What is the shortest route to a low carbon civilisation?

It seems to me that in the UK we have missed a few tricks over the last decade to make progress towards a low carbon society. There have been endless debates, many consultations, numerous ministers, a handful of quangoes, and what is the result? Not much.

– One feed-in-tariff which is providing a boom for pv manufacturers overseas

– A putative Green Deal which will take about five years to start biting

– a trickle of windfarms that make it through the exhausting legislative process that is designed to avoid development rather than favour it

– a general awareness and conviction that ‘something must be done about this climate business, but nothing that stands in the way of us getting on with our day-to-day lives’

– not much trust in the science behind climate change risks, thanks to the willingness of the UK media to print the tiny amount of contrary opinions as ‘the other side of the coin’ as though it has the same value as the mountain of evidence in favour.

It would appear that this is simply too big a job for politicians and too difficult for the mainstream media to handle or understand. Our politicians and others failed completely to deliver a dealat Copenhagen, and it is likely that they will fail again in Mexico. Few, if any, of them will be willing to offer big climate mitigation or adaptation promises that will worry their ill informed electorates and lose them their positions of power in the next round of elections.

I am coming to believe that this issue is too important to be left to the Government of the day, and that climate change action should be above Government in the way that the financial markets are above Governments in many countries. Given the recent performance of the markets perhaps that is a poor example, but it will have to do. Perhaps international cooperation on disease or disaster relief are better examples.

Governments are well equipped to deal with the changing needs of technology, taxation, defence and education as all of these are subject to rapid changes due to the impacts of opinion, age, consumers, foreign affairs and so on. The issues in these areas tend to change in a span of five to ten years. Climate change is a subject with a span of hundreds of years, and it is the first truly global issue, apart from health, that the worlds’ governments have had to deal with since World War II.  Because it is a slow burning problem with uncertain outcomes, traditional Governments have demonstrated that they are completely unable to deal with it.

My proposal (a modest one I think you will agree) is that we who are concerned by this lack of progress work to take this problem out of the hands of Governments and into the hands of an international Climate Commission with independent bodies to represent it in each country, mirroring the structure of the World Health Organisation, or the United Nations. We need to persuade each country Government who joins the’ ICC’ to devolve their sustainability and energy policies to their national branch of the organisation. Governments would be set carbon budgets for every five year period by the national body, the budgets would be coordinated by the international body. Once set in motion, individual Governments would have no authority to interfere with the activity of the national branch, other than having oversight of its activities. This is the only way that I can see that we can guarantee the necessary carbon dioxide emission  reductions along with other greenhouse gases.

(I know that there is no chance of any of this happening, but I wanted to get my thoughts on the subject out in the open, after all that is what a blog is for.)

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One thought on “What is the shortest route to a low carbon civilisation?

  1. You’ve only got to see the Arctic oil rush that is underway to see that its a most unlikely development. But I do agree that democracy as practiced in the West seems totally unequipped to deal with a problem like climate change. People don’t vote for hair shirts.

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