If Mary Poppins was an environmental commentator she would describe the various noises coming out of governments and local authorities throughout the world about reducing carbon dioxide emissions as “pie crust promises” – easily broken. There are a string of these pie crust promises ranging from the United Kingdom’s promise to reduce carbon emissions by 20% by 2020 or 80% by 2050 to the London Borough of Haringey’s promise to reduce its own emissions of greenhouse gas by 40% within the decade.
These are excellent intentions – I do not criticise people for wanting to do the right thing, but I must explain that however good the intentions promises are empty words if the means and the resources are not available to ensure that the promises are met. I could list the many promises from all over the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, comparing these promises with reality we see that greenhouse gas emissions are probably not falling at all anywhere in the world and at best are remaining stable at about half the level that the planet can recycle.
This apparent stability is in fact incredibly harmful because the most important greenhouse gas in terms of size and volume of emissions is carbon dioxide which lasts about a hundred years in the atmosphere if the planet is unable to recycle it. There if the bath can only drain half the water coming into it from the taps, then it will overflow, and so there will be a stage if we fail to keep our promises about emissions, when the atmosphere will overflow with greenhouse gas, creating devastation and change on a scale that we mere humans will find it impossible to live with.
In the United Kingdom we are apparently reducing our emissions by .5% per annum. I write “apparently” because I think that such a small margin of reduction is well within normal margins of error. I would be surprised if there was any real reduction in the United Kingdom’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The UK Committee on Climate Change has just pointed out that given the present policies continuing, the United Kingdom will fall very far short of emission reductions and will get nowhere near meeting its targets. It says that a step change is needed and that the market has failed to deliver emission reductions. The committee doubts whether the Emissions Trading Scheme will deliver sufficient savings.
At the time of writing a tonne of carbon under the ETS is only about 13 Euros. That is way below the figure that is needed for the market mechanisms to make investment in low carbon technology attractive to industry. As far as I can see the ETS is simply just another casino where businesses can gamble on the price of a commodity that no one wants.
Governments are too frightened to raise energy prices because of the consequences politically; they will lose votes. Energy prices are bound to rise, but whether they will rise quickly enough to save the planet from intensive global warming is a matter of grave doubt.
The step change that will replace the market mechanisms now being employed can only be compulsion by legislation. Regular readers of these posts will know that I have always urged compulsion by legislation to reduce emissions. Nothing else will work and although legislation is a heavy and sometimes blunt instrument if the market will not fix the problem the legislators will have to fix it.
There has to be legislation requiring energy saving in every home and renewable microgeneration in every home. Homes are the easiest and softest target when it comes to reducing emissions; they should be the first line of emission reduction, regardless of what the house builders want. Insulation technology is simple and well developed. There is no reason not to require it to be deployed. Most forms of clean small scale renewables are also ready to deploy. Things like solar panels will, if deployed across the country, make very fast emission savings as people stop burning fossil fuel to heat their water and start using daylight.
Industry and large scale energy generation is a tougher target. Here we risk losing competitiveness and, worse than that, the solutions are by no means clear and some solutions rely on technology that has not yet been invented or perfected.
So, until we have detailed legislation restricting the ability to pollute and emit greenhouse gases to a far greater extent than now the promises being made by governments will be pie crust promises, as Mary Poppins would have it, easily made and easily broken.
Filed under: carbon dioxide, carbon emissions, climate change, energy, global warming, microgeneration, solar panels | Tagged: climate change committee, CO2, emissions trading, ETS, insulation, mary poppins, pie crust promises | 2 Comments »