David Blackburn

Why global climate change policy must change 

Why global climate change policy must change 
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A co-founder of Greenpeace, Rex Wayler, wrote last December: ‘We’re not going to recover from global recession by consuming more resources and energy. Growth cannot solve the problems created by growth.’ Austerity is the key to an environmentally friendly future. In today’s Times, Oliver Kamm brands this smug and inflexible assumption as counter-factual – that economic consumption and growth will drive human ingenuity to find alternatives to the finite and environmentally damaging carbon economy. Here are the important sections:   

‘Green campaigners are rightly concerned with environmental degradation. There is copious evidence of global warming due to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat.

For all that, environmentalism is a flawed idea. Its weakness is not that it lacks justice, but that it lacks a sense of priorities. “Save the planet” is an exhortation, not a policy, and it doesn’t get you far. In particular, it gives no guidance on how to weigh present needs, such as eradicating poverty in the developing world, against future constraints on natural resources. In short, it does not deal with trade-offs.’

As Kamm notes later in the article, the relationship between living standards and pollution corresponds to an inverted U-curve, with pollution increasing as per-capita income grows, and declining once a particular living standard is reached, when alternative energy becomes both affordable and desirable.

The Green agenda’s ‘Precautionary Principle’, which guides arbitrary demands to reduce carbon emissions by x % in y number of years, only emphasises the harm caused by economic growth, and therefore frustrates developing nations, as well as being ruinously expensive for taxpayers and businesses in the developed world.

If we are to create a green and growing world economy in the future, the regressive Precautionary Principle, and its accompanying targets, must be rejected. Intriguingly, and certainly ironically in view of his premiership’s obsession with targets, Tony Blair, in a BBC interview to be broadcast later today, has called for an end to “our fixation with percentages and time scales to enable the technology to develop”. For the benefit of developed and developing countries, and the environment, other world leaders need to reach the conclusion that human ingenuity, not government exclusively, is the key to solving the climate change conundrum.