Q. How many Liberal Democrats does it take to change a lightbulb?

A. One. They stand perfectly still, hold the lightbulb in the socket and wait for the earth to revolve around them.*

So the world turns and yet another long-held Lib Dem policy edges its way further towards the mainstream…

Yesterday the cross-parliamentary Committee for Climate Change made a recommendation to the squeaky new Minister for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband that CO2 emissions be cut to 80% of 1990 levels by the middle of the century, rather than the 60% being proposed in the forthcoming Climate Change Bill.

The Liberal Democrat aim, as any fule kno, is to make Britain entirely carbon-free by 2050, with the Green Tax Switch laying the vital ground work. Our tabled amendment to the Climate Change Bill happens to also raise the target for CO2 emission cuts to 80%, but if Miliband is as willing to lap up the CCC report as the Guardian editorial seems to think, perhaps it won’t be needed.

But a target, as the editorial points out, is one thing, and taking the practical steps to achieve it is another. The notion that markets can drive CO2 reductions if the incentives are pointing the right way is not, to my mind, as busted as the editorial simplistically claims. Incentives do work as effectively in a recession as out of one (that’s why they’re called incentives) – they’re just likely to look different. It’s rather silly to suggest that a market in a downturn can’t achieve anything – it’s “achieving” plenty, isn’t it. You just need different incentives, and non-contradictory ones, created across the board of government operations. Like, er, ooh, I know, the Green Tax Switch!

As Steve Webb puts it:

It will be interesting to see if the new department takes over the remaining stages of the Climate Change Bill and accepts our amendment to toughen it up. Perhaps at long last energy efficiency will be taken seriously instead of being a cinderella.

All we need to do now is include transport, building standards, green taxation in the Department’s remit and we might be getting somewhere!

* Wouldn’t work for bayonets, of course. But it’s the principle of the thing.

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  • Alix Mortimer 8th Oct '08 - 4:29pm

    Well, quite. A bayonet fitting would require the answer to be: “They stand perfectly still, hold the lightbulb in the socket and wait for the earth to revolve around them a bit, then cheat to the left slightly and do a little wiggle.”

    I’ve also realised that there are profound practical difficulties with my assertion that Britain should be a carbon-free place by 2050. Ho well.

  • How many Politicians should it take to change a light bulb?

    How many Citizens should be allowed to choose?

    (from http://ceolas.net/
    against the ban on incandescent light bulbs, final words)

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