Econ Boffins: Scrap CO2 Emissions Reductions

A group of 14 international academics from a variety of fields, under the auspices of the London School of Economics and Politics, have produced a paper calling for a new approach to the failed Kyoto Protocol model for dealing with global warming, scrapping the notion of emissions reductions. It is known as “The Hartwell Paper” (PDF),  named for Hartwell House in Buckinghamshire, where the authors conceived it last February. Its executive summary is reprinted here.

Executive Summary

Climate policy, as it has been understood and practised by many governments of the world under the Kyoto Protocol approach, has failed to produce any discernable real world reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases in fifteen years. The underlying reason for this is that the UNFCCC/Kyoto model was structurally flawed and doomed to fail because it systematically misunderstood the nature of climate change as a policy issue between 1985 and 2009. However, the currently dominant approach has acquired immense political momentum because of the quantities of political capital sunk into it. But in any case the UNFCCC/Kyoto model of climate policy cannot continue because it crashed in late 2009. The Hartwell Paper sets and reviews this context; but doing so is not its sole or primary purpose.

The crash of 2009 presents an immense opportunity to set climate policy free to fly at last. The principal motivation and purpose of this Paper is to explain and to advance this opportunity. To do so involves understanding and accepting a startling proposition. It is now plain that it is not possible to have a ‘climate policy’ that has emissions reductions as the all encompassing goal. However, there are many other reasons why the decarbonisation of the global economy is highly desirable. Therefore, the Paper advocates a radical reframing – an inverting – of approach: accepting that decarbonisation will only be achieved successfully as a benefit contingent upon other goals which are politically attractive and relentlessly pragmatic.

The Paper therefore proposes that the organising principle of our effort should be the raising up of human dignity via three overarching objectives: ensuring energy access for all; ensuring that we develop in a manner that does not undermine the essential functioning of the Earth system; ensuring that our societies are adequately equipped to withstand the risks and dangers that come from all the vagaries of climate, whatever their cause may be. It explains radical and practical ways to reduce non-CO2 human forcing of climate. It argues that improved climate risk management is a valid policy goal, and is not simply congruent with carbon policy.

It explains the political prerequisite of energy efficiency strategies as a first step and documents how this can achieve real emissions reductions. But, above all, it emphasises the primacy of accelerating decarbonisation of energy supply. This calls for very substantially increased investment in innovation in noncarbon energy sources in order to diversify energy supply technologies. The ultimate goal of doing this is to develop non-carbon energy supplies at unsubsidised costs less than those using fossil fuels. The Hartwell Paper advocates funding this work by low hypothecated (dedicated) carbon taxes. It opens discussion on how to channel such money productively.

To reframe the climate issue around matters of human dignity is not just noble or necessary. It is also likely to be more effective than the approach of framing around human sinfulness –which has failed and will continue to fail.

The Hartwell Paper follows the advice that a good crisis should not be wasted.

Professor Gwyn Prins, Mackinder Programme for the Study of Long Wave Events, London School of Economics & Political Science, England; Isabel Galiana, Department of Economics & GEC3, McGill University, Canada; Professor Christopher Green, Department of Economics, McGill University, Canada; Dr Reiner Grundmann, School of Languages & Social Sciences, Aston University, England; Professor Mike Hulme, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, England; Professor Atte Korhola, Department of Environmental Sciences/ Division of Environmental Change and Policy, University of Helsinki, Finland; Professor Frank Laird, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, USA; Ted Nordhaus, The Breakthrough Institute, Oakland, California, USA; Professor Roger Pielke Jnr, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado, USA; Professor Steve Rayner, Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, Universityof Oxford, England; Professor Daniel Sarewitz, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, Arizona State University, USA; Michael Shellenberger, The Breakthrough Institute, Oakland, California, USA; Professor Nico Stehr, Karl Mannheim Chair for Cultural Studies, Zeppelin
University, Germany; Hiroyuki Tezuka, General Manager, Climate Change Policy Group, JFE Steel Corporation (on behalf of Japan Iron and Steel Federation), Japan

SHARE this article