ecostory 56-2007
Climate change - "Greenwash" - according to The Economist

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"Environmentalism is concealing any number of misguided policies"

writes "The Economist" online. This article presents some interesting aspects that must be examined individually

We tend to agree with the gist of the article. Increasing taxes and charges can be a nice way to raise cash.

If, however, this would lead to people taking public transport instead of their cars, then this would be good. It would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions because of lesser motoring. The outcome would include a contraction of the motor car industry, reducing the consumption of resources of all kinds.

David Newbery, on the other hand, is wrong in his argument that, "on assumptions recommended by Sir Nicholas Stern, [...], the damage caused by carbon emissions amounts to less than 20p per litre." Such an argument is based on the fallacious thinking that the damage done by climate change could be measured in money and that money, i.e. investments, would be able to protect against or reduce the effects of climate change.

Greenhouse gas emissions are caused by overconsumption of fossil fuels. Carbon capture, tree planting, so-called clean development mechanisms and other proposed "solutions" will not or not substantially reduce emissions.

Overconsumption can only really be countered by a reduction of consumption. Restructuring the economy to localised working and living, slowing down, stop building more roads and railways and runways. Stop economic growth. Revert to maintenance and eliminate the superfluous. That's the way out we see.

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    Copyright notice We transcribed this article for reference purposes only.

    Climate change - Greenwash

    Jun 21th 2007 From The Economist print edition By an anonymous author

    Environmentalism is concealing any number of misguided policies

    ONE of the many little annoyances of life in a crowded city such as London is the cost of parking. From next month, residents of the north London suburb of Haringey will be particularly unhappy. Those who own cars with high carbon-dioxide emissions will see their parking charges rise almost fourfold, from £25 a year to £90. A similar plan was enacted in Richmond, a wealthy western fringe of the city, in March. There, the price of parking a dirty car rose threefold, with even stiffer penalties for those who own more than one vehicle. Local authorities elsewhere in London and in other big cities are watching with interest.

    Such moves have been met with howls from Britain's motoring lobby and from local residents. Councillors insist that they want to tackle global warming, and claim that consultations prove most residents are in favour. Rubbish, say the cynics: the real issue is that a tight-fisted central government has left councils short of cash, and parking charges are a good substitute source. For them, all the pious talk of saving the planet is mere greenwash, designed to sell an unpopular tax increase to resentful voters.

    Haringey's plan is merely the latest in a flowering of official greenery. Ken Livingstone, London's mayor, has mooted tinkering with the city's pioneering congestion charge, which already rewards drivers of electric and gas-powered cars by exempting them from the £8-a-day charge. The mayor wants to go further, cutting prices for cleaner cars and hiking them for dirty ones. If he gets his way, drivers of the biggest cars could pay £25 to drive into the city centre. Mr Livingstone's opponents in the London Assembly accuse him of being more interested in revenue-raising than road-clearing.

    It is not just local government that has caught the green bug. Earlier in the month, the government wondered publicly about adding a “carbon cost” to the price of petrol by including motor fuel in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which limits the amount of carbon dioxide certain industries can produce.

    Officials are right that voters see climate change as a problem. But none of these plans is obviously a good idea. Britons are already taxed twice on their cars' carbon emissions: once by a sales tax on petrol, and again by a separate tax levied on the cars themselves. And exemptions, however well-intentioned, work against the purported aim of London's congestion charge—clean vehicles take up just as much road space as dirty ones.

    Petrol taxes, in particular, are already eye-wateringly high at 50p per litre. Work by David Newbery, an economist at Cambridge University, suggests that existing levels of fuel tax more than cover the environmental damage that motoring does to local air quality or global carbon-dioxide levels. Forthcoming research from London's Imperial College argues that, on assumptions recommended by Sir Nicholas Stern, the author of a government study on climate change, the damage caused by carbon emissions amounts to less than 20p per litre.

    Unthinking (or politically expedient) enthusiasm for greenery could, in fact, actually contribute to environmental damage. Though Tony Blair claims that Britain leads the world on climate change, his government has admitted that it will fail to meet its domestic environmental targets. These call for a 20% cut in carbon-dioxide emissions by 2020, compared with their 1990 levels; but emissions have risen over the past four years. Mr Blair has talked often of the need for “radical action” to confront climate change. The risk is that poorly thought-out policies by overzealous central or local government will only reinforce the notion that environmentalism is little more than a useful disguise for raising a bit of extra cash.