Worldlog Week 46 – 2009

13 november 2009

With less than a month to go for the Copenhagen Climate Conference, it is incomprehensible that so many political leaders still fail to understand the urgency of pursuing more sustainable policies and that some are even using the crisis to accord the protection of animals, nature and environment a lower priority because ‘we just can’t afford it right now.’
Still, the Netherlands has formed a group of six climate specialists from six political parties, including our own Niko Koffeman. The article below was signed jointly by this group!

Saving the climate requires a different kind of economy

Success in Copenhagen will require worldwide agreement if climate change is to be stopped. Disasters in the form of flooding, food shortages and climate refugees that are now being predicted mean we have just one option: following a no-regret scenario that results in a more sustainable society.
Party politics must not be allowed to weaken the concentration of forces Copenhagen is calling for. It is sink or swim. Everyone representing the Netherlands in Copenhagen will need to be convinced of this.
Clear parallels can be drawn between the economic and the climate crisis.
Just as we were surprised at the speed with which the financial crisis expanded, virtually all climate experts have concluded that the global warming is proceeding faster than expected and it is putting biodiversity and food supplies at risk. The economic recession and climate change are the result of the same miscalculation that we can continue as we are and that everything will be all right. Some climate experts see a controlled recession not as a threat but as the start of the solution, necessary to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Yet our political leaders don’t seem to understand this.

There are no physical and financial obstacles standing in the way of an effective climate policy.
We already have the technology and administrative processes available for a clean and more sustainable economy and indeed several countries have started to deploy them.
Using smart legislation, incentives and taxes, Denmark has succeeded in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions without eroding the nation’s standard of living. Denmark leads the race for wind energy development and intends to generate half of its energy using windmills. Denmark is also stimulating the use of electric cars. The Scandinavian country is proof that much is possible when the government adopts a coherent strategy that it pro-actively pursues.

The Netherlands could learn a thing or two from its Nordic neighbours. Some of the policy measures being adopted in the Netherlands even seem a little counter-productive: new coal-fire power stations that may be able to store CO2 in the distant future, mixing biofuel with diesel oil, generating ‘green energy’ by incinerating waste.

We think that market forces can be effectively applied to make society more sustainable: a real and fair price for goods into which the social costs have been factored would contribute significantly to more conscious patterns of behaviour and consumption. Taxes that target fossil fuels and meat production affect production methods and consumption. It is a case of less of one and more of the other. Why are we phasing-out old-fashioned light bulbs and encouraging people to vacation closer to home while at the same time stimulating the consumption of meat and dairy with tax money? If both the harmful and positive effects of each product were factored into the prices of the products, the market would finally be able to do its work as the price would then reflect the true costs of the product. A lower rate of VAT for sustainable services or a CO2 levy, linked to the costs of burning fossil fuels, would lead consumers toward sustainability and generate revenues that could then be invested in sustainable energy. Consumers could then make choices that that promote their interests and well as the interests of their children.
The law of marginal utility demonstrates the value of setting limits to growth. More of the same does not make us happier. We suffer from both indulging in excess and guilt because the earth’s generative powers lag way behind our consumption patterns.

A sustainable economy is good not just for developed countries and sustainable enterprises, but is particularly valuable for developing regions and countries that are often poor but rich in raw materials. Fair trade and sustainable use of raw materials are essential to these countries. Only a real prospect of change will increase their willingness to cooperate in ‘Copenhagen’. The objective of a worldwide reduction of 20% or more of CO2 emissions is unfeasible if it fails to produce any tangible benefits.
A worldwide agreement to tackle the issues of deforestation, loss of biodiversity, environmental contamination and exploitation is the only way to get other countries to support a joint and ambitious climate policy.

The Netherlands has often played a pioneering role in its history: the first shares were traded in Amsterdam. This is where the first multinational was established as well as the first industrial revolution in Zaanstreek (a municipality of the Netherlands). The windmill, then the main engine of that revolution, is now the backbone of sustainable energy generation. In Copenhagen we will again have to demonstrate the urgency of the situation as well as the creative solutions crises situations spawn.

Until next week!