10 June 2008

The Price of Business-as-Usual

Christian Aid is angry. The British government has just "eviscerated" the Climate Change Bill, claimed the agency.

The Guardian, in contrast, appears relatively delighted. They simply cut and pasted a news agency report from the Press Association, headlined "UK bill to set carbon targets clears first hurdle."

For some reason, they don't seem very bothered about analysing the details. Yes, they've got a nice little debate going, with critics like ex-environment minister Michael Meacher head-to-head against current minister Phil Woolas, plus some added criticisms from the Lib Dems, the Tories officially congratulating Labour, not to mention several Tory backbenchers opposing the whole idea of action to prevent dangerous climate change. But there's a very important point, mentioned, alluded to, but not really elaborated on, a point that at this time the public sorely needs to understand.

I haven't seen any other reporting on what the government has just done with this Bill, and would be interested to see how the Bill is portrayed (if it is portrayed beyond the above meagre pickings).

But Christian Aid puts it very clearly. What matters, is not so much what is being proposed, but what the govt is studiously avoiding:

"Christian Aid said it was deeply disappointed at the Government's refusal, revealed yesterday by Phil Woolas MP, Minister of State for the Environment at the start of the Bill's second reading in Parliament, to include a target for cutting UK carbon emissions of 80 percent over 1990 levels by 2050.

It said the removal from the Bill of an undertaking to ensure that UK emissions of greenhouse gases do not exceed the level necessary to limit global temperature rises to not more than 2C above pre industrial levels would fatally undermine the credibility of the UK's climate change policies.

'Only carbon emission cuts of 80% and above will keep global temperatures below 2oC. That target is essential as beyond 2C the effects of climate change such as drought, floods and disease will become rampant.' "

Decisions, decisions. So the govt has decided that there's no need to worry about the two degree limit (which is bad enough).

In fact, and we need to be very clear on this, at current rates of increase of emissions, where are we likely to be over the coming decades? Well, the Guardian isn't exactly unfamiliar with this, given their summary of Mark Lynas' book Six Degrees, which outlines the findings of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers:

"The impacts of two degrees warming are bad enough, but far worse is in store if emissions continue to rise. Most importantly, 3C may be the 'tipping point' where global warming could run out of control, leaving us powerless to intervene as planetary temperatures soar. The centre of this predicted disaster is the Amazon, where the tropical rainforest, which today extends over millions of square kilometres, would burn down in a firestorm of epic proportions.

"Computer model projections show worsening droughts making Amazonian trees, which have no evolved resistance to fire, much more susceptible to burning. Once this drying trend passes a critical threshold, any spark could light the firestorm which destroys almost the entire rainforest ecosystem. Once the trees have gone, desert will appear and the carbon released by the forests' burning will be joined by still more from the world's soils. This could boost global temperatures by a further 1.5ÂșC - tipping us straight into the four-degree world.

"Three degrees alone would see increasing areas of the planet being rendered essentially uninhabitable by drought and heat. In southern Africa, a huge expanse centred on Botswana could see a remobilisation of old sand dunes, much as is projected to happen earlier in the US west. This would wipe out agriculture and drive tens of millions of climate refugees out of the area. The same situation could also occur in Australia, where most of the continent will now fall outside the belts of regular rainfall.

"With extreme weather continuing to bite - hurricanes may increase in power by half a category above today's top-level Category Five - world food supplies will be critically endangered. This could mean hundreds of millions - or even billions - of refugees moving out from areas of famine and drought in the sub-tropics towards the mid-latitudes. In Pakistan, for example, food supplies will crash as the waters of the Indus decline to a trickle because of the melting of the Karakoram glaciers that form the river's source. Conflicts may erupt with neighbouring India over water use from dams on Indus tributaries that cross the border.

"In northern Europe and the UK, summer drought will alternate with extreme winter flooding as torrential rainstorms sweep in from the Atlantic - perhaps bringing storm surge flooding to vulnerable low-lying coastlines as sea levels continue to rise. Those areas still able to grow crops and feed themselves, however, may become some of the most valuable real estate on the planet, besieged by millions of climate refugees from the south."

Yet after all the fanfare and jumping around and big words and loud promises, when all the racket about being Green has died down, the govt reneges on its own promises. What a surprise. Not.

Given that Brown did the same last year when he "U-turned" on pledges to follow EU targets to generate 20 per cent of Europe's energy from renewable sources, as also noted by the Guardian, to its credit (and even the Telegraph).


Because, according to both papers, the Business Secretary John Hutton was worried about pissing off the Ministry of Defence, an "excessive" cost of about £4billion of investment (we won't worry about the jobs that could be created in the process, nor the £205 billion of taxpayers money the govt has poured unchecked and unaccounted for into Iraq up to 2007, probably subsidising corrupt defence contractors, that's £6.5 billion for this year alone), as well as conflicting with the petrol-friendly nuclear power lobby.

This Bill is a fraud.

1 comment:

  1. Representatives of the Jewish movement Liberal Judaism this week joined forces with international development agency Christian Aid to press for a Climate Change Bill that will help protect poor and vulnerable communities around the world.

    A delegation petitioned MP Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment and Rural Affairs for the Bill at present going through Parliament to include a commitment to cut 80 per cent of carbon emissions by 2050.

    Delegates, including representatives from Liberal Judaism Social Action and the Liberal Jewish youth movement LJY-Netzer, were led by Rabbi Danny Rich, Liberal Judaism’s chief executive.

    Liberal Judaism, the third largest strand of Judaism in the UK with more than 30 congregations and 10,000 members across the country, adopted the campaign after talks with Christian Aid, which has accused the Government of ‘eviscerating’ the proposed legislation.

    It is the second time Liberal Judaism has supported Christian Aid’s stand on climate change. In 2007 they joined Christian Aid’s cut the carbon march – the longest protest march in British history, which started in Northern Ireland and ended in London.

    Dr Nigel Varndell, Christian Aid’s Inter-Community Initiatives Manager, said: "Liberal Judaism came to us to discuss the possibility of aligning themselves with our campaign work over the Bill.


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