Friday, 30 October 2009

Climate change: Angela, put your hand in your pocket

It seems that although the UK and Scandinavia are doing well to try and cover poorer countries' contribution to the anti climate change program, the Germans are reluctant to pay up. Full story here.

Come on! We need to be united across Europe and stop squabbling ahead of Copenhagen. If we're not as Europeans, and we're the greenest of the lot, how on earth are we going to convince the US or China to move on this?

Copenhagen is a big deal, for all of us. Particularly for my two year-old daughter, who's going to have to live with the decisions they make.


  1. Of course there are big decisins to be made however i would imagine that most people in darlington have concerns which are much closer to home. Unemployment, potential tax rises and cuts in services will make or break the next election for each party.
    i dont hink i am alone in being extremely sceptical about these conferences, as all decisions seem to end up with higher tax with no appreciable differnce being made to the environment. Plus of course on Britain seems to fulfil its obligations, despite the fact that whatever we do will have little to no effect on a worldwide scale.

  2. Ian, I'd agree that the concerns of local voters could well be other ones in the middle of a recession, and I'm not saying it should be the main focus of a general election campaign on the streets of Darlington (having had the pleasure of fighting a general election before in an unwinnable seat, I've a good idea of how down-to-earth people's concerns are).

    On the other hand, I also firmly believe this to be an issue of overriding importance, which it's right and proper for a potential candidate to have a view on.

    While it's certainly frustrating to see the effort that can go into international summits only to achieve a pleasing form of words, right now I think there's is a real opportunity, as well as an almost unprecedented amount of public pressure surrounding an international summit, to actually do something.

    We are on course with targets, you're right, which I'm pleased about, and it's also about setting an example through that. But I believe our summit goal needs to be more than this. As a medium-sized global power, we do have more than a little influence to bring to bear on other governments to get in line, on an issue which, without international cooperation, will always be impossible to solve.

    I believe we've got to take that initiative, and really push in Copenhagen.

  3. Rob,
    There is little doubt as to the public support for the projects which make a clear improvement to the environment. Re-cycling, house insultaion and energy effecient cars are a "no-brainer" for most. (though the environmental benefits of the current electric cars are less straight-forward)
    Where i believe public support will really struggle is where no clearly defined benefit can be judged. For instance i understand that that flight taxes have just gone up again and will continue to do so into the future. These obviously increase the cost of flying to all but what is the objective? to make flying accessible only to the rich? where does the tax go? (if it could be shown as ringfenced to go into research into more effecient aero engines then their implementation may stand scrutiny , but i somehow doubt it!)

    Many people i am afraid look at green taxes as just another cash-cow for the government and that it in fifty yrs time we will still be abiding by all sorts of co2 agreements (costing bilions to the economy) whilst the new big players on the world stage (india and china) carry on their merry way, ignoring all such restrictions that are not their national interest.

  4. Ianh, I must admit to being quite cool on the flying taxes, apart from anything it seems a little unworkable and lacking accountability (how do I match up the additonal cost I pay to the actual benefit accrued to the environment at the other side - is there a "global audit office"?)

    By the way, if India and China are not brought into line way before the 50-year horizon you mention we will be in deep, deep trouble. Most scientists really don't believe we've got that long.

  5. Carbon agreements or no, the costs of sticking with a high-carbon economy will hit as fuel and food prices aren't going to come down without a shift to renewables and a relocalisation of food production (more carbon is emitted from our current food chain than from flying when you consider the effect of transporting food around the world...)

    Are you going to The Wave, by any chance, Rob? This event takes place in London on December 5th. Darlington Friends of the Earth are planning a trip down. We're also involved in screening the film, The Age of Stupid, at the Arts Centre, which we hope all local policymakers will attend.

  6. James, you're right that the food chain involving non-local produce clocks up the carbon footprint like nobody's business, and that fuel prices will end up sky-high as fossil fuels deplete. However, in the short term I'm not sure I'd agree with food prices being higher, the real current problem is that it actually costs LESS to produce in the developing world and ship it, and this alignment of incentives needs to be changed if we are ever going to accomplish in-country production.

    Sadly I probably won't be at the Wave, I have to keep it free as it's the day of the hustings meeting in Darlington. The Age of Stupid I saw a couple of months back and thought it very good, although I think Fanny Armstrong goes a little too far on a couple of issues. But what is most impressive for me is what she has achieved on a shoestring budget with little more than a bunch of really committed people (just like a Labour election campaign, really).

    Anyway, good luck with the screening, James - great idea. If I'm in Darlington that night I'll drop by.

  7. On costs, perhaps I was confusing the "true cost" - both on communities and the environment in the developing world - with the costs for TNCs and consumers in the developed world. The rise in fuel prices led very quickly to a rise in food prices - and in parts of the world where food and fuel make up the greater part of consumer spending, that had a devastating effect.

    I wonder what issues you disagree with Franny Armstrong on? I notice that when she appeared on Newsnight there was much criticism of her anti-capitalist views - I suspect this might be your bone of contention - but to me it seems reasonable to suggest that capitalist enterprises have traditionally been less able to internalise environmental and social costs incurred whilst operating, because of the primary goal being the need to maximise profits.

    Age of Stupid was something of a social enterprise - investors are getting some of their money back, but it is nowhere near the typical set-up for the film industry. I don't think we should be afraid to make clear our views about business - that we want to see people put before profit, and we want to see the benefits shared. Labour's problem in the eyes of former members and supporters is that it fell for the promises of the capitalists, rather than recalling its traditional critique of the imperfect nature of markets and the need for strong protection for workers and the extension of democratic participation in the economy. A lot of the post-crisis thinking (the Labour Future essays, for example) is looking again to the values and achievements of cooperative and mutual enterprise - I truly think this is the way to go.


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