The Independent View: The government must go further on climate change

Colin Challen was Labour MP for Morley and Rothwell 2001-2010 and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group:

I am living in hope that Chris Huhne has not been handed a poisoned chalice. From my time in parliament I know Chris to be a dedicated environmentalist who understands the issues as well as being open minded. Of course, as a former Labour MP I had differences of opinion, but on the substantive issues like the need for a proper global framework on climate change or the uselessness of nuclear power we were agreed. It is also true that on legislation such as the Climate Change Act, most parties in the House of Commons were agreed. The broad direction of travel was not contentious, and I think that the coalition government, at least if judged by its announcements to date, is ploughing the same furrow as its predecessors.

But – as I was happy to tell my government – it must go a lot further. Hence I welcomed the LibDem manifesto commitment to the climate change framework known as Contraction and Convergence (C&C), devised by the Global Commons Institute 20 years ago. Broadly speaking this proposes that by a certain date, say 2050, global carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced to a safe and sustainable level, and that such emissions be distributed on a per capita basis. The first element is relatively uncontentious – the second part is more so, since it introduces the concept of equity into the arrangement. But oif you think about it, no global agreement is likely unless and until a firm form of equity is introduced. Why should poorer countries accept anything less?

I battled for years to get Labour to accept C&C as our national position, but even though C&C methodology underpinned the calculations in the Climate Change Act, Labour refused to adopt C&C publicly, repeating the mantra that it was very constructive, but…  The objections were usually of the sort that other countries may not be so keen on it. Well, that never stopped us in the past – we went to war in Iraq when most of the EU objected. Now I have written to Chris to see if the LibDem commitment can be transformed into deeds. So far, the response has been similar to the letters I used to get from Labour ministers – that furrow again – but I am still hopeful that this can change, not least because I believe Chris understands what the C&C process signifies in concrete terms. I am not sure his predecessors fully grasped the importance of C&C process, as contrasted with C&C outcomes.

It’s a curious position to be in, appealing to the Coalition Government with hopes raised that this policy may come into being when my own side couldn’t quite get there, but in my view the challenge of climate change transcends political boundaries. Labour did a lot of good things, but should have gone further. The same applies to the Coalition.

The Independent View‘ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds and The Independent View.
Advert

7 Comments

  • If “global carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced to a safe and sustainable level, and that such emissions be distributed on a per capita basis.” it implies a drastic cut in the CO2 level people in the UK would have.

    What would this be and how much would it reduce our standard of living?

  • Lynda McDonald 20th Jul '10 - 5:30pm

    My impression too is that Chris Huhne ‘gets it’ on the need for a C&C-based response to climate change.

    The alleged ‘alternatives’ range from ‘do-nothing’, through DECC’s ‘indicator-soup’ to the excitable ‘negative-emissions-entitlements-for-the-UK-USA’ called for by some – see here: – http://www.gci.org.uk/Documents/Huhne_Reply_redrawn_.pdf

    By backing C&C, Chris Huhne positions those seeking an effective global deal between those extremes. It is ‘Climate Justice without Vengeance’ and the Cabinet of the coalition government would do well to pay attention to this if they are serious about wanting this – as they say – to be the greenest government we’ve ever had.

  • Colin Challen 20th Jul '10 - 7:37pm

    In answer to the question of what it would mean to the UK to participate in a global per capita share – well, Nick Stern works on the assumption that by 2050 this might be 2 tonnes CO2 equivalent each – in the UK that’s down from around 10 tonnes. Others will have different figures. But an essential and very important point to remember is that even by 2050 some may be emitting more than others and there are plenty of mechanisms, such as emissions trading which can address this. But what we must have is a framework based market, not a market based framework. Sadly, we have started with the latter, and many people – making loads of dosh in the meantime – would con us into believing that that is the end of the story.

  • Andrew Suffield 20th Jul '10 - 11:15pm

    such as emissions trading which can address this. But what we must have is a framework based market, not a market based framework. Sadly, we have started with the latter, and many people – making loads of dosh in the meantime – would con us into believing that that is the end of the story.

    It’s worse than that. We’ve started with open fraud. The primary mechanism in use today is “carbon offsetting” – where you emit whatever you like, then pay another company to capture an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide from somewhere and store it.

    Now, even leaving aside the extremely dubious scientific basis for all carbon sequestration projects, the reality is that all too many of these companies who sell “offsetting” are faking the whole thing. More than once they’ve been caught trading in “carbon futures” – a promise to engage in carbon sequestration in the future, instead of doing so currently – and then there’s the outright scams where the project is just offshored to a non-existent company that pockets all the money.

    Catching and prosecuting the people responsible doesn’t really solve our emissions problem.

  • leekliberal 21st Jul '10 - 8:07pm

    Colin Challen is right – without an approach that expects far more from the developed world than from the developing world we have no chance of locking the developing countries into any deliverable agreement to deal with climate change. As a member of the Green Liberal Democrats I call on Chris to challenge the coalition to lobby as vigorously as possible to deliver this and to work with those of any party to achieve this aim.

  • Aubrey Meyer 21st Jul '10 - 8:46pm

    The challenge for Chris Huhne suggested by leekliberal, is the challenge to make.

    Colin Challen’s letter to Chris Huhne delivered this challenge with a lot of eminent support attached to it – see here: – http://www.gci.org.uk/politics.html

    On this, Chris needs all the help he can get and the coalition government needs all the help he can give.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Simon R
    @Alex Macfie I wouldn't say no-one should ever question the policy that forms from a referendum - that's obviously silly. But a referendum does have some author...
  • James Fowler
    What Jack Nicholls said. The surprise has been how far the radical liberal left have been willing to compromise their radicalism and their liberalism over lockd...
  • Alex Macfie
    Simon R: So what exactly is it about a referendum that makes its outcome so sacrosanct that no-one should be allowed to even question the policy that follows fo...
  • Joe Bourke
    Peter Martin, sovereign debt gets repaid by refinancing older debt with new issues. This is the case for the Eurozone countries as well as the UK. As this ...
  • Jason Conner
    I totally agree with Alison C and Matt Wardman. Ever heard of positive action so that all sections of the community are represented and this used to happen in e...