Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Politics of Climate Change

A primer for the last in ippr’s A Climate of Politics events series (9.00am, ippr, Tuesday 29 June 2010)

In partnership with Christian Aid and WWF-UK and with technical assistance from Cisco Systems, ippr – Political Climate’s parent organisation – has been grappling with the politics of climate change (rather than climate change policy). The final event in a series of five focuses on creating political space for more ambitious action on climate change. We hope this post – which is our interpretation of what we’ve heard so far – is interesting in its own right, but we also hope it will help get the debate going for those attending.

What have we learnt from the series, which has looked so far at the UNFCCC process and the politics in China, the US and the EU? There are perhaps four important lessons… Continue reading



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Getting to grips with innovation


A post from guest blogger Reg Platt

As regular readers will know Political Climate thinks the focus of climate policy should be on innovation to reduce the cost of low-carbon technology rather than on forcing up the cost of carbon intensive energy. But, innovation is not straightforward and more money does not necessarily mean the right results. This is lesson coming out of two recent events I attended Continue reading

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Pollution vs. climate change

As we said a couple of weeks ago, the Gulf oil spill is having an impact on American thinking about energy in a way that climate change has simply failed to do so far. Now Obama has declared the Deepwater Horizon disaster an “environmental 9/11”, and called for a “new future” based on clean energy. The pollution from the Gulf spill is visible, its impacts are directly attributable and immediate, and it is understood by all to be affecting livelihoods across a swathe of Southern states. In all of these ways it is different from climate change, and shows how energy policy remains dominated by energy security and pollution considerations.

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Why we need a fair trade campaign for carbon

For many commentators in the wake of Copenhagen, China became the scapegoat for the failure to secure a meaningful and binding agreement. But one reason for China’s resistance to international climate treaties is that they measure emissions (and therefore required emissions cuts) on a national production basis, not consumption, and so ignore the carbon imbedded in the huge imports of goods from China to the West (especially the US).

On this issue they have a point – Continue reading


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Stoking the Eskom Debate

Before we start, it’s important to make two things very clear. First, Political Climate thinks that building new coal-fired power stations without emissions abatement is unwise on climate grounds. Second, we think subsidies for the capital costs of new electricity generation should now be focussed on renewables. But, as the unfolding debate concerning the building by Eskom of a massive coal power plant at Lephalale in South Africa’s Limpopo Province illustrates, simply holding such views is not enough.

The plant (the above picture is its construction site) has been named ‘Medupi’ by state-owned Eskom. This apparently means ‘rain that soaks parched lands’ – perhaps unfortunate given the climate impacts of coal. At 4,788 MW of installed generating capacity, Medupi will be an absolute monster; reportedly the fourth largest coal plant in the world. Continue reading


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Copenhagen’s Carcass

Six months on and commentators continue to pick the last morsels of analysis off the carcass of the 15th Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen. The UK’s Guardian, for instance, has had a couple of goes at this piece, which pins the blame on the Danes and their cursed text.

Per Meilstrup, a Danish journalist, has written a whole book on COP 15 – largely the source of the Guardian piece – and reveals the ‘real’ Danish text on his blog.

Mistakes were clearly made – by the Danes and the UNFCCC’s secretariat – but the key question that the climate coroners need to ask is arguably this one: Had Lars Lokke Rasmussen not botched the high-level diplomacy, would Copenhagen have concluded with a more substantive outcome? The answer is almost certainly still no.

Why? The reasons are fundamentally to do with politics at the national level, which is where the politics mostly are. China and the US had already made announcements before Copenhagen and because of their respective domestic decision making processes, neither were in a position to increase their offers. So the conventional logic of diplomacy – that governments always arrive at summits with something extra tucked in their back pockets – did not hold. Continue reading

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Spill, baby, spill!!

2-3 million litres of oil a day are now gushing out of the ruptured pipe at the base of the BP platform in the Gulf of Mexico, and it could get worse before a solution is found. Attempts so far to stem the flow have failed, and oil slicks are now threatening beaches in Louisiana. The volume far exceeds the US’s worst previous oil spill – the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, but the impact of the Gulf spill will not be just about how much hits the beaches. For this disaster is not in a distant state beyond Canada, but very visibly right in America’s backyard. The Gulf fishing industry is already hit hard – if storms push the spill towards Florida’s coast, a $60 billion a year tourism industry is not going to be happy.

But what is really striking about the Gulf disaster is Continue reading

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