Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Monbiot on Stern

Hat tip Ballots Balls and Bikes

George Monbiot has published a 10 point plan for being much much greener than the stern review.

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

Points 1 and 2

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 The government is using outdated figures, aiming for a 60% reduction by 2050.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.

Well that seems to be just one point. And it seems to settle the matter. If we do this, the emissions will be cut the required amount. Who needs the other 8 points? They may affect how the carbon is emitted but they will not affect the total.

As it happens, 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 Citizen's Income is fine as an idea. 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. They work differently in that taxes set a price premium and let the market find the level, whereas quotas set the level and let the market find the price. But effectively the two are tied: for a level of price or emissions there is an associated level of the other. We might not estimate the exact relationship well, but we can refine policy over the years to get the right outcome with either policy.

What delights do Monbiot's unnecessary 8 points offer us?

5. ...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.

Er, another pipeline network? Can't we use the same pipes to carry hydrogen as we use to carry natural gas? Where on earth is all this hydrogen going to come from? The problem with hydrogen is generating it. If we do generate some, with, say, surplus renewable electricity, transport would be a better use for it, replacing oil, than piping into homes for heating, replacing gas.

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.

Am I missing something, or are we talking about nationalising the retail sector here? If not, who is going to be building these warehouses? None of the companies that have just had all their assets abolished would be that keen, or able.

As for the other points, there is a lot of banning, where supertaxes like on gas guzzlers would be a better measure. But there is no analysis of the freeloading problem (scroll down), it is Kantian ethics and that is the end of the story. Sorry, George, but this is not the 18th century.

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sushil yadav said...
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