UK Stern Report Sells Climate Short, Paves Way to Global Warming Catastrophe
30 October 2006
Its not surprising that the recent British Stern report on global climate change should continue the tradition of Thatcher and Blair in proclaiming the ability of capitalism to resolve the environmental crisis. According to Stern the magic of the market, responsible for the crisis, is the painless solution that will resolve the global emergency. What is slightly surprising is the lack of any real criticism of this tosh, and for that reason we are reprinting a counterblast from the climate activists of the Rising Tide website, without necessarily agreeing the detail of the proposals they put forward.
Faulty science, flawed policy advice should relegate new "landmark" report to trashbin of history, climate activists charge
Today the international climate justice movement condemned a major new policy advisory from the United Kingdom on the economics of climate change. Named "The Stern Review" after its chief author Sir Nicholas Stern, climate activists warn that this 700-page analysis offers a dangerously inadequate and deceptive plan that will lead to inevitable global warming catastrophe if its recommendations are followed.
Commissioned by the UK government in conjunction with the G8 Gleneagles Dialogue on Climate Change, the Stern Review has been widely celebrated as a "landmark" and "authoritative" review that provides convincing evidence that global economic upheaval and depression will result from failure to urgently act in response to the climate change crisis. Yet grassroots climate activists are outraged and disturbed that The Stern Report's underlying assumptions and its ultimate policy recommendations are not scientifically legitimate.
"Although climate scientists are in nearly unanimous agreement that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide must be limited to no more than 450 parts per million in order to avoid catastrophic climate chaos, the new UK report calls for CO2 emissions to be stabilized at the much higher rate of 500 to 550 ppm," said Ethan Green, coordinator of the Counter-G8 Working Group of Rising Tide North America.
"This means the core assumptions of the Stern Report, plus its policy recommendations, are seriously flawed," said Green. "Based on this Report, the UK today is declaring that it will advocate global cuts in carbon dioxide emissions of 30 per cent by 2020 and of 60 per cent by 2050. While realizing even those minimal cuts would represent great progress from the world's current unsustainable business-as-usual path, clearly we need much more drastic reductions in order to prevent climate disaster."The government-funded Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, in a ground-breaking environmental report issued in the UK this September, concluded that a 90% cut in greenhouse gas emissions is needed by 2050. "We are deluding ourselves if we wait for technology or emission trading to offer a smooth transition to a low carbon future," the Tyndall Report said. "The real challenge is making a radical shift within four years and driving down carbon intensity at an unprecedented 9% a year for up to 20 years."
Climate campaigners argue that the scientifically rigorous Tyndall Report, with its comparably radical yet more realistic plan of action, should be used as a framework for the global response against climate change, instead of the watered-down Stern Report, written by an economist without significant training in climate science.
Climate activists also criticize specific proposals that the Stern Report lends support to, including the market-oriented practice known as "carbon trading." Although the British media has focused much attention on rumours that the UK government is preparing to institute so-called "green taxes" levied at consumers, activists say that the more alarming news is chancellor Gordon Brown's insistence that, instead of taxes, he endorses a massive expansion of carbon trading. They point out that while the World Bank estimates the value of the global carbon market nearly doubled from $11 billion in 2005 to $21.5 billion in 2006, there was no equivalent global increase in carbon emission reductions. In fact, they argue, as the carbon market has soared, global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise - a stark indication that a more pragmatic and direct approach to cutting emissions is urgently needed.
According to a new book that claims to "expose the scandal of carbon trading" published this month by the international Durban Group for Climate Justice and the UK-based NGO The Corner House, carbon trading slows the social and technological change needed to reduce global warming by unnecessarily prolonging the world's dependence on oil, coal and gas. It also produces additional negative impacts on the environment and human rights, the book argues.(1)
Carbon trading "dispossesses ordinary people in the South of their lands and futures without resulting in appreciable progress toward alternative energy systems," said Larry Lohmann of the Corner House, the book's editor. "The huge blocks of tradable emissions rights handed out to Northern polluters allow them to profit from business as usual, yet the market is not promoting alternative energy in the South, either," he said. Most of the carbon credits being sold to industrialized countries, the book reveals, come from polluting projects that do nothing to wean the world off fossil fuels, such as schemes that burn methane from coal mines and waste dumps.
"The problems with carbon trading are compounded when carbon credits are used to fund destructive projects like large dams and industrial tree plantations, which is a frequent occurrence in the global South," said Cristian Guerrero, a climate justice organizer based in Mexico with the Latin America Solidarity Working Group of Rising Tide North America. "This never benefits the local populations who become displaced," he said, "and it harms biodiversity too."
The international Rising Tide movement for climate justice, with active mobilizations currently in places including London, Scotland, New Zealand, and Australia as well as North America, advocates climate action steps including: a moratorium on all new fossil fuels extraction; the rapid phase-out of coal for energy; cancellation of airport expansion plans, a tax on aviation fuel and plane tickets, and an end to short haul flights; abandonment of fossil fuel-intensive industrial agriculture in favor of decentralized, locally grown, sustainable food sources; drastic increases in energy conservation and the immediate transition to clean energy sources such as wind, solar, and micro-hydro power; critical understanding that the "natural" disasters caused by climate change amplify the injustices inherent in a capitalist, racist, and patriarchal society; direct action addressing the intersections between the oppressions of humans and the earth; and international solidarity with and support for the poor, indigenous and environmentally vulnerable communities who are generally most devastated by yet least responsible for the effects of climate change.(2)
(1) Carbon Trading: A Critical Conversation on Climate Change, Privatisation and Power is available for download at http://www.dhf.uu.se. A paper edition will be available from the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation in November.
(2)a Principles of Rising Tide North America: http://risingtidenorthamerica.org/principles.html
b The Rising Tide Coalition for Climate Justice Political Statement: http://risingtide.org.uk/about/political