Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Monbiots Action Plan for Global Warming

Interesting piece from George Monbiot here in todays Guardian in response to the Stern report on climate change. in the article he proposes his ten point plan as follows:

1. Set a target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions based on the latest science. The government is using outdated figures, aiming for a 60% reduction by 2050. Even the annual 3% cut proposed in the early day motion calling for a new climate change bill does not go far enough. Timescale: immediately.

2. Use that target to set an annual carbon cap, which falls on the ski-jump trajectory. Then use the cap to set a personal carbon ration. Every citizen is given a free annual quota of carbon dioxide. He or she spends it by buying gas and electricity, petrol and train and plane tickets. If they run out, they must buy the rest from someone who has used less than his or her quota. This accounts for about 40% of the carbon dioxide we produce. The remainder is auctioned off to companies. It's a simpler and fairer approach than either green taxation or the EU's emissions trading scheme, and it also provides people with a powerful incentive to demand low-carbon technologies. Timescale: a full scheme in place by January 2009.

3. Introduce a new set of building regulations, with three objectives. A. Imposing strict energy-efficiency requirements on all major refurbishments (costing £3,000 or more). Timescale: in force by June 2007. B. Obliging landlords to bring their houses up to high energy-efficiency standards before they can rent them out. Timescale: to cover all new rentals from January 2008. C. Ensuring that all new homes in the UK are built to the German Passivhaus standard (which requires no heating system). Timescale: in force by 2012.

4. Ban the sale of incandescent lightbulbs, patio heaters, garden floodlights and other wasteful and unnecessary technologies. Introduce a stiff "feebate" system for all electronic goods sold in the UK, with the least efficient taxed heavily and the most efficient receiving tax discounts. Every year the standards in each category rise. Timescale: fully implemented by November 2007.

5. Redeploy money now earmarked for new nuclear missiles towards a massive investment in energy generation and distribution. Two schemes in particular require government support to make them commercially viable: very large wind farms, many miles offshore, connected to the grid with high-voltage direct-current cables; and a hydrogen pipeline network to take over from the natural gas grid as the primary means of delivering fuel for home heating. Timescale: both programmes commence at the end of 2007 and are completed by 2018.

6. Promote the development of a new national coach network. City-centre coach stations are shut down and moved to motorway junctions. Urban public transport networks are extended to meet them. The coaches travel on dedicated lanes and never leave the motorways. Journeys by public transport then become as fast as journeys by car, while saving 90% of emissions. It is self-financing, through the sale of the land now used for coach stations. Timescale: commences in 2008; completed by 2020.

7. Oblige all chains of filling stations to supply leasable electric car batteries. This provides electric cars with unlimited mileage: as the battery runs down, you pull into a forecourt; a crane lifts it out and drops in a fresh one. The batteries are charged overnight with surplus electricity from offshore wind farms. Timescale: fully operational by 2011.

8. Abandon the road-building and road-widening programme, and spend the money on tackling climate change. The government has earmarked £11.4bn for road expansion. It claims to be allocating just £545m a year to "spending policies that tackle climate change". Timescale: immediately.

9. Freeze and then reduce UK airport capacity. While capacity remains high there will be constant upward pressure on any scheme the government introduces to limit flights. We need a freeze on all new airport construction and the introduction of a national quota for landing slots, to be reduced by 90% by 2030. Timescale: immediately.

10. Legislate for the closure of all out-of-town superstores, and their replacement with a warehouse and delivery system. Shops use a staggering amount of energy (six times as much electricity per square metre as factories, for example), and major reductions are hard to achieve: Tesco's "state of the art" energy-saving store at Diss in Norfolk has managed to cut its energy use by only 20%. Warehouses containing the same quantity of goods use roughly 5% of the energy. Out-of-town shops are also hardwired to the car - delivery vehicles use 70% less fuel. Timescale: fully implemented by 2012.

I am keen that we do as much as possible but I am also mindful of what may be achievable or at least what the public will support. Most of his proposals seem possible to me. 3,4 and 5 in particular would be brilliant and in fact I think that 3 (ensuring that all new homes in the UK are built to the German Passivhaus standard) could be done quicker than 2012. The most difficult ones to achieve because of likely public responses will be 2 and 9. But that does not mean we should not try.


Nicola said...

I like the idea of 2 - most of them I think are workable and should be attempted.

I can see 10 running up against all kinds of Helath and safety regulations to do with lighting, etc.

I also think we should look at eveloping fibre optic lighting - in offices and shops and factories most of the electrical use fo lighting is ironically in daylight hours - implementing the use of fibre optic systems to draw in natrual light would make considerable impact there.

Tristan said...

Step 11: Create an environmentalist totalitarian state.

Monbiot is an illiberal, single minded idiot. He seeks to prescribe the actions which he sees as best upon others, without any consultation or any sort of scientific backing using evidence selected to promote his position.

If a party claiming to be liberal starts simply banning things it ceases to be a liberal party. We didn't support the coercion socialism imposes to try and solve important problems, we should not give in to draconian illiberal policies to solve environmental problems - for a start they will prevent innovation to find new solutions to problems, and fundamentally they restrict people's freedoms far more than any benefits that may come would justify.

Liberal solutions do not rest on coercion, they rest on enabling people to make their own choices.

Yes, we should be implementing environmental taxation to internalise those environmental externalities, and that is an argument we can win with people, we can have negative taxes and tax breaks for environmentally friendly activities, but we must not start dictating the technologies to be used and what people may or may not buy, except in extreme cases.

The idea that ordinary people are too stupid to make the right decision is not one which belongs in the liberal tradition, it belongs in the authoritarian traditions of aristocratic rule, socialism and fascism.

Joe Otten said...

Monbiot is scrambling for clear green water here between himself and the mainstream.

A ten point program sounds good, but if point 2 is implemented, then that will cut the emissions to the target levels. Who needs the other 9 points then?

I don't agree with the free annual traded quota. It is a cash-equivalent handout to every citizen. If you support the Citizen's Income idea as an alternative to benefits and tax allowances you should advocate it honestly, not try to slip it in on the back of a global warming measure.

And the Citizen's Income idea is fine. It is just much too expensive.

I think green taxes are a better way of setting a price than traded quotas. They are less bureaucratic and less volatile, sending simpler clearer signals.

Tony Ferguson said...

Tristan - I take your point up to a point and should have engaged my brain a bit more but some things I really cannot see the harm in such as setting higher standards for new build homes.

ecofx said...

In my opinion, dear George is unable to tell good ideas from bad ones, nor can he separate out the different 'flavours' within his arguments.
I believe that certain methods can be used in certain places; regulation straightjackets can be placed on standards but not on individual routes to achieving them, while greened market forces would still allow individuals to do 'undesirable' things some of the time if 'doing it right' is simply too difficult in particular circumstances.

If the UK were to implement a personal carbon budget, by the way, that may be the biggest factor in persuading me to return. Energy should be viewed as a currency and I don't see this as a backdoor to the citizens' income idea - I am quite upfront about the elements of give and take I feel should be there in society.