting energy projects : …we must end the use of the Export Credit Guarantee Department to promote ‘dirty’ fossil fuel power stations around the world, and instead make it a champion of green technology…”
“Lord Green told: Britain’s exports must stop harming people and planet : 24 January 2011 : New report details string of ‘dodgy deals’ at export support body : As new Trade Minister Stephen Green embarks on a national tour to promote British exports, Jubilee Debt Campaign warns that Britain’s export support body is not up to the job : A report released by the organisation today exposes a history of backing projects by large corporations in a handful of controversial sectors. The projects have led to human rights abuses, environmental destruction and corruption in the developing world, and often failed to deliver even on their stated aims. Britain’s export promotion body, the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD), has also undermined Britain’s international development goals by leaving countries like Kenya, Vietnam, Indonesia and Pakistan with £2 billion of debts from failed export deals – 96% of Third World Debt ‘owed’ to the UK today…The Coalition government has failed to act on its pledge to end fossil fuel subsidies through the ECGD, despite taking action to beef up the Department’s role…”
The key global development question remains – is cutting fossil fuel subsidies yet another (underhand) way of reducing international aid budgets ?
To deflect criticism, the spotlight will probably be turned on countries like Iran :-
“Getting the Prices Right – Cutting Subsidies Could Save Billions : 8 June 2010 : Global fossil fuel consumption subsidies in 2008 were much higher than previously estimated and totalled USD557 billion, according to IEA analysis…The IEA has undertaken an extensive survey to identify countries that offer subsidies that reduce prices of fossil fuels below levels that would prevail in an undistorted market, thus leading to higher levels of consumption than would occur in their absence. The survey identified 37 countries and it is estimated that these represent over 95% of global subsidized fossil‐fuel consumption…The IEA analysis has revealed that fossil fuel consumption subsidies amounted to $557 bn in 2008. This represents a big increase from $342 bn in 2007…Since 2008, a number of countries – including China, Russia, India and Indonesia – have made notable reforms to bring their domestic energy prices in line with world prices…The country with the highest subsidies in 2008 was Iran at $101 billion, or around a third of the country’s annual central budget. Chronic under‐pricing of domestic energy in Iran has resulted in enormous subsidies and a major burden on the economy that is forcing reliance on imports of refined products. Iran’s leadership came to agreement in 2010 on a sweeping plan for energy subsidy reform; however, steep economic, political and social hurdles will need to be overcome if Iran is to realize lasting reform…”
Obama says we have to drop fossil fuel subsidies. The next thing you know, the inaccuracies start flying :-
“Manchin claims coal “doesn’t get a penny of subsidies” : In fact, the industry gets trillions of pennies : 4 February 2011 : Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), the newest member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, claimed today that the coal industry doesn’t receive any government subsidies, unlike every other form of energy. Brad Johnson debunks this absurd claim…”
“Singing in the Rain : 26 January 2011 : In the past 2 – 3 weels I received a deluge of nasty-language messages saying that I should be fired, deported, run over, etc. Such a sudden burst of malice seems unlikely to be spontaneous.”
“Perhaps recent articles and internet stories provided stimulation, e.g., an article by Pat Michaels in the Washington Times and a statement by Richard S. Courtney on a blog. Michaels distorts the facts and uses quotes out of context. The Courtney statement […] mischaracterizes my testimony.”
“…The essence of my testimony, in both trials, was that the evidence for human-caused climate change is clear. I emphasized that the UK government, the fossil fuel industry, and the utility EON were aware of the effect of continued coal-burning on the future of young people. But instead of addressing the problem effectively, they engaged in greenwash…”
Over at MediaLens, the two (three) Davids are blanking the “every little bit helps” approach :-
“U.S. Call to Preserve Copenhagen Accord Puts Climate Conference on Edge : By Stacy Feldman at SolveClimate : Mon Nov 29, 2010 : Many poor countries want to scrap the three-page Copenhagen agreement that the U.S. wants to preserve : CANCUN, MEXICO — The United States said Monday it would not back down on its plan to turn the unpopular Copenhagen Accord into a final global warming deal, setting the first day of already fragile UN climate talks in Cancun on edge. “What we’re seeking here in Cancun is a balanced package of decisions that would build on this agreement … [and] preserve the balance of the accord,” Jonathan Pershing, lead U.S. climate negotiator in Cancun, told reporters at the talks…”
“Cancún climate change summit: America plays tough : US adopts all-or-nothing position in Cancún, fuelling speculation of a walk-out if developing countries do not meet its demands : Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 30 November 2010 : America has adopted a tough all-or-nothing position at the Cancún climate change summit, fuelling speculation of a walk-out if developing countries do not meet its demands. At the opening of the talks at Cancún, the US climate negotiator, Jonathan Pershing, made clear America wanted a “balanced package” from the summit. That’s diplomatic speak for a deal that would couple the core issues for the developing world – agreement on climate finance, technology, deforestation – with US demands for emissions actions from emerging economies and a verifiable system of accounting for those cuts. In a briefing with foreign journalists in Washington, the chief climate envoy, Todd Stern, was blunt. “We’re either going to see progress across the range of issues or we’re not going to see much progress,” said Stern. “We’re not going to race forward on three issues and take a first step on other important ones. We’re going to have to get them all moving at a similar pace.” In the run-up to the Cancún talks, Stern has said repeatedly that America will not budge from its insistence that fast-emerging economies such as India and China commit to reducing emissions and to an inspection process that will verify those actions. The hard line – which some in Washington have seen as ritual diplomatic posturing – has fuelled speculation that the Obama administration could be prepared to walk out of the Cancún talks…”
An “inspection process” ? Agreeing to the same use of satellite snooping and the threat of the penalties of economic sanctions as applied to the fabled Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and the current pincer on Iran ?
I can’t quite see China agreeing to that.
If we’re thinking about paranoia, who should be monitoring whom ?
The Clean Development Mechanism should have been more closely monitored, but it wasn’t, and it’s collapsed in a big pile – fake credits, false accreditation, poor success rate. Where has the verification process been, there ?
New schemes for “climate finance” will essentially involve creating debt for Climate Change mitigation and adaptation projects in developing and emerging economies. Why more debt ? To prop up the ailing industrialised economies. And allow the Bank sharks to feed.
And “technology transfer” ? That’s all about intellectual property rights – America owning all the rights, and China and India and so on owning nothing, of course. What great technologies have parasitical American companies been keeping hidden away up their sleeves to sell to the Chinese under a Climate deal ? Or are they just rubbish deals, like expensive and untested Carbon Capture and Storage ?
“Deforestation” ? Virtually all proposed schemes under the REDD banner (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) include an element of emissions trading – just the kind of offsetting that large, dirty American companies want to buy to justify carrying on with Business As Usual. Protecting the rainforests ? Nah – just finding another way to make money for the Carbon Traders, and protect the Oil, Gas and Coal industries of the industrialised regions.
What is needed is for the industrialised nations to commit to domestic emissions reductions, not continued attempts to coerce other countries to make cuts that can be traded.
Nobody has learned anything in the last year. The same ridiculous non-options are on the table, and nobody’s biting.
“Cancún hears call for ‘tapestry of compromise’ : By Fiona Harvey in London : November 29 2010 : Governments meeting to negotiate an agreement on global warming this week must learn to compromise, the UN’s top official on climate change said. Christiana Figueres told the opening meeting of the talks, being held in Cancún, Mexico, that only through giving up entrenched positions could countries at the talks hope to find common ground. “A tapestry with holes will not work,” she told officials from more than 180 countries. “The holes can only be filled with compromise.” … For the UN, therefore, Cancún is a test of its ability to carry forward the negotiations, which have been taking place for two decades. Officials are also hoping to make progress on vital issues – such as financial assistance for poor countries to cut their emissions and adapt to the effects of global warming – and a possible deal on preserving the world’s forests…”
Hmm. Let’s take a quick look at what these two highlighted proposals are :-
1. “…financial assistance for poor countries to cut their emissions…”
This is being worked up in a bunch of vehicles, including the initiative that David Cameron writes so emotionally about, the Capital Markets Climate Initiative :-
“Use the profit motive to fight climate change : The prime minister argues that there are huge gains to be made from a green economy : David Cameron, The Observer, Sunday 28 November 2010 : …I passionately believe that by recasting the argument for action on climate change away from the language of threats and punishments and into positive, profit-making terms, we can have a much wider impact. That’s why this government has set up the Capital Markets Climate Initiative – to help trigger a new wave of green investment in emerging economies and make the City of London the global capital of the fast-growing green investment sector…”
So, it’s not donations, or even grants or other forms of aid – it’s debt – debt that’s no longer possible to create in the Credit Crunched developed nations.
It’s probably not quite what Nicholas Stern was thinking of when he said that $100 billion needs to be made available to the Global South in the next decade for Adaptation to Climate Change.
It’s certainly not the redistribution of global wealth that the rightwingers fear from the great “eco-socialist conspiracy”.
It’s an attempt to shore up the corroding economies of the Global North by putting the Global South into further debt.
Score : 0 out of 20.
2. “…a possible deal on preserving the world’s forests…”
This is the policy proposal known as REDD – Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, which most people translate as meaning (a) cut down some of the forest for economic purposes in order to (b) protect the rest.
“Oil companies and banks will profit from UN forest protection scheme : Redd scheme designed to prevent deforestation but critics call it ‘privatisation’ of natural resources : John Vidal, environment editor, in Cancun, guardian.co.uk, Sunday 28 November 2010 : Some of the world’s largest oil, mining, car and gas corporations will make hundreds of millions of dollars from a UN-backed forest protection scheme, according to a new report from the Friends of the Earth International…”
Score : -40 out of a possible 20
With these kind of compromises on the table, do you think the Global South will be any more willing to sign onto any “Accord” any more than they were at Copenhagen ?
Unless and until corporate interests are removed from the United Nations Climate Change treaty, the world’s poorest, their habitats are our futures are being betrayed.
I learned about various views on social and positive impact investment, and about elements of the Coalition Government’s “Big Society” and the proposed Green Investment Bank.
Ethical Investment appears to have come a long way since I put some money into a Fair Trade company many moons ago, where I knew I would never see a dividend, or even be able to sell the shares at some point.
Grown up people in sharp suits and big name frocks now do moral banking, and often reap a healthy return on their investment – “doing well” as well as “doing good”, as Adam Ognall of UK Sustainable Investment and Finance says.
I was challenged to think about what faith communities do with their money around a month ago, all precipitated by a conversation I had with Martin Palmer of the Alliance of Conservation and Religions, and then I heard something at a recent meeting that caused me to investigate a little…
but the Church Commissioners report in the last year has confirmed that the Church of England still holds shares in companies such as BP, responsible for ecological devastation of the Gulf of Mexico :-
Groups such as the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility and National Ethical Investment Week are all active in encouraging communities to put their money where their mouth is – and the faith communities have a very large amount to play with :-
With the launch of the Green Investment Bank – even though severely under-capitalised – there is a chance to tie up the questions to the answers.
If every consumer choice were a green choice, there would be no environmental problem. The only way to reach that point is for every contract, every stock and share, every procurement order, every transport vehicle, every energy source and every material resource to be green.
The choices that companies make in the business they conduct is based on the premise that people want what they sell so much they are prepared to invest directly in them as well as buy their products.
There are several levers for change here. Investment, such as pension funds, if moved in bulk, can have a de-securitisation effect on unsustainable business models. Not so much a “boycott” as a “landslide” of change.
The faith communities have already proved that they can change international commerce with the Fair Trade movement. Now it’s time for the Green Investment movement.
Scientists are proverbially poor at communication, but we will eventually be able to explain to you what is happening to the Earth in a way that you will understand.
You need to give some time to the data, to the arguments. You need to read the significant research papers, learn how to read graphs, learn the acronyms, abbreviations, technical terms.
You will need to be able to weigh in your mind the significance of probabilities, the risks of extremes, the trends, the changing patterns.
After a while, you will start to reappraise the evidence, and start looking into the data and see the conclusions for yourself.
You will begin to appreciate the strong line of reasoning, and come to be in awe of the minds of many who work on Climate Change.
I’ve become impressed by the body of scientific evidence, that’s why I will always be aligned with the Climate Change science community.
We’re not going anywhere. We’re here, and we’re right. There has already been significant change in the Earth’s climate due to humankind’s mining-to-burn activities, and the projections are for further, possibly very dangerous change.
The scientists know what the problems are, and what the engineering solutions are. Some companies/corporations, economists and politicans and sadly even some compromised “environmentalists” promote non-solutions like carbon pricing, Carbon Taxation, Carbon Trading, Carbon Capture (and Storage), GM Crops, Nuclear Power, geoengineering – but the academies of scientists are telling you they won’t work, or won’t solve all the problems.
What is needed is wholesale removal of Fossil Fuels from the global economy in order to prevent further deterioration and disruption in the global climatic conditions. Either BP, Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil hang up their boots forever, or they need to embrace new clean energies (not Nuclear Power) to stay in business.
Oil, gas and coal depletion in the production facilities of those countries that are national players will mean that they will go bust, because a consistently high price for Fossil Fuels is not supportable, because the global economy is so Fossil Fuel-dependent currently. This is both a buyer’s market and a seller’s market, so the price will be governed by the operation of this two-sided cartel, not by the theories of “scarcity economics”.
Either Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, China, Venezuela and so on are on their way to extreme poverty, or they will embrace new clean energies (not Nuclear Power) to stay economically developed.
Meanwhile, the project of empirical scientific enquiry continues apace, and even though rich fossil fuel businesses are financing doubt, even though people with pension funds in mining pour scorn on Climate Change science, and even though the mainstream media can’t recognise uneducated propaganda when they meet it; you need to trust the intellectual community of Climate Change science researchers.
Stop listening to accusations of malpractice, dodgy data, weak methods, poor models. Do you really know what you are talking about when you pass judgement on the scientific community ? Who told you that scientists were wrong ? Can you really trust the people who tell you not to trust the scientific community ? Do you have the right or the authority to lay somebody else’s fabricated blame at the door of those whose whole lives are devoted to discovering the truth ?
But you never reckoned a Conservative (if Coalition) Government would do it.
Everybody knew that the Carbon Reduction Commitment was going to reduce some people to tears. Something so labyrinthine was never going to work. But now it appears that this New Labour “challenge” is going to morph into a Carbon Tax.
The basic idea behind the New Labour Carbon Reduction Commitment or CRC was to encourage medium-sized businesses to lower their Carbon Dioxide emissions.
Everybody was to fully disclose their emissions the first year, and then make a report on their emissions in the following years.
At the start, they were told they would be judged on a “league table” of performance. At the start of a measuring period they would pay into a common pot according to their emissions levels, and then if they performed better than other companies in reducing emissions, they would get money back out of the pot.
But George Osborne has just waved the “league table” magically away, it seems. All revenues from the CRC will be considered as public money.
OK, OK, so all firms using more than 6000 megawatthours of power a year would be forced to take part, and maybe large companies do need a negative incentive to seriously consider how to keep their electricity use down – they seem to waste a lot, after all.
But what about those companies and organisations that don’t qualify for the CRC because they are already part of the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) ?
Any player that’s large enough to be under the EU ETS scheme gets their Carbon permits for free, and can trade them for cash if they use less than their entitlement.
OK, so in 2013 EU ETS Carbon permits will be under an auction scheme, but between now and then there is a huge disparity in the way that medium- and large-sized companies will be treated.
In ETS ? Free permits until 2013.
In CRC ? Obliged to pay a Carbon Tax.
“…John Alker, director of policy and communications at the UK Green Business Council, spoke for many across the low carbon economy when he said he was surprised by the decision. “The announcement that government is keeping the money from Carbon Reduction Commitment allowance sales has come out of the blue,” he said. “It may make the scheme simpler but this is something you’ve got to consult with industry on before plunging into.” Speaking to BusinessGreen.com, Climate Minister Greg Barker said the decision had not been taken lightly and had been made as a result of the ” catastrophic” deficit inherited from the labour government. He admitted that the changes would increase costs for businesses, but argued that the structure of the CRC meant that “progressive businesses that act to improve energy efficiency will be able to minimise their exposure”. Harry Manisty, environmental tax specialist at PwC, said businesses would effectively view the change as an additional tax, which may cause carbon price discrepancies with the EU emissions trading scheme…”
My guess is that this ploy is the opening salvo in a game of political ping pong that will ultimately destroy implementation of the CRC.
Already there have been wars and rumours of wars that people won’t play this particular emissions cutting game. For example, the start date of various parts of the scheme have been set back, and there are reports that organisations have over-assessed their Carbon Dioxide emissions now so they can look good later when they “cut” them.
George Osborne has served the first (wrecking) ball. What will the response of business be ?
An incomplete recording of the BBC Horizon programme “The Death of the Oceans ?” narrated by David Attenborough is below.
It’s about Global Warming, of course (and overfishing, and sonar making whales deaf – which is the bit that’s missing at the end). But it’s also about Global Warming’s evil twin – Ocean Acidification.
Believe what you will about the Anthropogenic component of Global Warming, and I know some of you resist the Science as if it were a hairy, sweaty, alcoholic dentist threatening to pull your teeth without Novocaine, but there’s no way you can deny that the increasing concentration of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere, most of it a direct result of humankind’s burning of Fossil Fuels, is turning the Oceans into a giant bucket of fizzy soda, and is threatening marine life, which is a huge risk to the whole of Life on Earth.
The only solution is to stop burning so much Coal, Oil and Gas. Really, that’s the only way.
Oh, you can fight this inevitability with every brain circuit you have, trying to force others to believe that everything’s still OK, that the Earth is not dangerously heating up, that Life on Land and in the Oceans is not on the cusp of mass extinction, and that Progress is just fine, and Economic Recovery, or Shiny New Technology, or Geoengineering will save us, but one day you will understand. You will accept. The global systems of production, transport and agriculture have to change. The Carbon-based Industrial Age will be gone in only a few decades, only a couple of hundred years after it started.
You can relax. Everything will be fine – eventually. When we have Wind Farms on every ridge top, Solar Power plants in every desert, Geothermal stations in our Town Halls, Combined Heat and Power running on Biomass in every street, Marine Power-gathering machines, Organic food, small electric cars, useful 24 hours-in-a-day networks of electricity-powered public transportation. The time is coming for the new human world to be born – and it will be green, clean and less energy-hungry than before.
It’s going to be a bit of a traumatic birth and the Climate Medics are working hard in the delivery suite, but soon, very soon, Green Investment will see the light of day – those who are wealthy will, as one, put their finances towards Renewable Energy and Energy-efficient machines and Energy Demand Management, real assets, with real returns on investment, and the future will be secured.
What we want is real, long-lasting assets, created by public money stimulus, and private capital investment, investing in the future, a sustainable future – Renewable Energy, and Energy Efficiency measures : on all buildings, fuel efficiency for all vehicles permitted to drive, machine and appliance efficiency.
Not all investment is good investment. There’s no point in printing any more money if it’s going to be used to turn valuable raw materials into waste in a one-way process, keeping greenhouse gas emissions high, which increases the risk of very dangerous Climate Change.
We need to be spending our way out of Global Warming – and that means coming up with a plan to, amongst other things, close all the coal-fired electricity generation plants, reduce the fuel used in transportation and transit, and stop heat escaping from buildings in the cold season.
Any plan that does not include these objectives is a waste of time and energy, literally.