Thursday, 9 July 2009

80% Carbon cut - a landmark pledge?

The Independent leads on "US agrees landmark pledge to slash emissions" today, is this as inspiring as it appears?

Looking at the US climate-change bill, George Monbiot thinks not.
The cut proposed by [2050 is 80%, yet by] 2020 is just 17%, which means that most of the reduction will take place towards the end of the period. What this means is much greater cumulative emissions, which is the only measure that counts. Worse still, it is riddled with so many loopholes and concessions that the bill's measures might not offset the emissions from the paper it's printed on. You can judge the effectiveness of a US bill by its length: the shorter it is, the more potent it will be. This one is some 1,200 pages long, which is what happens when lobbyists have been at work.
The Economist describe the US climate change bill as 'A squeaker, with more to come'.
Instead of straight talk, however, Mr Obama has mostly been offering happy talk. When the House of Representatives narrowly passed a climate-change bill on June 26th, he rejoiced that it would create millions of new green jobs and reduce America’s “dangerous dependence on foreign oil”. Almost as an afterthought, he mentioned that it might do something for the planet. As usual, he gave the impression that planet-cooling will require no sacrifice from voters.

This is drivel. The shift to a lower-carbon economy will destroy jobs as well as create them, and hit growth. Greens wish Mr Obama would use his immense popularity and rhetorical skills to persuade Americans that such costs are outweighed by the benefits of helping to avert planetary catastrophe. But rather than shaping public opinion, he is running scared of it. And so, even more, is Congress.
So, the bill is a fudge, and the pledge (if it is even upheld) will be too. Sadly, as Monbiot points out, "This bill is the best we're going to get for now because the corruption of public life in the United States has not been addressed."

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