All posts by Erik-Jan Van Oosten

lady justice

Ecocide for climate safety: Setting up a system to Keep It In The Ground

The Great Transition Initiative just published an article on the concept of Ecocide in the context of international Law by Femke Wijdekop, together with a thoughtful online debate between the author and various responders. As a proponent of climate justice I’m excited to see how this concept, which in the global north is all too often neglected and underplayed, is taken up outside of the realm of activism. Both the Dutch climate case and the End Ecocide campaign show the immense potential for climate justice in existing systems. I believe it is essential to not only infuse existing systems with a healthy dose of climate justice but to create new systems based on the finite nature of our planet to replace and complement existing systems. In short, I want to explore how we make “System change not climate change” a reality.

Climate Justice is an important concept and for it to be truly just to future generations it needs to guarantee climate safety. For this reason I’d like to contribute constructive criticism regarding the current Ecocide and Climate Justice approach. I’d also like to present a bold project that aims to guarantee climate safety in the fairest and most effective way.

As a supporter of the End Ecocide campaign I find it quite difficult to reduce the broad idea that Earth itself has a right to life to adding one amendment to an international agreement. The idea can have huge implications: A cultural and economic shift away from extractivism through a redefinition of the human-nature relationship. Why limit ourselves to only go after the worst of the worst offenders?

The answer popped up several times in the discussion. Ecocide is a gliding scale, not a binary condition. Everyone makes a negative impact, simply by living, breathing and consuming. It prompts the question: Are we all ecocidal? Do we live in a culture of ecocide? Should we all be behind bars? Where do we draw the line?

In law there is a term to deal with this issue: Proportionality. Luckily for our case, climate scientists are crystal clear on what is proportional. Be it for an individual or society as a whole: consumption should take place within the regenerative capacity of Earth. This makes consumption outside of this regenerative capacity, more commonly known as overconsumption, a form of ecocide. Having an international law against ecocide does not address unintended ecocide as a result of overconsumption1.

Robert Hickey said this very well in his reply to Femke Wijdekop’s article: “the crux of the problem: ever more people consuming even more things and the unintended consequences that result. It is the negligence and unintended consequences of my own actions (and the actions of almost every individual on Earth) that are, in aggregate, the foundations of environmental destruction. The car I drive, the planes I fly on, the meat I eat.”

Making overconsumption punishable isn’t a feasible or practical idea in my opinion. We need a mechanism to put our collective consumption of especially problematic resources such as all sources of fossil carbon within the safe limits determined by climate scientists. The fairest way to do this is from a climate justice perspective: every person has a right to an equal amount of fossil carbon within the planetary carbon budget.

Like the Dutch climate case, we should see this as a rights issue, not a negotiation or COP21 type of agreement. Just as with the law, the climate system is not something to be negotiated with.

In Allen White’s contribution the question “Absent a truly global governance mechanism, can nation-state–driven multilateral accords, replete with self-interest and power imbalances, rise to the challenge of convergent threats that leave little time for concerted action?” was raised. The track record of this international approach in the last 4 decades on addressing environmental issues makes it highly doubtful that nation-states can guarantee climate safety. And having visited the COP21 as a delegate last winter I don’t believe we can expect the changes we need from nation-states. The problem I’m spending most of my free time on is on the underlying problem: the lack of a truly global governance mechanism. For me that ties in perfectly with GTI’s mission: shaping a civilised planetary future. A citizens’ initiative could set up such a mechanism on a planetary scale. It would involve by managing the atmosphere as a global commons. This is exactly what Feasta’s CapGlobalCarbon project intends to do. We need a Global Climate Trust to place a limit on fossil fuel production, and return proceeds to people on an equitable basis. A Trust founded on such principles would set a declining cap on fossil fuel extraction that ensures the necessary reductions in total global carbon emissions are achieved. By issuing dividends based on the value of permits, it would address climate and global poverty together. As a citizen-led initiative, it could prod governments to take action, and act as a backup to the UNFCCC process.

How would it work? A citizen’s movement would call for an economy-wide cap on greenhouse gas emissions that delivers revenues from GHG permit sales to individuals. The permits would be sold to the upstream fossil fuel companies, and the scarcity rent earned would be returned to the public as climate dividends. A global cap would provide assurance to individual nations that their reductions will not end up simply as “clearing space” under the budget that others will fill. The cap would be dictated by climate science, the carbon-price would be dictated by the market and the dividend would be dictated by the one-person, one-share principle. The Cap would keep the majority of fossil fuels in the ground and the Share would distribute the wealth from the portion that is extracted broadly through common wealth dividends. Whereas a tax would set the price but not the quantity of fossil fuels, in this case the quantity of fossil fuel that can safely be extracted would be set by the cap, and the price would fluctuate to reflect the scarcity in the market.

This provides society with a direct control on the amount of fossil carbon entering Earth’s atmosphere, which can be altered over time based on the latest climate science and the price on carbon. This relatively simple intervention changes our problem of having more fossil fuels than we can safely extract into an optimal situation where society will extract only what makes sense economically and ecologically. The lack of government involvement in setting the price or other forms of negotiation make this a transparent and effective solution for making sure the true scarcity of fossil carbon is reflected in the price at any point in time.

How does this link into ecocide? Simple: the production and consumption of fossil fuels not carrying a permit means that these fuels are outside of the carbon budget and are a direct source of dangerous levels of climate change. Non-compliance is in this case a form of ecocide. Having a law against ecocide would greatly enhance the campaign for – and implementation of – the CapGlobalCarbon mechanism.

CapGlobalCarbon can be seen as a direct application of the concept of ecocide to the issue of climate change. We divide and mark the carbon reserves as either “safely burnable” or “unburnable”, to use the Carbon Tracker jargon.

The CapGlobalCarbon team is currently gathering a critical mass of NGO’s, Think Tanks and climate justice groups to make this idea reality before it is too late. A global law against ecocide and a global cap on fossil carbon extraction seem to me the two key, mutually reinforcing, conditions for a sustainable society.

Endnotes

1 Whether or not Ecocide was caused intentionally or unintentionally shouldn’t matter if we take the precautionary principle seriously. One is just as responsible for taking an action as for inaction, especially when the consequences (such as a warming planet) can reasonably be expected to be known by anyone.

Facebooktwitteryoutubeby feather
logo3

CapGlobalCarbon from a Post-Growth Perspective

line

Samuel Alexander from the Simplicity Collective has written a great article in which he first identifies the need for a transition to a post growth society and secondly explores specific policies and institutions that would fit this post-growth framework. The CapGlobalCarbon team is excited to see that the second policy recommendation on the list is remarkably close to the solution we are promoting and developing.  An excerpt from the article:

“2. Reduce overconsumption via diminishing ‘resource caps’: One of the defining problems with the growth paradigm is that the developed nations now have resource and energy demands that could not possibly be universalised to all nations. The quantitative ‘scale’ of our economies is overblown. It follows that any transition to a just and sustainable world requires the developed nations to stop overconsuming the world’s scarce resources and reduce resource and energy demands significantly. Although in theory efficiency gains in production provide one pathway to reduced demand, the reality is that within a growth economy, efficiency gains tend to be reinvested in more growth and consumption, rather than reducing impact. After all, efficiency gains can reduce the costs of production, making a commodity cheaper, thus incentivising increased consumption of the commodity. In order to contain this well documented phenomenon (for a review, see Alexander, 2015: Ch. 1), a post-growth economy would need to introduce diminishing resource caps – that is, well defined limits to resource consumption – to ensure that efficiency gains are directed into reducing overall resource consumption, not directed into more growth. In fact, diminishing resource caps would actually encourage and stimulate efficiency improvements, because producers would know that there would be increasing competition over key resources and so would be driven to eliminate waste and create a ‘circular economy’ where products at the end of their life are reused in the next phase of production. In an age of ecological overshoot, the overconsuming developed nations need to achieve significant absolute reductions in resource demand (absolute decoupling) not just productivity gains (relative decoupling). Determining where to set the resource caps, how quickly they should be reduced (e.g. 3% per year to allow markets to adjust), and where they should be aiming to stabilise (e.g. an equal per capita share), are open questions that can be debated. Formulating a workable policy in this domain would require, among other things, a highly sophisticated and detailed scientific accounting of resource stocks and flows of the economy. But the first step is simply to recognise that, in the developed nations, diminishing resource caps are a necessary part of achieving the ‘degrowth’ in resource consumption that is required for justice and sustainability.” – Samuel Alexander, Policies for a post-growth economy

To Clarify: CapGlobalCarbon has taken an agnostic view towards the issue of economic growth. We acknowledge it means a great deal to many people but do not see a need to either join or oppose the growth rhetoric. Whether a cap on fossil fuel production is compatible or at odds with economic growth depends on your viewpoint on the potential of absolute decoupling. If you think the economy can decouple quicker than that the cap tightens, we’ve contributed to sustainable growth by taking care of the rebound effect. If you think absolute decoupling is a myth, we’ve helped to establish a degrowth economy. Regardless of which side of this economic debate you look at it, CapGlobalCarbon is a viable and effective solution.

Facebooktwitteryoutubeby feather
Outside the UNGreen Zone at COP- 21 in Paris, Dec 7 2015: Feasta delegates Mike Sandler,
Erik-Jan Van Oosten, RobertHutchison, CarolineWhyte and Laurence Matthews

CapGlobalCarbon in a post-COP21 world

lineOn the 5th of December the delegation of the Irish think-tank Feasta presented a fresh, new way to address climate change in a fair and highly effective manner on the COP21 Climate conference in Paris. This plan is called CapGlobalCarbon and it is aimed at tackling the problem of warming at its source by regulating the extraction of fossil fuels instead of the conventional end-of-pipe approach aimed at emission reduction. The main difference with the COP21 climate agreement is that CapGlobalCarbon is a citizen-led initiative where governments have no negotiation space: they either opt-in or they don’t.

Just as one cannot negotiate with the climate system, one cannot negotiate on the required global de-carbonization rate. By leaving the “how much” question to science we have the best chances of staying below dangerous levels of atmospheric CO2.

How does this relate to the COP21 climate agreement? Has the CapGlobalCarbon project become obsolete now world leaders have promised to “do their bit”? We don’t think so. Many analyses have shown that this agreement isn’t enough to put us on the right track and we still seem to be heading towards a warming of 3 degrees or more. The two major shortcomings of this agreement are that it relies on yet to be invented technologies and excludes shipping and aviation. Interestingly, the CapGlobalCarbon solution can be implemented with no conflict to the efforts and intentions of the climate agreement. Fossil fuels are not mentioned nor regulated by this treaty as the focus is on the emissions resulting from burning fossil fuels, not the fuels themselves. This has frustrated many Keep it in the ground activists but this massive oversight by the policy makers can work to our advantage. The CapGlobalCarbon team shifted its strategy because of this lack of interest in fossil fuels. Where we first tried to get the UNFCCC and other institutions on board to make a cap on the extraction of fossil carbon part of their operation we now seek to set up CapGlobalCarbon as a parallel institution. A global blockadia that limits the extraction of fossil fuels to safe levels.

We need a complementary solution to fill the gaps that are left in the Paris climate agreement. The CapGlobalCarbon proposal can fill this gap because it prevents the fossil carbon from entering the market through an upstream cap. The shipping and aviation industries for example would, in a world where CapGlobalCarbon is implemented, comply to climate safety as their fuel has already been accounted for. How about we keep that 80% of the fuel in the ground and let the annual Conference Of Parties decide on policies for using the remaining 20% most effectively to build a sustainable society?

Facebooktwitteryoutubeby feather

“Look up, wise up, cheer up”

framespotting
Matthew and Alison Matthews recently wrote a book on this very topic: how frames influence our thinking on issues such as how to address climate change.

“Look up, wise up, cheer up” is the title from a presentation by our friend Laurence Matthews from Cap&Share, held for the Scientists for Global Responsibility. In this presentation he explores a global cap on carbon from a framing perspective. It is a refreshing and insightful approach and he does an amazing job in presenting such a complex problem (keeping 80% of fossil fuels in the ground) in an accessible and engaging way. A PDF file of the presentation, accompanied by an explanatory section on the side, can be downloaded here (3 MB)

 

Facebooktwitteryoutubeby feather
The world needs a plan B as a safeguard for the climate negotiations

There is no Plan B? Response to French climate chief Laurence Tubiana

“There is no plan B,” said Laurence Tubiana, the chief of the climate envoy of the country hosting the COP21, on October 28 at a press conference.

First of all: we are glad to see Laurence Tubiana clearly takes the problem of climate change seriously and shows the urge to come to a solution during the COP21. That being said: her choice of words is rather unfortunate as adopting Thatcher’s “there is no alternative” frame makes it more likely that there indeed will be no alternative to the current business as usual trajectory of 3 degrees of warming.

“I can’t be more explicit than I have been all along the week… I don’t think parties should shy away from responsibilities. We don’t need another text… we don’t need to invest in a new one,”  – Laurence Tubiana

“There is no plan B”  is a worrying statement as it narrows down the set of solutions to cope with climate change to one particular solution: a climate treaty. As a hosting country it would be better be open to suggestions and ideas your guests bring in rather than discarding these ideas beforehand.

Furthermore, it is important to realise that a plan B does not jeopardize the process of plan A; it functions to safeguard that process. Our advice to the French hosts: Adopt a plan B that makes sure that, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, the fossil fuels that need to stay in the ground, remain there. CapGlobalCarbon is a legitimate plan B for this purpose.

If she had said “There is no planet B” we’d have agreed, and if she said “lets hope we don’t have to fall back on a plan B” we’d have agreed as well. But if there is one thing the COP21 desperately needs it is a Plan B.

If you agree, we kindly invite you to tweet this statement to @LaurenceTubiana to encourage her to take a solution-oriented stance.

Facebooktwitteryoutubeby feather

An overview of the INDCs for COP21

MindTheCover_alt4-page-001As of 17/10/2015 total of 123 submissions are now posted on United Nations (n.d.) covering 152 countries and 90% of current global emissions (RTCC, 2015). This is up from 23 submissions on 18/8/2015. Note that the EU is covered by a single submission. The major additional submissions are from India and Brazil so all the major economies/emitters have now submitted. Boyd et al (2015) suggest this will lead to emissions of 56.9 to 59.1 Gt CO2e in 2030 compared to a target of 36 Gt CO2e.

India (5.7% of 2012 emissions) has, as expected, submitted on a reduction of emissions by 33-35% per unit of GDP based on the 2005 level by 2030 and is proposing a re-forestation programme to act as a carbon sink. Brazil (5.7% of 2012 emissions) is targeting a 37% reduction on 2005 levels by 2025.

Many of the more recent submissions are from poorer countries submitting reductions compared with ‘business as usual’ scenarios (RTCC, 2015). These are very hard to judge and almost certainly anticipate overall increase of emissions over the timeframe suggested. Armenia is the first country to submit a per capita target. Several countries (for example South Africa) have signalled that they want international support (presumably money). Actual submissions can be viewed at United Nations (n.d.) while Carbon Brief Staff (2015) are blogging on country submissions as they come in. Climate Action Tracker (n.d.) has more detailed analyses of many of the submissions. Carbon Brief Staff (2015) have created a useful summary spreadsheet.

At the end of June Ban Ki Moon (secretary general of the United Nations) expressed his frustration at lack of progress (Goldenburg, 2015). Also many submissions fall far short of hopes. The USA and China in particular made an apparently bold joint proposal (Hope, 2014) which, while an improvement over no agreed targets, appears to fall far short of what’s needed.

Facebooktwitteryoutubeby feather
politicians-debating-global-warming

Why negotiations and the IPCC are unlikely to make sure we’ll be safe

This December the COP21 will take place in Paris. This will be the 21st international attempt under this banner to address environmental problems. Why has this international approach been unsuccessful in sufficiently addressing climate change so far?

The IPCC and the UNFCCC framework

There are several aspects that make the current system of international collaboration to address climate change an unnecessarily troublesome process. The first being that to fully address the problem 170 wildly different countries with completely different cultures have to agree with each other. There are many geo-political tensions and international conflicts between nation-states that have nothing to do with climate change but negatively impact the negotiation process. The climate-related conflicts, which can be expected to increase if we keep failing to address climate change, make the process of finding common ground increasingly unlikely. This is a structural problem with regard to how the climate negotiations are set up: they require countries to agree with each other. Nation-states are more likely to agree with an independent organisation than another government whom they regard as their enemy or competitor. In fact they only have to decide whether they agree on the mechanism to sufficiently address climate change, not whether they agree with what all the other countries are or aren’t doing. This is a fundamental difference between the CapGlobalCarbon approach and the IPCC approach.

Currently the climate change negotiations have a strong geopolitical component, making one of the most critical threats to humanity part of the unstable and unreliable power games of nation-states. Leaders do not, and are not expected, to behave in the interest of humanity as a whole. They are, at best, assumed to represent the inhabitants of a limited subset of humanity determined by the borders of their country. We need a system that allows leaders of nation states to do what they need to do; what is best for their own inhabitants.

Not only is the current process ill equipped to deal with the urgent problem of halting climate change, the focus of the negotiations is wrong. The aim is to regulate the emissions of CO2, which is an incredibly difficult thing to do as the burning of fossil fuels is a diffuse process. The extraction of fossil fuels is the elephant in the room, currently only addressed by the activists of the #keepitintheground campaign and by the divestment movement. The carbon bubble is regarded as a free-market phenomenon which investors have to be wary about, not something the IPCC or UNFCCC should actively be involved in regulating. Not only is the current way of addressing climate change ineffective, it is ineffective at addressing the wrong thing.

Many have put their hopes on the COP21 being successful. It is astounding to realise that the international community has failed 20 times to sufficiently address climate change. For how long do we have to keep telling ourselves that it all will be different this time around? We believe that the stakes are simply too high to put all our eggs in the same basket. A safeguard or a backup is needed, just in case the COP fails again.

The aim of CapGlobalCarbon is not to replace or discredit the IPCC or UNFCCC. CapGlobalCarbon would, when implemented, not interfere with the negotiation process and is intended to be complementary to the existing efforts to protect the Earth’s climate. Having a transparent, equitable and fair mechanism to address the carbon budget will free up time and resources for institutions such as the IPCC to address adaptation, damage & loss and sustainable development.

The UNFCCC treaty was initiated at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. The aim of this treaty is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic [i.e., human-induced] interference with the climate system”.[2] This stabilisation has not happened in the 23 years in which this treaty is active. In a sense this is a tragedy of the unmanaged commons situation. It is, for example, in the short-term interest of the world leaders to fuel their nation’s economies to provide stability and good chances for re-election. No-one is ultimately responsible and accountable for the damage humanity does to the planet. To make this more specific: There is no institution for “stable common pool resource management” which Elinor Ostrom regarded as essential for managing the commons. CapGlobalCarbon intends to fill that void in relation to fossil fuels by creating a transparent system designed with the commons in mind.

Bulkeley and Newell summarise the stalemate position of the climate negotiation process brilliantly in one single question: “Can a fragmented and often highly conflictual political system made up of over 170 sovereign states and numerous other actors achieve the high (and historically unprecedented) levels of cooperation and policy coordination needed to manage environmental problems on a global scale?” [2]

The problems with unfettered and lightly regulated carbon trading

The idea that effective climate regulation can be created with the involvement of industry, for example in the form of a “Public Private Partnership”, is proven to be untrue as the lack of a non-negotiable cap on carbon and the high amounts of corruption in carbon trading schemes have shown. In the promotion of CapGlobalCarbon we encountered initial distrust by environmentalists simply because it sounds like “Cap&Trade”. The latter scheme has nothing to do with actually capping the extraction of carbon and is compromised by the 600 million tonnes of CO2 that have been emitted outside of its already vast carbon budget [3]. The idea that it is possible and desirable to offset carbon emissions is fundamentally flawed and has no place in any genuine response to climate change. Ethically it is a problematic approach: It is like saying one is allowed to poison a river as long as one pays someone else to clean up another river. Technically there are problems as well: it is not possible to remove carbon as permanently as it would be when kept in the ground. This is why it is impossible to offset any carbon with CapGlobalCarbon. The extraction of the unburnable carbon will simply not be allowed. This is one of the reasons why a “price on carbon” is not enough to ensure the carbon that would cause the climate to warm more than 2 degrees stays unextracted. Some carbon should be, and can be off-limits to the market, if we choose to make it so.

From feasibility to necessity: representing Earth

We need to face up to the fact that the radical change needed to address climate change is unlikely to come from the inside. A separate system, outside of the negotiation process, has to be set up with the purpose of keeping the unburnable fossil fuel in the ground while dividing the remaining extractable fuel in a fair and equitable fashion. The CapGlobalCarbon team is no longer buying into the notion that it is “complex” to decrease global atmospheric CO2 levels and that we all need to agree with each other to do the right thing. Effective, global action is possible, it is just not happening within the current process of negotiations. We know perfectly well what we can burn and what has to stay in the ground [4]. It should not be that difficult to draw the conclusion that we already decided that this carbon is off limits. In 1992 most nations agreed that “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” should be prevented. Adding more CO2 to the atmosphere by burning fuels outside of the carbon budget is a direct violation of that agreement. The question is how to divide the remaining fossil resources that are within the planetary carbon budget, not if we should also burn (a portion of) the other fossil resources.

A parallel program as a safeguard for the IPCC process

We are in desperate need of a plan B, a plan that starts from what is necessary instead of what is politically feasible, a plan without offsets, backdoors or buy-out options, in short: a plan that has the continuation and well being of life on earth as its primary focus.

Who else is asking the “what if” question? Who else is disenchanted by the current climate negotiation process? Who else believes carbon offsetting to be seriously compromised, since it can facilitate corruption and marginal greenwashing? If you are, we want to meet you at the COP21 to build a coherent alternative where governments and corporations can opt-in on our terms, instead of dictating the rules from the onset. There are many fantastic ideas on the local, regional and national level that create systems of governance in favour of the commons. Let’s collaboratively re-imagine what grassroots action and collaboration on a global level can be.

Endnotes

[1] http://unfccc.int/files/essential_background/background_publications_htmlpdf/application/pdf/conveng.pdf
[1] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1541-1338.2011.00522.x/pdf
[3] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/aug/24/kyoto-protocols-carbon-credit-scheme-increased-emissions-by-600m-tonnes
[4] http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v517/n7533/full/nature14016.html

Featured image: “Politicians discussing climate change”. Sculpture by Isaac Cordel which formed part of a street installation in Berlin in 2011 called “Follow the Leaders”.

Facebooktwitteryoutubeby feather

The CapGlobalCarbon side-event at the COP21 has been approved

The CapGlobalCarbon team will host an official side-event at the COP21 in Paris. Our core-team member Mike Sandler just received this exciting message:

Dear side event applicant,

Congratulations! Your side event application has successfully passed the selection process for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) and the 11th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 11) taking place from 30 November to 11 December 2015 in Paris – Le Bourget, France. Your side event has thus been included into the official side event programme.

We are collaborating with the Sequoia FoundationCorporación Centro de Estudios de Derecho, Justicia y Sociedad (DEJUSTICIA) and Feasta. Our event is announced as:

Climate Justice: Coal and Human Rights in the South, Community Choice Energy, Global Carbon Pricing
Affected communities are often forgotten in high-level talks on climate action. We highlight human rights impacts by the coal sector in the South, Community Choice Energy to speed a transition to renewables, and establish a Global Climate Trust to “CapGlobalCarbon” and return funds to people.

Please subscribe to our mail list to stay updated on the exact time and location of this event.

Facebooktwitteryoutubeby feather

Putting the right price on carbon.

The following article by Erik-Jan van Oosten has originally been published on the Climate-KIC Community hub.


There has been a strong push towards putting a price on carbon since the oil prices came down halfway 2014 and I wouldn’t be surprised if at COP21 a carbon price in some sort or form will be part of the agreement. More reason for us to make sure we end up with a fair and sufficiently effective mechanism to promote as a solution.

CGC schematic

A strong and consistent carbon price would be a huge incentive for innovation in low-carbon technology and services. Yet the positive effects of a substantial carbon price through for example a government imposed carbon-tax is on itself not sufficient to make sure we don’t end up burning more than our planetary carbon budget. If the price is set too low there will not be enough incentive to transition to a low carbon economy and if the price is too high governments will not participate as it will hurt their economies too much and thus the tax will fail.

The problem from an economic perspective is that the current prices of fossil fuels reflect the abundance of the fossil fuel reserves, not the actual scarcity of our carbon budget. Writing off these “unburnable” assets as divestment campaigners want to do is, from the viewpoint of the fossil fuel companies, not feasible as these companies could risk bankruptcy if they decide to face the climate reality and write off their unburnable assets.

What we need to make sure of is that no more fossil fuels than what our carbon budget allows will be extracted while giving fossil fuel companies the time to write off their unburnable assets by creating an artificial scarcity. The solution that ensures the gradual phase-out of fossil fuels is called CapGlobalCarbon. Let climate science determine how much fossil carbon can enter the economy on a yearly basis and auction the rights to extract fossil fuels to the few companies that actually introduce new carbon into the economy. As our carbon budget tightens the number of permits will need to decrease by about 6 percent a year, meaning that every year 6 percent more fossil fuels will stay in the ground and become “unburnable”. The setting of a hard limit on carbon is called capping, and is necessary to set the exact amount of carbon we can safely burn based on the best knowledge available at a given time. The auction of permits is necessary to set the price of the burnable carbon so as to reflect the scarcity of the burnable carbon and allocate the carbon budget without having to face (geo)-political struggles. With CapGlobalCarbon, no countries are involved in dividing the slices of the carbon-cake. The revenues from the auction are divided on a per-capita basis to inhabitants of participating countries. This means that we intend to give everyone, regardless of their nationality and income, the same share of the revenues which will hopefully increase popular pressure on governments to enforce the ban on unburnable carbon, since it could drastically reduce poverty within their borders.

If you use an average amount of fossil fuels the gains from the dividends of the auction will be offset by the increased price of fossil fuels you pay, making the scheme cost-neutral for the average user. As 80 percent of the world population uses less than the average amount of fossil fuels most of us would directly benefit from a global cap on carbon. The competitive advantage of energy efficient companies will increase making sustainable business more economically attractive. This could be huge in terms of global economic prosperity, as the world’s poorest will be able to afford their sustenance, and a long term enabler of the growth of the green economy.

The greatest advantage I see for Climate-KIC is that this scheme can be set up outside of government, meaning that regardless of what will be decided on COP21 there can be meaningful progress to secure a stable climate. The CapGlobalCarbon project can very well become part of CSR as all companies have to do to comply is to ban fossil fuels not carrying a permit, just as frontrunner companies now ban non-FSC wood or only work with ISO-14000 complying companies. We see CapGlobalCarbon as a system innovation with great potential for Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability management.

To conclude: yes, we should put a price on carbon. This is done most effectively if science determines the amount of burnable carbon and if the market determines the allocation of this carbon. Through an ingenious clamping mechanism CapGlobalCarbon provides a long-term, self-reinforcing solution. This needs to happen quickly. We are able, and have the moral obligation, to prevent disastrous climate change from occurring. The CapGlobalCarbon team is looking for partners and support to make this bold plan happen, as well as specialists in strategy, economics, law and governance to join the core group. Let’s together make CSR about putting a global price and cap on carbon!

Facebooktwitteryoutubeby feather

John Jopling – The Gaian Response

Gaia is the whole Earth system comprising the planet and all life on Earth including the human species. Gaia in Turmoil is a collection of essays by leading scientists and other experts describing various aspects of Gaian science and knowledge, focussing especially on climate change and biodiversity destruction. As well as spelling out the facts about climate change and loss of biodiversity more clearly than anywhere else I have seen, the book has enabled me to see the potential for Humanity’s response in a new light.

What Gaian theory and Gaian thinking and discussion brings to issues such a climate change and biodiversity is the idea that the Earth system is self-regulating, in some ways rather like a living being, and in particular that life on Earth has helped to regulate conditions on the planet in ways that are favourable to life on Earth.

This has enabled me to see climate change as a symptom of Gaia’s ill health. Gaia is not well. The cause is not in doubt: the excessive use of fossil fuels. The remedy is equally clear: the system needs to be regulated by reducing the global total of carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels.

We can also see Humanity’s role in responding to climate change in a new light. Because the human species is part of life on Earth we are part of, or at least we are capable of being part of, the Earth’s self-regulating system. In taking action to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels we are acting as part of Gaia’s self-regulating system. We are playing a Gaian role. This is Gaia’s response to a Gaian need.

As well as being the cause of Gaia’s ill health, humans are also the only species capable of restoring Gaia to health. Not by attempting to manage the Planet, as James Lovelock warned against, but by restraining our own damaging activities. We can do that by taking all sorts of action in our own individual lives, in our communities, in our own countries and in the international negotiations. In addition we can act on behalf of Humanity as a whole and the rest of life on Earth, by establishing a new global system to make sure that the global total of carbon emissions from the human use of fossil fuels is reduced as required by climate science – by something like 6% a year from now onwards.

The CapGlobalCarbon initiative is a Gaian initiative, a Gaian response to a Gaian need.

Facebooktwitteryoutubeby feather