Monthly Archives: February 2010

The limits to environmentalism – Part 2

Posted by Matthew Lockwood

In the second of two posts, Political Climate takes a critical look at an example of the new anti-growth literature, Growth Isn’t Possible: Why we need a new economic direction by Andrew Simms and Victoria Johnson at the New Economics Foundation

Growth isn’t possible (GiP) does raise profoundly serious issues about the limits to economic growth and the need for urgent decarbonisation of energy systems. But part 1 argued that NEF’s approach is seriously weakened by the fudging of energy consumption and carbon emissions in the report, its thin understanding economic growth and its dismissal of innovation.

A third weakness about GiP is Continue reading

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The limits to environmentalism – Part 1

Posted by Matthew Lockwood

Environmentalists have always had a problem with economic growth. In the crisis ridden 1970s, the narrative was about the Limits to Growth set by natural resources. In 1980, ecologist Paul Ehrlich made (and lost) a bet with economist Julian Simon that supplies of a number of different metals used in industry would run out and their prices would skyrocket.

There are now similar strands of thought in the peak oil movement. However, this time round the green critique of growth looks a bit more compelling, partly because of the step change in pressure on biodiversity, but of course most of all because of climate change. We all know that carbon emissions are at one level driven by economic growth. Human development is currently abutting a range of biological limits not least the atmosphere’s carbon carrying capacity, which is seriously overstretched. So maybe this time the environmentalists really are right.

Certainly the New Economics Foundation thinks so. Continue reading

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Su Wei Says No Emissions Cap

As if responding to yesterday’s post here on Political Climate, chief negotiator Su Wei (pictured) has confirmed that China will not accept emissions caps in the foreseeable future. He restated China’s commitment to its pre-Copenhagen pledge to reduce emissions intensity.

It really doesn’t matter whether you support or are critical of China’s position. You may think China can do more and should at least sign up to a global halving of emissions by 2050. China has weighed up its options, looked at the liabilities, costs and pitfalls of being bound into emissions targets – because that’s how emissions reduction is judged – and has decided for now to stay out of the game. Continue reading

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Connie and Kerry and Climate Politics

There will not be a global climate deal this year, there may, however be US climate legislation. A bet on the first rather than on the second of these statements would be more likely to trouble the cashier at William Hill. However, neither is going to have the bookmakers quaking in their boots.

In a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Connie Hedegaard has acknowledged the difficulties of getting a binding agreement before the South African climate summit in December 2011. Judging by the pugnacious determination of many to stick to the Bali negotiating modus operandi – see Martin Khor’s article in the Malaysian Star as an example – even this would seem optimistic. Khor advises developing world negotiators and is keen to see the Accord killed in favour of the UN twin track negotiations. Continue reading

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Further Questions on Finance

WRI has just put together this useful table of the fast start finance commitments made so far by developed countries. It tells a familiar tale, with much of what seemed fresh in the glare of Copenhagen, now appearing old and rehashed.

What can we take away from these intractable discussions on international financing of climate change actions? Principally that if our focus is to campaign solely for ‘public finance’ from funds that pass through national treasuries we may be some time.  Continue reading

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Yvo To Go

Yvo de Boer has announced that he is to step down as head of the UNFCCC’s secretariat. One quick thought: Appoint a successor from a developing country!

Just as the WTO’s secretariat has always been seen as close to the European Commission, so the UNFCCC is increasingly perceived as a Eurocentric administration, not least because it’s based in Europe.

If the geo-politics of climate change are to be transformed, then as well as paying more attention to the debate at the domestic level – the mantra of this blog – there also needs to be more trust in the negotiations.

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High Level Finance Questions

On Friday 12 February, the UN’s Secretary General announced the formation of a high-level advisory group on climate financing. It will be co-chaired by Gordon Brown – although for how long who knows – and Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia. The assumption is that this is the same high-level group mentioned in paragraph 9 of the Copenhagen Accord.

It is ‘tasked with creating practical proposals to boost both short- and long-term financing for mitigation and adaptation strategies in developing countries’ and is expected to report before COP 16 in Mexico in December. With wider negotiations moribund and the debate on emissions reduction targets seemingly going nowhere the group may have its work cut out as it is likely to be the sole focus of those doggedly pursuing a global climate deal. Continue reading

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