16 Sep 2008

Now 99 months to avoid disaster: free market is not the answer

While I was away a new project was launched: 'one hundred months' - that's the time we have to stop the climate system 'tipping'...

Photo: Randwick woods

"From today, Friday 1 August 2008, We may only have one hundred months before the earth's climate system could 'tip'...One hundred months to deliver committed action. Make every month count."

I would strongly urge reading The Guardian article that launched this project - it covers the reasons why and some of the ways we need to act - most worryingly they have been very cautious in their calculations - some consider we have less time - I hope this will spur folk on to act: www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/aug/01/climatechange.carbonemissions

I also came across the Earth Clock - let us hope it also acts as motivator to remind us all of the limited time we have to make positive change. Watch population growth, CO2 emissions, oil depletion, desertification and more all on one screen and all in real time: www.poodwaddle.com/clocks3.htm

Locally Gloucestershire is alive with actions that are about tackling climate change - the interest in the Open Homes event at the weekend was overwhelming - I've also just been sent a link to Cathy Green in Cheltenham who has put this video up from the Earth Day in May:

Free market is not the answer

I was talking about all the positive steps that were taking place but that there was still a need for much more urgency with a guy I met yesterday - however like many people - and indeed politicians from the three main parties - he still seem to believe that the free market will somehow protect people from ecological disaster and solve the energy crisis. In a recent plenary chaired by campaigner and journalist Mark Lynas at the Campaign Against Climate Change International Climate Forum, Green MEP Dr Lucas said that political leaders can no longer commit to endless free market economic growth, then wring their hands about climate change.

Here is some of what she says that I copy here because this factor still seems to be missing from many folks analysis of the situation and at least starts to illustrate why the free market is not going to solve the situation: “Climate change is only one factor in a whole series of challenges we are facing, along with approaching fossil fuel shortages and rising food prices – all of which highlight the fact that the way we live is simply unsustainable. And there is a real limit to what the markets can do, especially where they rely on ‘green’ initiatives by big companies with inconsistent environmental track records. The booming free market, which has played a huge part in the rapid generation of damaging climate emissions, cannot stop climate change on its own.

“Shell, for example, likes to boast of its environmental credentials, yet it invests on average just 1% of its total capital investment in renewable energy each year, compared with around 70% looking for yet more dwindling oil and gas. It recently withdrew from the London Array wind energy project, one of the most ambitious renewable projects in Europe because the market, without sufficient government regulation or incentives, simply didn't make it sufficiently attractive.

“Leaving everything to the free market is too slow, and too unpredictable - not least because the true environmental and social costs of production aren't factored into prices. We need urgent political action, and a political will that has so far been conspicuous by its absence across the world, if we are to reduce the chances of having to suffer the worst impacts of climate change.

“Sadly, at the moment we need it most, government action is unpopular and out of fashion, and there is very little sign that any government anywhere in the world has grasped the scale or the urgency of the task we face. Under this Labour government, despite all its climate rhetoric, greenhouse gas emissions have risen. Any government which, on the one hand, recommends a massive growth in airport capacity and gives the go-ahead to Heathrow expansion, while also committing to more coal fired power stations, then on the other, aims for a massive reduction in carbon emissions by Central Government has an absolutely key role to play in establishing a mandatory policy framework - based on a combination of regulatory and fiscal policy in line with the principles of contraction and convergence, and with equal per capita emission rights - to enable everyone to make the urgent and ambitious changes necessary."

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