Europe at the Crossroads

It’s hard for Americans, even progressive Americans, to imagine a future in which the U.S. is no longer the “indispensable country.” This is as true when it comes to climate politics as it is in any other area, and for much the same reason-the U.S. looms so large that it simply cannot be ignored. We emit, in particular, such a high share of world’s carbon that, in the end, any climate regime to which we do not immediately subscribe is doomed to failure.

Or so, at least, it seems. And it’s because it does that the history of the climate talks is a history of attempts to placate the U.S. Which is, again, a big part of the reason why the Kyoto negotiations-and the Kyoto Protocol itself-are in such a sorry state. The fact of the matter is that, barring sudden deliverance by a new energy revolution on a computer-boom scale, the U.S. as we know it today will refuse and resist any climate treaty even remotely appropriate to the threat. The fossil-fuel lobby is just too powerful here to expect anything else. Which is why, perversely and quite inadvertently, the Bush administration may have just done the world a colossal favor. Continue reading “Europe at the Crossroads”

Lies and Economic Models

Amory Lovins and other green techno-optimists have long argued that there are numerous technologies and policies that could reduce energy use and emissions at a net profitthe so-called no regrets policies that would save more money than they cost to implement. Conservative economists, many of them employed or supported by the Department of Energy, have argued that this simply cant be true, since energy marketslike all marketsare optimal. (This is the famous twenty dollar bill argument; i.e., there cant be twenty-dollar bills lying on the ground, because people would have already picked them up).

Many economists, of course, see the bills everywhere. 2500 economists including eight Nobel laureates signed the Economists Statement on Climate Change in 1997, which declares Economic studies have found that there are many potential policies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions for which the total benefits outweigh the total costs. Continue reading “Lies and Economic Models”

The EcoEquity Interview: Wolfgang Sachs

Wolfgang Sachs is a senior research fellow at the Wuppertal Institute of Climate, Environment and Energy. He has long been active in the German and Italian green movements and is currently Chair of the Board of Greenpeace in Germany. He is the author of For Love of the Automobile: Looking Back into the History of Our Desires, the editor of the immensely influential Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power, and the co-author of Greening the North: A Post-Industrial Blueprint for Ecology and Equity, which goes beyond critique to envisage concrete alternatives and feasible processes for social transition. More recently still, he is the author of Planet Dialectics: Explorations in Environment and Development and, in the role that occasioned this interview, a co-author of the lead chapter of the Third Assessment Reports Working Group 3 report. Working Group 3, of course, focuses on mitigation, and its first chapter contains the TARs most explicit discussion of equity.

>This is a long interview, but it barely scratches the surface of the issues. Continue reading “The EcoEquity Interview: Wolfgang Sachs”

Reality Check in China

The US DOE Energy Information Agency recently published a rollup of 1990 to 1999 carbon emissions for most countries. As you can easily see from the tables collected on the Carbon Dioxide Emissions page, the bottom-line realities are pretty clear.

Take a look, for example, at the table named World Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the Consumption and Flaring of Fossil Fuels . It shows that China decreased its CO2 emissions by about 17 per cent from 1997 to 1999 and is now back at its 1992 emission level. It also shows that since 1990 the U.S. increased its fossil fuel related carbon emissions by 12 percent, Canada by 18 percent, Norway by 27 percent, Japan by 14 percent… You get the idea.

Go to the coal table and you’ll see the main reason why China’s emissions have dropped – it has radically reduced its subsidies for, and thus its consumption of, coal.

Quick, someone tell Washington. And while you’re at it, tell them that they have a good opportunity here to one-up the Chinese. We could not only we could not only phase out fossil fuel subsidies, we could take care of the workers who will be hurt when we do so.

4P or not 4P

When the administration of Bush II decided that it wasn’t going to regulate CO2 emissions in the electric utility sector, it also postponed an important debate over the form those regulations will ultimately take, a debate with key implications for climate equity. The “4P” (four pollutant) legislation that Bush preemptively vetoed would have required rules to allocate a fixed carbon emission cap among utilities. A significant controversy had already emerged among environmental organizations over how this might be done, and this debate should not be forgotten. Continue reading “4P or not 4P”

John Holdren: Per-Capita by 2015 or 2020

John Holdren is a pretty important guy. He’s a professor of Environmental Policy at Harvard, where he directs the Program on Science, Technology and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, and that’s just for starters. He’s also a member of the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (or at least he was under Clinton, we haven’t checked) and he chaired its panel on Energy R&D Strategy for the Climate Change Challenge.

All of which makes it significant that Holdren publicly advocates a phased transition to a climate regime based on per-capita carbon emissions allocations …

HELLO WORLD! Climate Equity Observer: Issue number 1

This is the first issue of Climate Equity Observer.

Its purpose, since you asked, is to put a single idea onto the agenda. To wit: if we hope to make a soft landing in a tolerable future climate, we’re going to have to shift from the initial Kyoto framework to a new “equity framework” based on equal per capita rights to the atmosphere. This idea is already on the table in most of the rest of the world. We want to put it on the agenda in the United States. Continue reading “HELLO WORLD! Climate Equity Observer: Issue number 1”

Adequacy and Equity: Three Focal Questions

By Stephen Bernow and Sivan Kartha

Note: Steve Bernow, a former EcoEquity Board Member, was the head of the Tellus Institute’s Energy Department. This is one of his last essays, written with Sivan Kartha of the Stockholm Environment Institute shortly before his unexpected death on July 5th, 2003. He is missed.

This paper asks three questions that are focal to devising an effective climate protection regime. The first two questions – What is “adequacy” and What is “equity” – arise from the observation that both adequacy and equity are necessary features of an effective and politically acceptable international climate regime: Continue reading “Adequacy and Equity: Three Focal Questions”