Friday, 31 October 2008

October 2008 - Green New Deal and a (Potential) Political Super-Fight to Save the World.

You think on first thoughts the financial crisis and recession should harm the chances of (cash backed) government action on climate change, however, the change dynamic that the financial crisis has brought is spinning attractive narratives which speak of the opportunities that these times offer. Perhaps the most compelling of these stories is the idea of a Green New Deal.
The reference to Roosevelt’s New Deal, the prescription that cured America’s Great Depression, is deliberate and proponents of the concept argue for a blue print for recovery much like the Old New Deal promoting industrial reform and job creation... but of course privileging green investment, green jobs, building green infrastructure . The potency of this idea is such that the United Nations are backing it calling for a "Global Green New Deal" what they call a “Environmentally-Focused Investment Historic Opportunity for 21st Century Prosperity and Job Generation”

If this idea becomes a real prospect, will we have ourselves a Green-Roosevelt and who might that be? Well it is true the Green New Deal presents Gordon Brown with an opportunity to build on his World Saving! image following his bail out plan and Paul Krugman’s nobel prize winning endorsement.
A world class Green New Deal put together in the UK and taken on round the world could secure Gordon a slice of political legacy that he might be interested in.

While we wait and hope for Brown to make a substantial move, a longer established Superhero has already been playing at the role. Governor Schwarzenegger’s has been saying this month that in these times he wants to go “faster not slower” on the measures needed to grow the green economy in California - and makes like he’s got the Roosevelt Job nailed on seeing as he has already been asked to speak at the UN once.

Arnie argues the benefits of front running on climate change he claims half of US venture capital is coming into California because of the green economy there. The incentives are there for Brown too if his proposals for a Green New Deal are competitive, the present reliance in the UK on financial services is one such incentive to find a way to a growing (greener) economy. In 2007 financial services accounted for 10.1 per cent of UK GDP and Financial services made up one in 30 jobs in the UK.

Old Roosevelt for his New Deal had a ‘Brains Trust’ to help and Gordon Brown should be buoyed by the New Economics Foundations helpful proposals made by a substantial ‘Brains Trust’ of concerned and competent people who give Brown and the government a heads up and if taken on a chance to overtake Arnie as the New New Deal Superhero saving the world.

“the Green New Deal Group challenges government to go away, do its homework, and come back in the Autumn with a comprehensive legislative programme equivalent to that implemented by Roosevelt 75 years ago – a ‘Green New Deal’.”


Tuesday, 7 October 2008

October 2008 - When Good News is Really Only Less Bad News

As bankers across the world did their best to look innocent and surprised as the fiscal black hole created by their arrogance and greed swallowed savings, investments and metaphors for really bad things, British and European climate change policy moved quietly forward.

In the UK, the Independent Climate Change Committee advised the British government that it should be aiming for 80%, rather than 60% reductions in greenhouse gases by 2050, also recommending that aviation be included in these targets. These are targets that have played a big role in the campaigning strategy of environmental NGOs. If these recommendations were to become law when the Climate Change Bill receives its Royal Ascent, Britain would have exactly the moral authority it needs to boss others around in the fight against climate change - and we all love a bit of moral high ground.

In Europe, MEPs voted for an emissions reduction plan modelled on California's ambitious climate change strategy, whereby greenhouse gas emissions are restricted by an 'amount per kilowatt hour' system, that places absolute limits on how much CO2 can be emitted from any one place at any one time. Prime targets for this new legislation are coal-fired power stations - at least, ones built after 2015.

So are Britain and Europe finally taking the fight against climate change seriously? Well, perhaps.

Environmental NGOs must play a continuous game of carrot and stick with the public perception of government action on climate change. On the one hand, positive developments must be flagged as such - and so any legislation that makes E.On's plans to dig up more of the black stuff less likely will be cautiously applauded. On the other hand, mainstream political views are so far away from the scientific reality of climate change that baby-steps away from the shimmering mirage of 'business as usual' cannot be championed as bold strides towards climate change mitigation.

Lest we forget, the 100 months countdown is for dangerous global climate change. Countries such as the UK, which jauntily kicked off the industrial revolution, are already in the red in terms of carbon emissions. That is, if climate change is to be tackled effectively and equitably (using, for example, the contraction and convergence framework), the most polluting of the industrialised nations (us, USA, Australia) will need to find ways of sequestering carbon that is already in the atmosphere. If we do not, then either the burden of combatting climate change will fall unfairly on the shoulders of less industrialised nations, or dangerous climate change will not be avoided. Neither of these outcomes seems much of a reason for celebration.

The inconvenient truth at the centre of environmental campaigning reveals itself at moments like these: We beg for small concessions, knowing all the while that small concessions will simply delay dangerous climate change - not prevent it. Of course, the small concessions must be rewarded - if they were not, the gap between scientific reality and political feasibility would never close. But 80% reduction targets, and no new coal, is the beginning, rather than the end of the story.


Monday, 6 October 2008

September 2008 - Cultural responses to Climate Change, based on Science or (Pop) Art?

At the start of September, Powai a northern suburb of Mumbai, India had a contest to honour the greenest woman they could find and launched the title “Mrs Green”. Take a look at the full details on the Planet Powai community website ( Elsie Gabriel who had the original idea for the contest reckons:

“Ladies across the nation are energized about issues concerning environmental habits, global warming, garbage, alternative fuels, and other environmental topics. Home makers, grand moms or even working women, all are driving the sustainability movement, studying related topics, encouraging people to recycle, and proclaiming the green word!”

What appears online as a charming but culturally-specific event for “Green Ladies” also shows the outside viewer that “the green word” travels and people round the world, want to be involved, they Wannabe* Green.

* I should explain, I mean Wannabe as in; want to with passion the term coined by the Spice Girls, the Pop Group who in the video Wannabe (1996) gave a glimpse of the possibilities of radical change (honestly) as they are seen storming the establishment, running around shaking things up and then getting the bus out again with their integrity in tact – for those Girls it was not Wannabe like them, but Wannabe like US for not being like them! (

For the record, when you scour the internet looking for leadership and inspiration for Wannabe greens in 2008 (98 Months to go), the results are disappointing. You get… Geri Halliwell at last year’s Live Earth. If you have 2 minutes to waste, watch Geri ‘talking’ about the environment (I won’t give it away by telling you if she does say something profound or not, have a bet with yourself… in your own head

You know, taking a September look at the Indian “Mrs Green” and the brilliant yet flawed Geri does draw, interesting question marks about Green Identity Politics and our cultural readiness in Britain to do the necessary in 100 months. We know that we have to MOVE TO a lower carbon economy so a broad based cultural MOVEMENT is vital, and Spice Girl chutzpah and “Mrs Greens’” will be needed to achieve it, but it has to be focused as well and free of self publicity and green wash. There was less than positive news on this question from research written up in the media in September, a study found (from a small sample) people that recycle and save energy are more likely to fly so rendering themselves carbon big foot’s, not the green hero’s they appear – to themselves maybe and others. (

This suggests that your Wannabe Greener needs information, a Movement means shared objectives, and I should remind myself that Climate Change has a fundamental basis in science – and its vital, smart people say to keep the science in mind along the way. To inform the MOVE way beyond the acceptance moment, where an individual decides on the balance of science that yes Climate Change is happening. There are frameworks for doing this of course including Footprints, Planets and the Carbon Bottom Line (George Marshall).

If we should measure our Greenness individually, the next step perhaps is having it monitored by others- as it was mooted in September that eco town residents could:

If eco town monitoring is done purely on the Carbon Bottom Line I have no problem, but to be too prescriptive about how people meet the Carbon Bottom Line, would be to ignore the power in people and groups facing the challenges in their own way. The pursuance of a monoculture based on oil and driven by consumption is the reason that Climate Change is on us so quickly, so we shouldn’t try to solve the problem with that same way of thinking, a diversity of culturally appropriate responses to Climate Change (with eyes on the Bottom Line) may prove the most effective and sustainable direction of travel – with the option of some Girl Power as well.