Saturday, 31 January 2009


"Due to drive an hour to Luton at 06.00 on Monday morning, for flight to Belfast. Can any weather watchers give me the odds?"

This is a message I've just seen on Twitter. Some presumably official RSPB person (though I can't be sure- anyone can sign up as anything on Twitter) has publicly announced he is flying to Belfast.

Erm, am I missing something here? Isn't the RSPB a member of Stop Climate Chaos? Isn't the RSPB concerned about Climate Change? Aren't they supposed to be looking into their own carbon footprints?
Why not either
a) put this guy on a train and a ferry with a laptop so he's still productive or
b) teleconference?

Maybe there is something absolutely essential in what the guy needs to do in Belfast. I'd be intrigued to know.

Otherwise the RSPB are just more hypocrites.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Selective Seratonin

A Greenpeace report implicates our obsession with beef - which pumps out 57 times more GHG emissions than would a similar obsession with potatoes - in up to 80% of deforestation.

Researchers believe that a build up of seratonin is at the root of the destructive swarming behaviour of locusts.

We at Throbgoblins International think studies should be funded into the effects of dangerous build ups of beef on the destructive swarming behaviour of humans. It might prove illuminating.

Thanks to Susan Anderson for the nod

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Multi-Coloured Swop Shop

As money dries up, more traditional means of exchange reassert themselves, whilst the pillage of the poor by the wealthy continues, for those with the means. Those without the means speak up where they can.

Elsewhere, sanity and gibbering madness compete for attention with hubris and incompetence

Monday, 26 January 2009

Plots and Plans

Sowing and reaping becomes a more unpredictable affair as weather begins to dance to a new tune

Obama keeps his momentum going.

Please complain to the BBC about their shameful and cowardly refusal to broadcast appeals for humanitarian aid to Gaza. It won't take a minute.

Meanwhile, turbines get tougher, racism gets weirder and yeast levels begin to stabilise

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Skulls and Bones: Obama as the New Boss

Ok, it's crude and rude, but most fun things are. Anyone who's seen John Carpenter's crude (that word again) political allegory "They Live!" will know what's going on here.

In fact, there's probably a separate blog post to be written on "They Live!" and "The Arrival" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" as tales of subaltern resentment.

Maybe later...

Compost Mentis

Obama puts a brake on Bush's last ditch planet mashers and The Democratic (?)Republic of Congo bravely attempts to put a break on deforestation (whilst scientists talk of bio-engineering solutions)

Meanwhile we run out of water, and water boarding

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Carried Away

Frank doesn't often get infected with enthusiastic optimism, but he's been listening to Frank Turner CDs and Barack Obama speeches so it had to happen sooner or later.

There are figures of every kind being hurled around at the energy summit in Abu Dhabi -amongst them these.

The electric car lobby still need to explain where all this extra capacity will come from - things being as they are. Lifestyle is still not on the table, it seems.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Smoke and mirrors and derivatives and energy

This is cut and paste from an email the inimitable Roy Tindle sent to "Scalation," a discussion list about sustainable development/green issues generally. I've embiggened the last bit.

"Some interesting suggestions in the Tory low carbon policy but still some emphasis on decentralisation that owes more to belief than to science. All generation uses scarce resources, some of them increasingly so, but there is little research comparing the comparative yield between, say, large scale off shore wind turbines and small, local installations. Solar PV is even more significant; does it make sense to use scarce resources - silicon is plentiful but working it takes a lot of energy - to farm solar energy in northern latitudes? Energy security ain't worth a hill of beans if it ain't secure and Britain frequently experiences periods of overcast sky and
low wind speeds.

"The bit that is missing here and with the Government is the absence of any real policy on energy waste. On Sunday morning I took a camera on my regular stroll from London Bridge to the City church which I attend. One street light with a faulty time switch didn't really signify anything much but the number of large office buildings fully lit failed to suggest that the message has got through. We are told that we can save a significant amount of energy by switching off everything instead of leaving electrical kit on standby but major office blocks with every light blazing - and an entirely visible absence of people - does turn the standby turn off into a bit of a joke. It was noticeable that most of the smaller shops and restaurants had their lighting off: electricity bills obviously matter to them.

"I read, yesterday, a wonderful Chinese financial description of the derivatives formerly so beloved by bankers. Imagine a valuable book; take a mirror and the image in that mirror is a bond. Use another mirror to reflect the first image and one has a derivative. All that's missing is the smoke. Not so strange, then, that many of the blazingly lit City offices are connected with finance. When will they ever learn?"

A Many Splendoured Thing

Obama's plans to relaunch the US and thus the world economy on a green and sustainable footing are ambitious and long overdue - after 8 years of swaggering, blue-blooded halfwittery. We at Throbgoblins International send our best wishes along in the hope that impossible expectations will be at least seriously addressed.

Sometimes it seems that it is the lot of the project of the left (in whichever or all of its historical forms) to simply bang its head against the walls of the house of power, which it can never enter without abandoning its virtue.
But times change. We'll see.

Flash mobbing hits sweet spot.

There have been enough of them now so that journalists and editors (not the sharpest tools in the box, frankly) know what they are, and how to cover them and which stenographer-to-power to "report" the fun.

There haven't been enough of them yet for them to smell of Stale News. It's cheap and easy novelty. Photo of a pretty young thing dressed as this or that and voila, half of page 7 put to bed by noon.

There haven't been enough for the organisers and punters to be bored.

There haven't been enough of them yet for the police to have quite got their plays sorted yet (perhaps). [Though they played a blinder at Manchester Airport a week back...]

gam zeh yaavor

Saturday, 17 January 2009

The price of oil

Loath as I am to say anything nice about the BBC at the moment, given its revoltingly poor and misleading coverage of Gaza, I do want to record the harrowingly powerful Radio4 Saturday Play I just switched on by chance.
Stephen Phelps' 'Piper Alpha' tells, over 20 years since the disaster, the story of the hours in which 167 men died from the fire, smoke and explosions of a series of conflagrations on this production platform in the North Sea, 110 miles North of Aberdeen. The play's use of enquiry testimonies and reconstructed control centre and poice conversations, as well as events on the platform itself, not only evokes the horror of the incident itself but also the confusion and chaos of malfunctioning communications, and most importantly the utter corporate negligence of management who allowed gas and oil pipelines which ran through the platform to continue running, feeding the flames and explosions. Occidental Petroleum, which had failed to consider the possibility of the destruction of the control room in its plans for a disaster situation and had cut costs on its emergency equipment, as well as keeping the feeder pipes running, was found guilt in the Cullen Enquiry of having inadequate maintenance and safety procedures, but no charges were ever brought against it.
Piper Alpha was the world's biggest single oil platform disaster in terms of both loss of life and insured loss - £1.7 billion.
Occidental has also been responsible for other deaths around the world, including that of 17 civilians, including 7 children, bombed by the Colombian Airforce after Occidental officials identified them as a FARC guerilla group. Occidental was also the oil company involved in a long-running dispute with the U'wa indigenous people, also in Colombia. In 2001, Occidental finally withdrew from efforts to drill for oil on U'wa land after a nine-year struggle in which the tribe threatened to commit mass suicide if the expropriation of their land went ahead.

This post was first published on

More Ursine defecation

Ah - boffin humour.
I don't wish to put all the onus on scientists here, but in an age of profound stupidity they are the ones whose answers stand between us and biblical catastrophe. The UK government appears to have misunderstood the climate science on aviation emissions, misreading it as a license to dish out backhanders left , right and centre. George Bush and his entire administration totally failed to get a grip on any of the science that came their way in eight years, and we have the evidence of that faith based idiocy all around us.
Climate science is complicated stuff. it's not weather. It requires that people actually focus their entire attention throughout a series of complex, multi-clausal sentences. The challenge of science is to get the bewildering intricacy of complex systems into a 5 second sound bite that can be jammed into the most resistant skulls at the end of long pole whilst the rest of the head chugs slushies and watches porn. Maybe the new Obama administration can spin one..

Thanks to Marc Hudson, Matt Bright and Cassidy Irving.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Sadnesses piling up.

Sadness aout the Heathrow decision.

I mean, I knew the government would do it.

The 2003 White Paper was basically written by the aviation industry and sent over to the Department for Transport for mastheading and distribution. “Freedom to Fly” was a beautiful framing device, making it a question of liberty versus restriction, rather than indulgence versus survival.

And I intellectually knew most unions would be on board. After all, I suggested the theme for this cartoon by the absurdly prolific and sharp Marc Roberts.

But before reading my FT, I read my Morning Star, and it had a piece on...

"Airport workers addressed MPs at Westminster yesterday to "set the record straight" about Heathrow expansion. Workers from Heathrow and other British airports took the case for a third runwayto Parliament, concerned that the latest governmetn delay on approvignt he scheme was putting jobs and development at risk."

Workers of the World, Unite, you have nothing to lose but a habitable planet for your children.

And I am sad that the notion of a Just Transition hasn't gotten more traction, but I'm not surprised given the general cackhandedness and downright weirdness of many climate activists.

And I am sad to think that the Campaign against Climate Change Trades Union thing is wasting its breath.

And I am sad that Heathrow wasn't stopped before it got this far because now there the heroic eco-warriors are going to have to fight on at least three fronts- Airports, Coal and Copenhagen.

And I am sad to think that Manchester is so ill-served by the Manchester Evening News.

Yesterday the Council announced its climate plans. Today the MEN's front page splash was... wait for it...

Drunk in charge of a stolen Asda scooter! Woman is banned from driving after trying to travel 10 miles home on a 2.4mph mobility buggy."

I. Shit. You. Not.

Nothing I could see in my paper edition on the climate plans (such as they are.) but on page 16 we have “Light fading fast in search for last 100-watt bulbs.”

I just checked their website, which I refuse to link to on principle.

They haven't even reported the Council's plans. And they call themselves a newspaper? They're having a bloody laugh.

What is wrong with this bloody species?? Anyone?


As was widely predicted the UK government ignored the advice of science and went with the urgings of panicky economists to authorise a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Heathrow and Copenhagen

Crunch time at the Copenhagen climate negotiations, December 2009.
It's late on the final night (already extended for an extra day). Everyone is ratty, smelly and desperate.
The British Foreign Secretary is trying to broker a deal between the Chinese and the Americans, to avoid the US-China Suicide Pact.

Brit: "But the Honourable Chinese represtentative surely agrees that we must all cut our emissions dramatically."

Chin: "How new many airport runways are you building, sunshine?"

Brit: "Er, well, there's the one at Heathrow, and the one at ..."

Chin: "Let me stop you right there: You. Are. Having. A. Laugh. Good. Bye."

OK, OK, I know this isn't how these things work, but Christ, what a stupid stupid decision from a scared and blinkered representative of a scared and blinkered species...

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Property-Owning Democracy

Climate change activists buy land to thwart Heathrow developers. Good work.

The Times reports, with innappropriate zeal, that, as increasing levels of worldwide deforestation are being slightly moderated by a small degree of partial regrowth in some areas, we might stave off the end by an additional twenty minutes. Hoorah.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Job Vacancy

The sea's capacity to absorb CO2 diminishes, promising further escalations, whilst we leap into action by building more airports, preparing for climate-conflict and ever so slightly reducing the size of our TVs.

Elsewhere the IDF breach 900 Palastinian dead and receives applause from a Washington administration that cares not for the future.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

The (spatial) fix we're in...

Monthly Review has done an excellent issue recently (Nov 2008), called "Beyond Capitalist Ecology." A recurring theme across all of the articles, which are all worth very close attention, is of the 'spatial fix'.

"A certain portion of the total capital is literally fixed in and on the land in some physical form for a relatively long period of time (depending on its economic and physical lifetime). Some social expenditures (such as public education or a health-care system) also become territorialized and rendered geographically immobile through state commitments. The spatio-temporal ‘fix’, on the other hand, is a metaphor for a particular kind of solution to capitalist crises through temporal deferral and geographical expansion." (Harvey, The New Imperialism, 2003: 115)
This is also known as fucking something up and running away from the consequences, or, these days, exporting those consequences to some dark/poor/vulnerable people and places.

Marvin Harris
has a good book called Cannibals and Kings. One of the arguments in it was that humans would learn out how to exploit one set of ecological niches for their energy, exhaust it, and then figure out some new technologies. At some point I'll get round to doing a blog posting about "biological taylorism".

Anyway, here's a quote from an article in that Monthly Review, namely Jason Moore's "Ecological Crises and the Agrarian Question in World-Historical Perspective"-
"Once ecological relations of production are put into the mix, one of the chief things that come into view is the production of socio-ecological regimes, on regional- and world-scales both. These initially liberate the accumulation of capital, only to generate self-limiting contradictions that culminate in renewed ecological “bottlenecks” to continued accumulation. Whereupon the cycle starts anew, and historically speaking this has entailed progressively more expansive and intensive relations between capital, labor, and external nature. This is not to say that the environmental history of capitalism is repetitive or universal in any rote fashion; rather, the system’s contradictions are resolved only through amplifying the underlying contradiction. It has been a spectacular form of temporal deferment. Although the point is certainly arguable, the moment of global expansion seems to have been central over the long run and it is not at all clear that capitalism can survive on the basis of the internal fix—pace David Harvey. This historical approach would get us closer to a more useful formulation of “ecological crisis” and to the idea of multiple forms of ecological crisis in the modern world, past, present, and future."
I haven't yet read Giovanni Arrighi's Spatial and Other “Fixes” of Historical Capitalism, but it looks good...

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Gummer for Climate Committee?

Rumours have it that the latest name in the frame to take over from Lord Adair Turner is one John Selwyn Gummer.

Yes, this is him...

The Climate Committee has released a very weighty tome indeed, possibly following the "bury them in bullshit" tactic.

see also:
"Long, detailed, impressive - but futile in the face of runaway climate change" by George Monbiot in the Grauniad.
Press Coverage of Lord Turner's Report at the Current Climate

a fair C.O.P.

It might sound like Rex Tillerson is making a significant concession in recognising the reality of anthropogenic global warming and his industry's part in it. but, in the build up to Copenhagen, in the middle of a financial meltdown, Exxon are in fact seizing the initiative by putting their weight behind carbon taxation and against international regulation. That way they can stall meaningful action untill the public rebel and elect another bunch of redneck half-wits. Or am I being cynical?

For those unfamiliar with the reference . it is to the story of Sweeny Todd - the Demon Barber of Fleet Street - who killed his customers so that his mistress could turn them into pies.

A figure of speech

I've been tediously going through all last year's cartoons to put them on a database for the new website (which WILL happen, honestly) and came upon this one, from September - which I'd forgotten about. It was originally published in Ethical Consumer Magazine. Whilst not wildly news related, it still holds water (!)

Contrasting sides of China compete for posterity - via Climate Progress and DotEarth

The US senate shows its contempt for the people of Gaza, whilst calls increase for an apartheid-style boycott of the Israeli state

Friday, 9 January 2009

The bigger they are...

The arse falls out of the Chinese recycling industry, causing hardship to millions and stalling one of the few large scale attempts to limit the damage we're doing.
Of course we should repair, re-use and recycle wherever possible - that should go without saying - but this stuff is travelling thousands of miles to seek out cheap labour, and is still inextricably tied in to high levels of consumption - which is, of course, why it's flagging now. This international trade is a short term fix. The real solutions surely lie in reduction of waste through reduction in consumption.

Reports indicate that a reduction in consumption is coming our way anyway, so perhaps we might like to consider doing something about it?

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Honesty and Realism?

Whilst Israel's formidable military machine visits ruthless collective punishment upon Gaza - an action that is a bitter insult to the sufferings of history and is condemned around the world ......
Sir John Harman calls for realism and honesty as we move into a renewable energy future, whilst GazProm underlines the point by freezing the extremities off of winter-bitten Europe.

Even the trees are against us.

Those of us with an excess of options on our potential menus are asked to consider our options a little more carefully

No Claims Bonus

Bradwell nuclear power station leaked like a cullender for years and nobody seems to feel responsible, whilst civil servants collude with government and the Sellafield mob to make sure they never need to say sorry in the event that their leaky buckets of toxic sludge go boom.
What's that you say? Too 1970s? Maybe. We at Throbgoblins International are aware that our choices about power are somewhat constrained -what with humans being a greedy and somewhat addled bunch, disinclined to switch anything off. So of course we must consider some short term fixes that would be best left alone in less pressing circumstances. But we don't think it unreasonable to ask that the mad dog be effectively chained.

Elsewhere Dubya's penny drops, for the briefest of moments
the Stanstead Plane Stupid protestors get their wrists slapped after their fine work of December 8th.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Corporate Responses- Interview with Dr Rory Sullivan

In November 2008, Greenleaf released a new book, Corporate Responses to Climate Change: Achieving Emissions Reductions Through Regulation, Self-Regulation and Economic Incentives, which P.E.D reviewed here. The book was edited by Dr Rory Sullivan, the Head of Responsible investment at Insight Investment. Recognised as one of the leading global experts on investment and climate change, Dr Sullivan has led Insight’s climate change-related research and engagement work over the past six years and has published a series of major reports on the subject. His academic research has focused on the role of self-regulation in public environmental policy, with a particular focus on voluntary approaches in climate change policy.

1. Where did the idea for the book come from?

The starting point was actually frustration with the nature of the public policy debate around business and climate change. In recent years, much of the discussion around business and climate change has been couched in very simplistic and quite antagonistic terms: companies bad/policy makers good (or vice-versa!), voluntarism bad/regulation good (or vice-versa again!). At the same time – and almost in a parallel universe – we have seen the first serious attempts by policy makers (most significantly through the EU Emissions Trading Scheme) to take meaningful and substantive action on greenhouse gas emissions. Companies have responded with a range of commitments and actions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, for all the rhetoric and action, global and corporate greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise inexorably.

It is this context that the book is located. The objective is not to make a case for business or government action on climate change (a case that has been made many times before) but to carefully and systematically analyse current business practice and performance on climate change, in the light of the dramatic changes in the regulatory and policy environment over the last five years, and to use this analysis to provide concrete proposals on how the next generation of climate change policy instruments may be designed and implemented in a manner that delivers the real and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that will be required in coming years.

2. You set out with the aim

"to reflect on current business practice and performance on climate change in the light of the dramatic changes in the regulatory and policy environment over the last five years. More specifically, it examines how climate change-related policy development and implementation have influenced corporate performance, with the objective of using this information to consider how the next stage of climate change policy may be designed and implemented in a manner that is effective while also addressing the inevitable dilemmas at the heart of climate change policy”.

How far do you think you succeeded? Given the chance, what would you add to the book?

I think the book has delivered on its central objective of cutting through the lazy rhetoric that clouds the business and climate change debate and presenting a clear – albeit stark – assessment of the current state of play as well as providing credible, evidence-based proposals for public policy on climate change. The book covers the major topics that you would expect in a book on greenhouse gas emissions mitigation: corporate motivations, the role of leadership within the organisation, the manner in which external influences (policy, stakeholder pressure, etc) interact to influence behaviour, the strengths and weaknesses of different policy instruments (command and control, incentives, market based instruments, self-regulation), the key climate change policy instruments that have been adopted.

So, in response to your question, I wouldn’t change anything in the book. Indeed, the relative lack of progress at Poznan and the recent discussions around the European Union's climate change programmes confirm some of the central concerns raised in the book: that lack of progress on developing and implementing policy in this area is the key challenge, that governments have yet to explicitly answer the question of how they deal with potentially competing goals such as energy security, and that, ultimately, clear, robust, long-term public policy – i.e. ‘Long, Loud & Legal’ - is key if we are to see a significant change in corporate performance.

There is however one major topic that the book – by design – didn’t cover, namely adaptation.

Clearly, a discussion on corporate greenhouse gas emissions – the focus of the book – is only half the picture. The other is how companies are developing their business strategies to take account of the physical impacts of climate change and also the opportunities presented by a changing climate. While acknowledging the causal links between greenhouse gas emissions and the global climate, adaptation is still treated very much as a distinct issue by companies and by policy makers. Furthermore, with the obvious exception of sectors such as insurance, the thinking on how adaptation policy needs to be designed and implemented to incentivise appropriate corporate responses is still very much in its infancy and so a book on this subject is probably somewhat premature.

3. On page 35 of the book you write "Overall, there needs to be a scarcity of allowances in order to create a market price for carbon and thereby induce reductions in greenhouse gas emissions." Anyone reading the Financial Times recently could be forgiven for thinking that German industry- carmakers, steel etc- have just gutted the European Climate Programme, especially on the question of the auctioning of carbon credits for the emissions trading scheme. Is that a fair representation? If so, what signal does that send to energy-generators?

I’m not sure that the wording of the question presents a completely fair representation of the recent debate. There are actually two distinct issues at play. The first is whether the European Climate Programme will deliver the significant, substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that are required. From the evidence to date, the EU does seem likely to deliver on its targets of reducing the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020. As an intermediate goals towards the longer-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, as suggested by the IPCC, this is an important and substantive contribution and the EU should be applauded for providing real leadership on this.

The second is the distributional effects of the EU’s policy actions. The EU is faced with significant challenges of keeping its Member States on board with its overall climate change goals; inevitably, this requires paying attention to issues such as protecting European companies from unfair competition from companies outside the EU who do not face the same carbon constraints, and avoiding EU businesses relocate to outside the EU with the loss of jobs that would entail but at no net benefit to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. One of the consequences has been that some of the major beneficiaries have been the energy companies and large industrials. Clearly, this raises the ethical (or distributional justice) questions of whether companies should be rewarded for having historically high emissions. But, this outcome, uncomfortable though it may be, may be a necessary price to pay in order to deliver on the EU’s overall climate change goals.

4. Elsewhere in the book, an author points out that the EU negotiating position of "20% cut by 2020, or 30% if comparable economies come aboard" actually creates policy uncertainty for companies, which they generally don't like. Given the uncertainty over whether there will even be a deal at Copenhagen (there seems to be some back-pedalling and downward massaging of expectations), what would you like to see the EU doing? What are your hopes/expectations of Copenhagen.

Obviously, the ideal outcome from Copenhagen would be a binding agreement that sets clear targets for the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and puts us clearly on the pathway to a low carbon economy. However, we need to recognise that there are many obstacles in the way of such an agreement, and it may be 2010 or 2011 before we see any form of agreement emerge.

There are some positive signs at the national and regional level. For example, China has set a nationally binding goal to reduce energy consumption per unit of economic output by 20 % in 2010 from 2005, South Africa has said that its emissions will peak by 2025, with cuts starting a decade later and Mexico has said that it intends to halve its emissions by 2050 against a 2002 baseline.

I think we are, now more than ever, looking to the developed countries – the EU, the US and Australia seem the most likely - to provide leadership by example. If there is a single conclusion to be drawn from the EU’s experience over the past few years it is that meaningful policy action on climate change does not necessarily entail significant adverse economic effects and, indeed, any short-term costs should be outweighed by longer-term benefits such as improved energy security and more efficient use of energy. Furthermore, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) has played a catalytic role in putting climate change on the corporate agenda, not only demonstrating that governments could act but that they were prepared to act and to take decisions that were not necessarily in the best short-term interests of all companies.

5. The UK Government has created the Department of Energy and Climate Change. What key decisions do you think it should make on nuclear and new coal-fired power stations? Does the lack of CCS mean there should be, as James Hansen proposes, a moratorium on coal-fired stations? Would the gap be filled by renewables, or something worse?

There is a lot of rhetoric around the government’s commitment to action on climate change, yet at the same time many of the individual projects being proposed/discussed – the third runway at Heathrow, the Kingsnorth power station – seem likely to significantly increase the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

New coal fired power stations represent the key litmus test of the government’s commitment to action on climate change. Allowing coal-fired power stations to proceed without carbon capture and storage would clearly demonstrate the lack of government appetite for substantive action on this issue.

A balanced approach to climate change policy does not mean that greenhouse gas emissions cannot or should not increase from specific activities but the government should explain how, if it does intend to allow such projects to proceed, it intends to reduce emissions elsewhere in the economy to compensate for increases that result from other of its decisions.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Book Review: Corporate Responses to Climate Change

Corporate Responses to Climate Change: Achieving Emissions Reductions Through Regulation, Self-Regulation and Economic Incentives

edited by Rory Sullivan, Greenleaf Publishing
November 2008, 356 + vii pp 234
hardback ISBN 978-1-906093-08-2

In 1966, at the height of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese presented a captured US pilot, Jeremiah Denton, on television. During the interview Denton blinked his eyes in morse code to spell out the word "T-O-R-T-U-R-E," communicating that his captors were torturing him and his fellow POWs. I was reminded of this incident when reading this admirable and highly informative collection of essays.

Throughout, there is a sense that the authors are constrained- knowingly or unknowingly- by a set of beliefs about the world, how economies work and politics as the art of the possible. But they are also desperate to get a message out about the dire predicament they- and every living thing on the planet- face. Time after time, chapters, whether about “European airline responses to climate change turbulence” or “the role of voluntary industry-government partnerships in reducing greenhouse gas emissions” will list the real and hoped-for benefits from this or that agreement or strategy with the stark truth that:

all these initiatives need to be judged on a single test: what is their contribution to reducing global GHG emissions? If their effect is not to enable, facilitate or deliver significant emissions reductions, companies need to rethink their strategies. We have moved beyond a point where good-news stories, 'greenwashing or green branding are appropriate responses to the threat of climate change.”
(Page 319)

Rory Sullivan, Head of Responsible Investment at Insight Investment, part of the HBOS group, has brought together a broad range of articles, alongside several he has co-authored previously. He writes

The overall aim of this book is to reflect on current business practice and performance on climate change in the light of the dramatic changes in the regulatory and policy environment over the last five years. More specifically, it examines how climate change-related policy development and implementation have influenced corporate performance, with the objective of using this information to consider how the next stage of climate change policy (regulation, incentives, voluntary initiatives) may be designed and implemented in a manner that is effective (i.e. Delivers the real and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that will be required in a timely manner) while also addressing the inevitable dilemmas at the heart of climate change policy (e..g. How are concerns such as energy security to be squared with the need for drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions? Can economic growth be reconciled with greenhouse gas emissions? Can emissions reductions be delivered in an economically efficient manner?)”

The book has a total of 22 chapters under sections including “public policy: regulation ,economic incentives and voluntary programmes,” “non-state actors and their influence on corporate climate change performance” and “corporate responses and case studies.”

None of the chapters is particularly weak, and some are simply excellent. The table on page 120, “Factors that influence business responses to climate change”, which is part of a chapter on the Mexican Greenhouse Gas Program is worth particularly close attention.

The discussion of the motivations for corporations to engage in voluntary partnerships is most enlightening, and gives enough information to confirm any environmentalist's suspicions of corporations pursuing“regulatory capture” of the State.

Curiously though, there are major gaps in this book. There's little on the dilemmas facing the fossil fuel extractors, or on energy companies generally. Vattenfall, a Swedish company trying to influence European- and Global- climate change policy towards steeper targets than presently contemplated, is conspicuous by its absence. Similarly, renewable energy companies don't get a look in. It could be argued that energy policy is a separate (but related) issue that already gets a lot of coverage, but the silence is audible.

More conspicuously absent is the perspective of insurance companies- suffering spiralling climate-related losses, and re-insurers such as MunichRe. Many of these were amongst the first corporates to seriously consider the impacts of dangerous climate change.

The technical nitty-gritty issues around carbon budgets (standardisation and emissions accounting) are referred to, but not explored in depth, and although the infamous Global Climate Coalition gets some mention, the history of corporate responses to climate change is not explored. Developing world experiences, understandably for a book on climate change mitigation, are not explored in great depth.

This is not a book for casual readers. It is not a work of popular science or popular economics. It is not deliberately dense, just written with a specific audience in mind. That said, anyone who wants a serious understanding of the factors that affect corporate responses to climate change, needs to read this volume, which has justly been praised by the great and the good of the world's climateriat.

Sullivan closes on a suitably serious tone-

ensuring that all sectors of the economy and all countries of the world significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as a matter of urgency is the single most important issue for policy-makers, for companies and for us as individuals. That is a stark and maybe unpalatable conclusion. But the bottom line is that the future of our planet, not just our economy, depends on our success in delivering significant reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions.”

The question is, perhaps, how far the measures discussed in this book will genuinely contribute to this effort.

Disclaimer- The reviewer knows and likes the editor of this book, Rory Sullivan

See Also

The Business of Global Environmental Governance eds David Levy and Peter Newell 2005, MIT Press

Conceptualising climate change governance beyond the international regime: a review of four theoretical approaches Chukwumerije Okereke and Harriet Bulkeley Tyndall Working Paper 112

Icarus Ascending

The UK gov't tries to cover up the scandal of the Heathrow expansion with the fig-leaf of a (rhetorical?) tagged on Rail hub, but a hub without spokes does not make a wheel.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Nature article on ursine defecation patterns...

The prestigious journal Nature will not be publishing this article in a forthcoming issue.

The persistence of ursine defecation patterns in arboreal and sylvan eco-systems: rhetorical artefact or empirically proven?

Marc Hudson, Matthew Bright & Cassidy Irving

ABSTRACT: The question of the specific nature and site of ursine mammalian excretory processes is one that has exercised the rhetorical skills of homo sapiens sarcasticus for a considerable period of time. Given the frequent reference to this conundrum in demotic speech, it is surprising that this topic of lively debate has not been examined systematically. Paleo-ontological excavation of coprolites would indicate persistence of this behavioural trait through geological epochs. However, no meta-analysis of available scientific studies had been conducted. The authors review the literature and conclude that further well-funded research into this vital issue- alongside the nature of theological orthodoxy in the Vatican's leadership- is required. We offer a short list of suitable recipients of any grants that would be forthcoming.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Paradise Lost

The Maldives economy relies on the sort of behaviour - conspicuous consumption by jet-set tourists - that guarantees that the Maldives will dissappear beneath the waves. In the meantime they're stockpiling all the crap they can gather. Perhaps they're jockeying to be the new Easter Island.

In Brasil, it appears that - not only are they hacking back rainforest for the benefit of millions of wobble-bottomed, burger munching ninnies, - but they're doing it with slaves.

And of course the Shoa in Gaza goes on

Friday, 2 January 2009

Slip Hazard

With apologies to Robert Newman

A percentage of Climate scientists expect that climate engineering of some sort will be required - because we as a species just can't be arsed with changing our behaviour.
Marvellous. Can I have my Jet-Pack now??

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Wrong Track

Of course the real news is the ongoing brutalising of the people of Gaza by the Israeli army, but I shall stick to my brief.

UK train operators push rail travel out of the range of many by magically manipulating......TIME ITSELF!!!

Elsewhere, The future is put on hold, Ukraine has its gas cut off and engineers come up with a cement that is carbon negative.