Flying into an Environmental Crisis

Greenhouse gas emissions from air traffic are entirely uncontrolled. Aircraft emit greenhouse gas at a high level in the atmosphere and it is believed that these emissions are particularly damaging. Aircraft fuel is entirely untaxed, so there is a limit on making the polluter pay. Air Passenger duty is becoming increasing used as a means of taxing civil aviation flights, but it is a crude measure the proceeds of which go to the general fund of tax collected rather than to any anti greenhouse gas measures. Continue reading

Good at Boasting Bad at Emission Reduction

The government of the United Kingdom have boasted that in the past twenty years the UK has cut its emissions of greenhouse gases by 25%. The government is very good at boasting boasters are invariably liars. Continue reading

Emissions Trading – a triumph of hope over reality

The European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme was doomed from the start. I have always held that you cannot use the devices of the casino to reduce emissions. You can tax emissions, making them more costly to produce and creating an incentive to encourage ways of using clean renewable emissions, but to set up a system where emission producers can speculate on the price of carbon dioxide, which is a commodity that no one wants and no one can use, as a way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, will make no difference to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are produced. Continue reading

Controlling climate change by opening a betting shop

The European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme remains suspended following revelations that Euros 30 million worth of certificates have been stolen and sold. There is no certain date when spot trading will begin again, so if you have emissions certificates that you wish to sell or certificates that you wish to buy, you cannot do so right now. Continue reading

Emission Trading – a tax on emission savings

The Government is talking about setting a minimum price for carbon (by which they mean carbon dioxide) for the trading that is done in carbon dioxide under the Emissions Trading Scheme. It is an admission of the utter failure of emissions trading as concept, as a tool to reduce emissions and as a genuine market. The explanation that I shall now give is complicated, and I am sorry for that. Continue reading

Trading in carbon dioxide emissions is not going to work

Mr Huhne is the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and he has told the UK Energy Summit that we need a “high carbon price” to underpin investment in green technologies. This is the sort of nonsense that Ministers are loath to spout, because it implies that a high price for emissions is desirable and achievable by some kind of Government action. Continue reading

Emissions and pie crust promises

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.