When rich countries make emissions cuts in poor countries

Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) argues that richer countries should be able to buy as much as all their emissions reductions through investments in emission reductions in developing countries [see BBC / interview]. Given the global atmosphere is indifferent to where on the surface the reductions take place, there is an argument that countries with obligations to cut should make the emissions cuts where it’s most cost effective.

As long as the rich countries do the paying, then they would not be shirking their responsibilities. Or so the argument goes. And this argument is more plausible than its critics admit – the polluter is still paying, but in theory paying where the cuts are most efficient and thus squaring equity and efficiency objectives. However, the argument is also wrong. The main problem is long-term structural change… Continue reading “When rich countries make emissions cuts in poor countries”

Escaping the reckless EU renewables targets

The Guardian exploded with indignation this week [Revealed: cover up plan on energy target; leader; letters], at the discovery of a leaked government memo discussing how the UK might wriggle out of a European Union renewables target – to reach 20% of EU energy consumption from renewables by 2020. In fact, the real story is different and more worrying than the Guardian has it. The real problem is how this target ever was agreed in the first place and the negative consequences for climate change that will flow from it. Continue reading “Escaping the reckless EU renewables targets”

Urban flooding – 15 things to do

We’ve had some horrible urban flooding impacts recently. But the outlook is pretty bleak too – the chart is from the 2004 Foresight Report Future Flooding, showing both potentially high future costs (rising from £270m to up to £15 billion) and large uncertainties involved. Now we have been reminded how bad it can be, what’s to be done? Let me set out some views on the problem, which is far from straightforward and little to do with flood defences, and then 15 ideas for how to respond… Continue reading “Urban flooding – 15 things to do”

Is the UK flooding down to climate change?

As an employee of the Environment Agency, I am increasingly asked “what an earth is going on with all this flooding?”.

Is climate change to blame?

Maybe, but only maybe – and maybe not. There has been highest rainfall in parts of England since records began in 1766 (Met Office stats), but many have leapt in with rather more certainty than is justified to attributing this to climate change – citing the usual formula (to paraphrase) that “no single event can be attributed to climate change, but this is consistent with the predictions”.

Actually the picture is far less clear than even this. Continue reading “Is the UK flooding down to climate change?”

Emissions trading – notes on a scandal

Another day, another broadside against carbon emissions trading. The FT’s Martin Wolf offers advice to the new Chancellor, including:

While simplifying tax, he should also take a close look at green taxation. Simple taxes that apply across-the-board are what is needed. The grant of valuable rights to big polluters through systems known as “cap-and-trade” is a scandal. [here]

This is an increasing theme, with even American giants like Alan Greenspan and Paul Volker coming out against cap ‘n’ trade and in favour of a carbon tax [see article]. I have to say I’m ever more swayed by this view, see my posting To Cap or to Tax.

But is the EU system ‘a scandal’, as Martin Wolf says? Continue reading “Emissions trading – notes on a scandal”

The irreducible Stern – limerick contest

Are you tired of trying to understand the 600-page Stern Review (eg. this perplexing graph showing a 13.8% loss of GDP in 193 years from now!)? Luckily, the government’s finest minds are rumoured to be preparing a simplified version in limerick form. Here’s my effort: Continue reading “The irreducible Stern – limerick contest”

To cap or to tax?

I ended my last post noting some recent critical commentary from the FT and Economist about emissions trading being an inferior approach to a carbon tax. Here they are again….

+ FT – Undercover Economist: Emission impossible 13 April
+ Economist – Cleaning Up – 31 May
+ Economist – Business and climate change – 31 May
+ Economist – Doffing the Cap – 14 June
+ Prospect – The Cost of Carbon – July 2007
+ Martin Wolf – advice to the new Chancellor – July 2007

Are they right? Continue reading “To cap or to tax?”

Energy white paper – nuclear muddle continues

On May 23rd we had a new Energy White Paper and a new Planning White Paper. Both part of the government’s efforts to bring forward new nuclear power stations. The new energy policy makes a case for nuclear on energy security and climate change grounds. In fact nuclear dominates the energy white paper and is the unannounced presence in the planning white paper. But this obsession is out of proportion to the importance of nuclear power in the energy mix – see chart [data]. The government’s economic appraisal released with the white paper suggests that not much will happen for the next 20 years anyway:

It is likely that the first new nuclear plant could be added by around 2021 […] A programme to add 6 GW of nuclear new build by 2025 would not increase the total stock of nuclear capacity relative to the current level.

At the heart of UK energy policy there lies confusion and contradiction… let me make some observations: Continue reading “Energy white paper – nuclear muddle continues”

What was the question again? …Green polling examined

There is emerging conventional wisdom that people are concerned about the environment as never before, but are unwilling or unable to do much about it – for example, from last week’s Independent… Britons unwilling to change despite climate change. And that’s not unusual… but how realistic is it? Continue reading “What was the question again? …Green polling examined”

Rising emissions – words, deeds and the struggle to come

As one seasoned observer, who must remain anonymous, described Britain’s approach to climate change, “we have the best words in the world“. And, as an example, the Prime Minister’s speeches on climate change really are quite brilliant [example]

So, what is the UK Government doing? We have led the world in setting a bold plan and targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Last week saw the release of provisional data for 2006. It shows a rise in UK carbon dioxide emissions [announcement] and ministers calling for more action on climate change [release]. What to make of this…? Continue reading “Rising emissions – words, deeds and the struggle to come”