Sunday, 10 November 2013

Unmoving DfT

We don't talk about it much at the DfT but...
Some of you may have noticed, I was quiet yesterday. And here is why. I was buried in reports, trying to make sense. I was reading.

I was reading that the IPCC suggests business as usual is not an option if we'd be keen to avert catastrophic climate change. Assessing three emission pathways - let's call them "trying hard", "very hard" and "very extremely hard" - and relating them to keeping below 2C global temperature and its risk of happening, they conclude the current "trying hard" pathway is a high risk rocky road to take. The "trying hard" pathway is the one we are currently on (well, kind of - not even).

The "trying hard" pathway "cannot plausibly be taken as a 2°C pathway [the point of run-away climate change], and this notwithstanding the fact that the 2009 G8 declaration stated its emissions goals in the context of the 2°C objective."

"Decision-makers now face a choice among future pathways. The temptation to choose a pathway that allows us to defer action will be great, but deferral has consequences."

"Ultimately, the choice of a global mitigation pathway reflects political, economic and ethical considerations as much as scientific ones. These decisions are inseparable from the assignment of newly-scarce emissions rights across countries and classes and generations, and choices about who
will bear the associated costs and risks. And this, of course, is why the subject of ambitious mitigation pathways is so fraught, and so crucial. An “emergency transition” like the
one implied by the 1.5°C pathway (and arguably the 2°C pathway as well) will be neither cheap nor easy, and this despite the vast flowering of low-emissions energy technology that’s now on the near horizon. The budget approach makes it obvious that, despite the difficulties, such a transition
is necessary."

So, business as usual is not an option and ethical decisions by leaders are now needed. This realisation can be seen in other organisations. The EU is/was trying carbon pricing and even the off-setting approach (how-ever-much upsetting) is along the same lines. In a similar vein of "trying hard", Defra, UK department for environment, food and rural affairs (and flood risk management), recently run a few trials and case studies. It is now issuing guidance for policy-makers on the ecosystem services idea (2) of bringing biodiversity and economics together. It's another sign of transitioning in action. And I was reading that CIWEM is understandably and rightly cautious of monetising Mother Nature:

"Whilst the economic system in which business operates will not radically change soon, this debate provides an opportunity for influence and the space in which to reconsider the potential opportunities for ‘ecological growth’, thereby revaluing economics in service to the natural environment."

"CIWEM warns that putting a price on nature is highly contentious with a number of unanswered moral and ethical questions. There is a debate to be had surrounding the consequences of adopting this approach. As a relatively new concept to the broad environmental disciplines within the UK, there is a lack of experience and an insufficient evidence base to provide certainty on what this approach offers and what it may lead to (though this varies across sectors). As such there is a need to proceed with caution on the specific element of monetary valuation." (3)

It's where nature and man collides. Only that man is nature, when the opposite can't be true. Just man alone isn't quite (going to be) so much fun (let alone be possible) - so without biodiversity surrounding us, we are pretty much done.

And that diversity can be seen in human kindness and its diversity (as so many company policies now state is important and valued diverse work force), diversity in thinking and shall we extend that to a little bit of transport diversity too. Transport after all still stands at about a third of UK emissions and if we cycled like the Dutch and Danes... could be reduced drastically. What an opportunity! Yet DfT (Department for Transport) is hell-bent on systematically and institutionally supporting cars (polluting our air, land and water that Defra "tries hard" to safeguard). Our Df(mm)T continues its out-dated "predict and provide" model in their usual pro-car fashion (4).

Thereby surely admitting they are crap policy-makers and a lame toothless watchdog-pooch (no dangerous dog owners there then, Defra again). DfT are standing still. Like a dinosaur, too lazy to run, burning in a fire storm of transition that's raging all around them. Whilst everything else begins to move, the Df(mm)T stands still.

So what have I learnt yesterday? More than ever. It's time to change. Because change is coming regardless. It's just a matter of what type of change you fancy. Catastrophe or car-restraint.

Literature digested

(1) IPCC "The Three Salient Global Mitigation Pathways
Assessed in Light of the IPCC Carbon Budgets"

(2) Defra "Ecosystem services -Guidance for policy and decision makers on using an ecosystems approach and valuing ecosystem services"

(3) CIWEM "From microbes to mountains - Understanding and debating the role of ecosystem services in environmental management – Volume 2"

(4) DfT figures as analysed by CTC Peck and CTC Geffen

No comments:

Post a Comment