Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Woodchopper » Sat Jul 03, 2021 10:21 pm

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Boustrophedon » Sun Jul 04, 2021 12:29 am

There has long been a principle in American if not UK law as well, that a corporation or company only exists to the benefit of the shareholders. If an executive of that corporation knowingly takes the firm in a direction that is going to cause the shareholders a loss, then he is doing something illegal. I ANAL*

This has been used as a partial defence of the actions of companies over tobacco, asbestos, lead in petrol and a whole host of other detrimental products. Big companies are essentially psychopathic.

So suing the "Seven Sisters" is totally without merit, the oil companies existed to extract and sell oil, what else did we expect them to do? Why would we expect them to do otherwise but to lie and hide the evidence, while we consume their product in ever greater amounts?

It's total hypocrisy for fancy lawyers and politicians driving big limos and SUVs to try to suggest that somehow it's all the fault of big oil whilst continuing to drive their gas guzzlers. It's the fault of our way of life and exploitation as an instrument of business to generate wealth.

* I am not a lawyer either.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Millennie Al » Sun Jul 04, 2021 2:08 am

Boustrophedon wrote:
Sun Jul 04, 2021 12:29 am
There has long been a principle in American if not UK law as well, that a corporation or company only exists to the benefit of the shareholders. If an executive of that corporation knowingly takes the firm in a direction that is going to cause the shareholders a loss, then he is doing something illegal.
The company exists for whatever its shareholders want. Employees have a fiduciary duty towards the shareholders, which means they must act in good faith. They cannot use the company to pursue their own objectives or the objectives of anyone else (not even a subset of the shareholders). If the shareholders decide that the company should pursue some objective other than making money, as long as that objective was legal, then the employees would be just as bound to attempt to achive it as they more typically are to make money.

However, when people want to achieve things other than making money, they either don't form a company to do it, or the company is a charity with specific objectives.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by IvanV » Sun Jul 04, 2021 11:06 am

Causing disasters is often not going to be in the interest of shareholders, especially in more recent times. BP shareholders lost a lot from its own Gulf of Mexico disaster. Railtrack went bankrupt from the train crashes that occurred because of its insufficient care of track quality.

I don't think huge industrial environmental disasters can be pinned specifically on capitalism either. The Soviet Union and China seem to trash their environment even more thoroughly through don't-care industrial methods that the wider population daren't even complain about. Present day Russia with its authoritarian capitalism as in present day Russia is not obviously worse than what preceeded it from that perspective. I would suggest a lot of it is down to human nature. At least democratic societies have checks and balances that create formal regulatory systems and the potential for public action against abuses.

We all know about Chernobyl. But the Soviet Union also had the second worst nuclear disaster, the Kyshtym disaster, which is hardly known at all. And came not from mismanaging a reactor, but from very normal sloppiness in ancillary activities.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyshtym_disaster

When you look at nuclear disasters more generally, the overall impression you get is that the cause is human nature and not any particular political philosophy. I do strongly recommend the book Atomic Accidents by James Mahaffey. The author is a nuclear physicist, and has worked in both oversight and within the industry, and so has had access to a very wide range of materials. The countries that have reacted to the Fukishima disaster by making nuclear power so expensive it can barely be built are the democratic capitalist ones. Authoritarian countries continue to build nuclear reactors at low cost.

The Chinese achieved what can be described as, by far, the worst industrial disaster ever, the Banqiao dam failure. Although given the name of the first dam that failed, it was just one of a system of 62 dams that collapsed in that single incident. The death toll was probably not far short of a quarter of a million. Because it happened in 1975 when China was still very closed, it was covered up, and news of it did not emerge for many years. Few people are aware of it. The dams had been jerry-built in the Great Leap Forward period, where the government's focus was on expanding industrial production regardless of common sense. The wider people's well-being was not at all considered important. They were sacrifices for the "common good", as the Communist Party With Chinese Characteristics considers it.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1975_Banqiao_Dam_failure

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sun Jul 04, 2021 11:24 am

Yes, I'd say the ultimate challenges are to do with prioritising short-term growth over longer-term sustainability and resilience, and privileging the desires of powerful elites over ordinary people (be it under the "f.ck the poor" paradigm of unfettered capitalism or the paternalism of authoritarian communism).

These days, practically speaking, global capital is the biggest impediment to progress. But it's not completely unfettered, and further fettering is likely sufficient to solve the immediate problems at hand, and may well be more feasible than overthrowing the whole caboodle in a revolution given the limited timespans available. Russia and much of the middle East is run by capitalist oligarchs now, China is state capitalism, etc.

The shift to a post-scarcity information economy is going to screw industrial capitalism anyway, as cheap energy and global mobile internet link the world with the ability to share information freely. Human nature is inherently collaborative and creative, which will undermine the ability to treat information as a classical commodity - reproduction, combination and transformation are all ±free of material costs, so you can only profit by building artificial barriers to those natural processes and defending them through state-sanctioned violence (see e.g. Aaron Swartz), or by hosting those processes freely alongside sponsored content (which is long overdue a hefty set of fetters). But I digress.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sun Jul 04, 2021 12:06 pm

Some interesting points in here, Don.
Boustrophedon wrote:
Sun Jul 04, 2021 12:29 am
There has long been a principle in American if not UK law as well, that a corporation or company only exists to the benefit of the shareholders. If an executive of that corporation knowingly takes the firm in a direction that is going to cause the shareholders a loss, then he is doing something illegal. I ANAL*

This has been used as a partial defence of the actions of companies over tobacco, asbestos, lead in petrol and a whole host of other detrimental products. Big companies are essentially psychopathic.
Yes, I agree that expecting corporations or consumers to change their behaviour at a personal loss without any other incentive would be fruitless. IME the people pushing individualist solutions to environmental crises tend to be people with something to sell, be it greenwashed bioenergy or a bamboo toothbrush.

But there are two flipsides to the shareholder coin (which must make it something of a numismatic oddity).

The first is that there is a looming "carbon budget". Pretty much everyone now openly accepts the scientific reality of climate change. Governments have committed to trying to limit warming to 1.5°C (we're currently at 1.1°C and rising fast), which means ~50% reductions by 2030 and net zero by ~2050 (hard date targets are difficult, because what really matters is the area under the emissions curve: if we peak sooner and sharper, we can have a longer tail, whereas if we continue to plateau gently we're gonna have to drop off a f.cking cliff in late 2029).

Which means that a huge amount of carbon assets are stranded. Save some reliable, scalable CCS deus ex machina - which honestly seems very unlikely - a lot of the assets on which these companies' value is based can never be burned, and they're not useful for much else in those quantities. It's the same as owning a bunch of mortgages that will never be repaid. It's in shareholders' interests to covert their investments from unburnable carbon to other asset classes, which means it's in corporations' interests to decarbonise their portfolios faster than the market realises they've built their castles on (tar) sand. Regulators of various markets - including the UK - are looking into forcing various kinds of carbon/climate declarations from corporations, which will force transparency. It's coming.

There are also 'activist shareholders', which I haven't posted much about yet. But for example, climate activist hedge fund (yes, really) Engine Number 1 own 0.02% of ExxonMobil, which allowed them to make nominations for the board of directors. Three of their candidates won, comprising 25% of the board. This is very likely to force ExxonMobil into a low-carbon strategy. See e.g. here, and note that the majority of shareholders apparently want stronger climate action than the company's directors were offering:
The key to Engine No. 1’s success was the support of investment funds and pension funds that held significant stakes in ExxonMobil. Vanguard, the largest shareholder of ExxonMobil, confirmed in a post-election statement that it had voted for Goff and Hietala, but not Karsner and Runevad. Separately, Blackrock confirmed that it had cast its 6.7% shareholding in support of Goff, Hietala and Karsner.
That's Vanguard and Blackrock voting for climate activists to control ExxonMobil, in whom they own shares. The future is now.
Boustrophedon wrote:
Sun Jul 04, 2021 12:29 am
So suing the "Seven Sisters" is totally without merit, the oil companies existed to extract and sell oil, what else did we expect them to do? Why would we expect them to do otherwise but to lie and hide the evidence, while we consume their product in ever greater amounts?
Well, Shell is one of the Seven Sisters and they've already lost a case on the following grounds. Climate change is a human rights issue. People have a right to live on a planet where the land and sea aren't regularly on fire, and that right has been agreed to by most world governments (and the UN is looking into strengthening language on environmental rights). The link between fossil companies' activities and climate change can be attributed robustly using science.

The legal principles, scientific evidence, ethical implications and practical consequences are all strong enough that I suggest the existence of successful climate litigation is probably a good indicator for the strength of "rule of law" in a given jurisdiction. It's rippling across the EU, getting going in the UK and having a tougher time in the US. The companies we really have to worry about are OPEC etc., where the fossil oligarchs have really got the judicial system locked down.
Boustrophedon wrote:
Sun Jul 04, 2021 12:29 am
It's total hypocrisy for fancy lawyers and politicians driving big limos and SUVs to try to suggest that somehow it's all the fault of big oil whilst continuing to drive their gas guzzlers. It's the fault of our way of life and exploitation as an instrument of business to generate wealth.
Sort of, but if they were electric limos and SUVs powered by a decarbonised grid "our way of life" would be less of an issue, climate-wise. The current struggle around climate change is one manifestation of various other struggles, from 'the many vs. the few' to 'science vs. b.llsh.t' to 'today vs. tomorrow' etc., and most politicians are routinely on the wrong side of all of them.

But fundamentally what we're looking at is a technological challenge as well as a human behavioural one: swap the technology providing the energy for human behaviour and we've solved the problem. It's just that human behaviour makes it difficult to do that. I constantly vacillate around whether it's more important to push for technological or behavioural change (though they're not exclusive options).

There aren't many politicians I've got time for, but it's amazing how much progress is coming from fancy (activist) lawyers and even hedge funds, working within the system to use its own rules and conventions to force change. They're probably more effective than XR, for instance.

Society needs an end to the fossil fuel industry, so it's actually kind of convenient how recalcitrant and dishonest they're being. You don't have to feel guilty about giving a coup de grâce to a dying animal if it's attacking children and sh.tting all over the place on its way out. (Workers will need reskilling and maybe compensation.) If they were making their best efforts to adapt to the new world it might be kind of sad, but the sooner these horrible c.nts FOAD the better.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 03, 2021 10:35 am

The current wildfires in the US are burning trees companies like BP and Microsoft bought to "offset" their carbon emissions https://www.ft.com/content/3f89c759-eb9 ... af1ec5aa23

There's no substitute for actually reducing emissions, and we really need to be getting on with it. Too many countries' and corporations' plans depend on this kind of "offsetting".
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Fishnut » Wed Aug 04, 2021 12:33 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 03, 2021 10:35 am
The current wildfires in the US are burning trees companies like BP and Microsoft bought to "offset" their carbon emissions https://www.ft.com/content/3f89c759-eb9 ... af1ec5aa23

There's no substitute for actually reducing emissions, and we really need to be getting on with it. Too many countries' and corporations' plans depend on this kind of "offsetting".
And Oxfam is warning that focusing on this type of offsetting could threaten global food supplies.
Nafkote Dabi, climate policy lead at Oxfam and co-author of the report, explained: “It is difficult to tell how much land would be required, as governments have not been transparent about how they plan to meet their net-zero commitments. But many countries and companies are talking about afforestation and reforestation, and the first question is: where is this land going to come from?”...

The report also found that two of the most commonly used offsetting measures, reforestation and the planting of new forests, were among the worst at putting food security at risk.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Aug 04, 2021 12:54 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Wed Aug 04, 2021 12:33 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 03, 2021 10:35 am
The current wildfires in the US are burning trees companies like BP and Microsoft bought to "offset" their carbon emissions https://www.ft.com/content/3f89c759-eb9 ... af1ec5aa23

There's no substitute for actually reducing emissions, and we really need to be getting on with it. Too many countries' and corporations' plans depend on this kind of "offsetting".
And Oxfam is warning that focusing on this type of offsetting could threaten global food supplies.
Nafkote Dabi, climate policy lead at Oxfam and co-author of the report, explained: “It is difficult to tell how much land would be required, as governments have not been transparent about how they plan to meet their net-zero commitments. But many countries and companies are talking about afforestation and reforestation, and the first question is: where is this land going to come from?”...

The report also found that two of the most commonly used offsetting measures, reforestation and the planting of new forests, were among the worst at putting food security at risk.
Indeed - hadn't seen that report, thanks.

There are places that could be chosen carefully, especially previously deforested land that's no longer fertile (lots of it in the tropics). But the focus should absolutely be on conserving existing forests, which are still disappearing at a moronic rate.

The plans in North Europe to plant trees on drained wetlands are especially stupid, as are the attempts to present the forestry industry as somehow carbon negative. Up here, restoring wetlands and grasslands is a much quicker and more reliable route to carbon negativity - but unfortunately doesn't make much money for existing industries.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Fishnut » Fri Aug 06, 2021 8:14 am

COP26 President Alok "We all have a role to play" Sharma flew to 30 countries in the last 7 months. Words fail me.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Woodchopper » Fri Aug 06, 2021 9:50 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Fri Aug 06, 2021 8:14 am
COP26 President Alok "We all have a role to play" Sharma flew to 30 countries in the last 7 months. Words fail me.
It probably is necessary for him to do that. His job is to try to reach a consensus on an outcome before the conference starts. So the most important diplomacy and negotiation is happening now. The big wigs can sort out the final points when they actually meet.

Of course he could try to do it all via video conferences. But as we’ve found out it’s far easier to ignore someone who is sitting in a remote location, and opportunities to informally sound out options are much reduced.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Aug 06, 2021 10:10 pm

It's appalingly difficult to travel outside Europe without flying, unless you can fork out for a cruise. If the UK has to buy a yacht, it should be used for proper diplomacy rather than floating hereditary toffs around the place.

No idea whether Alok Sharma has a useful background and/or mandate, though. It's not like the current UK government has any particular ambition/competence at tackling climate change.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Fishnut » Sat Aug 07, 2021 8:20 am

He's supposed to be working out how to tackle the climate emergency, and much of this travel took place when we weren't supposed to be travelling. He didn't even have to quarantine despite going to countries like India. Did no-one in government watch Twelve Monkeys??

This would have been a perfect opportunity to work out a "new normal" and set an example. Sure, it might be more difficult but he has the resources of a government at his command, as do the people he's talking with.

"It's difficult" doesn't really cut it as far as I'm concerned. It's difficult because successive governments have kicked the can down the road and we are now reaching a point where no matter what we do the world is, at least in the medium-term, f.cked. The only thing we can so is reduce that amount of f.cked. The least the f.cking president of COP26 could do is work out how to f.cking use Zoom.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Woodchopper » Sat Aug 07, 2021 8:33 am

Diplomats are exempt from the quarantine rules. I assume he’s covered by that.

As for the conference, it’s a trade off. Of course he could do all the diplomacy from a room in London. But IMHO there would be a risk that conference would have a less ambitious outcome.

Fair enough if you think that no one should be allowed to use air travel. But if you accept that it’s acceptable for some people then it seems to me that he should be included in those for whom it’s acceptable to fly.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sat Aug 07, 2021 10:12 am

Even worse, because alternatives exist:
Employees at the government department responsible for tackling climate change have taken 612 domestic flights since June 2019, when the UK signed the net zero emissions target into law, figures show.

Of the total flights taken – which are single journeys and do not include travel to Northern Ireland – by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), 34 of them were by government ministers.

The BEIS figures come from a freedom of information request by the office of Kerry McCarthy, the Labour MP for Bristol East and shadow minister for green transport. They show that in the six months after the 2050 net zero target was signed into law on 27 June 2019, the department took 395 domestic flights, while in 2020 the figure was 210. So far this year, the department has taken seven domestic flights.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... since-2019

There's no excuse for this. Flights within GB mainland should be banned (except where medically necessary).
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sat Aug 07, 2021 10:16 am

Woodchopper wrote:
Sat Aug 07, 2021 8:33 am
Diplomats are exempt from the quarantine rules. I assume he’s covered by that.

As for the conference, it’s a trade off. Of course he could do all the diplomacy from a room in London. But IMHO there would be a risk that conference would have a less ambitious outcome.

Fair enough if you think that no one should be allowed to use air travel. But if you accept that it’s acceptable for some people then it seems to me that he should be included in those for whom it’s acceptable to fly.
Some environmental campaigners are making the same point https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... eed-to-act
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Woodchopper » Sat Aug 07, 2021 10:38 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Sat Aug 07, 2021 10:12 am
Even worse, because alternatives exist:
Employees at the government department responsible for tackling climate change have taken 612 domestic flights since June 2019, when the UK signed the net zero emissions target into law, figures show.

Of the total flights taken – which are single journeys and do not include travel to Northern Ireland – by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), 34 of them were by government ministers.

The BEIS figures come from a freedom of information request by the office of Kerry McCarthy, the Labour MP for Bristol East and shadow minister for green transport. They show that in the six months after the 2050 net zero target was signed into law on 27 June 2019, the department took 395 domestic flights, while in 2020 the figure was 210. So far this year, the department has taken seven domestic flights.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... since-2019

There's no excuse for this. Flights within GB mainland should be banned (except where medically necessary).
They do seem to have flown a lot less within the UK. But I doubt very much that the 612 domestic flights were all to the Hebrides, Isles of Scilly or other similar locations. Civil servants should be travelling by train.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Fishnut » Sat Aug 07, 2021 10:46 am

Woodchopper wrote:
Sat Aug 07, 2021 8:33 am
Diplomats are exempt from the quarantine rules. I assume he’s covered by that.
He is, the article I originally linked to said,
Sharma did not have to isolate after any of the journeys, despite six being on the government’s “red list” for travel as he was exempt as a “crown servant”.
But I have to ask why - are crown servants somehow immune to catching and transmitting covid?

As to whether you think his travel is worthwhile I guess the only way to tell will be when COP26 takes place. If it actually produces results that will make governments commit to, and achieve, worthwhile reductions in CO2 emissions then I will happily concede that it was worthwhile. But if, as I fear, it will produce a load of impressively-sounding but ultimately toothless soundbites then I will maintain my condemnation.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Woodchopper » Sat Aug 07, 2021 11:42 am

Fishnut wrote:
Sat Aug 07, 2021 10:46 am
Woodchopper wrote:
Sat Aug 07, 2021 8:33 am
Diplomats are exempt from the quarantine rules. I assume he’s covered by that.
He is, the article I originally linked to said,
Sharma did not have to isolate after any of the journeys, despite six being on the government’s “red list” for travel as he was exempt as a “crown servant”.
But I have to ask why - are crown servants somehow immune to catching and transmitting covid?
Of course they aren't immune.

There's a long list of roles that are exempt: https://www.gov.uk/government/publicati ... onferences

I assume that for each the rationale is a cost-benefit analysis concerning the risk of transmitting infection versus other harms caused by someone in a critical role being unavailable.
Fishnut wrote:
Sat Aug 07, 2021 10:46 am
As to whether you think his travel is worthwhile I guess the only way to tell will be when COP26 takes place. If it actually produces results that will make governments commit to, and achieve, worthwhile reductions in CO2 emissions then I will happily concede that it was worthwhile. But if, as I fear, it will produce a load of impressively-sounding but ultimately toothless soundbites then I will maintain my condemnation.
I disagree, I suggest that at this stage the issue is whether its worth attempting to get a better outcome, and whether flying will help that attempt. Even if the conference produces only toothless soundbites an attempt may have been worth it anyway.

Though fair enough if you feel that its not worth the effort. I tend to feel like that sometimes as well, mostly at about 3am.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Woodchopper » Mon Aug 09, 2021 3:39 pm

I moved some posts on the IPCC report over to this new thread: viewtopic.php?f=10&t=2673&p=91136#p91118

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Aug 09, 2021 3:58 pm

Thanks, was about to start one.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Brightonian » Mon Aug 09, 2021 9:58 pm

Boustrophedon wrote:
Sun Jul 04, 2021 12:29 am
There has long been a principle in American if not UK law as well, that a corporation or company only exists to the benefit of the shareholders. If an executive of that corporation knowingly takes the firm in a direction that is going to cause the shareholders a loss, then he is doing something illegal. I ANAL*

This has been used as a partial defence of the actions of companies over tobacco, asbestos, lead in petrol and a whole host of other detrimental products. Big companies are essentially psychopathic.

So suing the "Seven Sisters" is totally without merit, the oil companies existed to extract and sell oil, what else did we expect them to do? Why would we expect them to do otherwise but to lie and hide the evidence, while we consume their product in ever greater amounts?

It's total hypocrisy for fancy lawyers and politicians driving big limos and SUVs to try to suggest that somehow it's all the fault of big oil whilst continuing to drive their gas guzzlers. It's the fault of our way of life and exploitation as an instrument of business to generate wealth.

* I am not a lawyer either.
Or is that legal principle a myth, as argued here for example?

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sun Aug 22, 2021 12:04 am

I enjoyed this short essay: We're going to have to solve climate change with capitalism
The reality is that as far as the climate is concerned, we don’t have the luxury of time. We’re already at the scene in Apollo 13 where the NASA guy slaps down a bunch of junk on the table, and the people in the room have to figure out how to save the astronauts using only what is in front of them.

In other words, given the ticking clock, the only option we have as a species is path dependent on the choices we’ve already made. Britain and the world’s economic status-quo in 2050 is going to look, for better or worse, a lot more like it does today than a fully automated luxury communism utopia.

So our only option, like it or not, is to tackle climate change within the context of the current status quo. In other words, the only tool we have available to fight climate change is capitalism.
As some may have spotted, I'm fairly left-of-centre politically. Nevertheless, this is a climate emergency, with less than a decade left on a ticking clock to achieve something in some sense transformative: we either have to change how society and its economy functions, or change how it interacts with fossil hydrocarbons and land use. I reckon slapping a carbon tax on top of what's already going on is much simpler and quicker than trying to make the world a generally nicer place - by all means that should still be an urgent priority, but teh climates are even urgenterer.

I also liked his description of a certain brand of lefty climate takes as "eschatological", which linked a little with some of warumich's interesting end-of-the-world posts. I was struggling to reconcile it a little, because unlike previous apolcalypses this one is actually evidence-based and already underway. But it needn't be (construed as) an apocalypse: only some worldviews insist on viewing it as an inexorable manifestation of a wider ideological conflict, as opposed to a discreet political and technological challenge.

The technological aspects of carbon-reduction are luckily already largely solved, so it's just forcing a set of robust political measures on the elites that needs some work. As well as figuring out if/how to adapt to the levels of change already baked in, and perhaps eventually how to go carbon-negative back towards 280-ish ppm.

Carbon tax carbon tax carbon tax.
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Fishnut
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Fishnut » Sun Aug 22, 2021 12:40 am

That's an interesting piece.

I agree that we need to focus on practical solutions. I also agree that realistically we need to work within our current economic and political framework because we don't have time for a revolution. That said, I do find myself increasingly of the view that current economic and political frameworks are incompatible with sustainability and if we want to work towards a sustainable future on a healthy planet then we do need to address those at some point. Though given the world seems to be increasingly right-wing I don't think those conversations are going to happen with any seriousness any time soon.

I know this is a very basic question, but how does a carbon tax actually work? Speaking from a place of complete ignorance on the subject my fear is that the costs will simply be passed on directly to the consumer rather than them forcing companies to change their practices, which would hurt already economically-disadvantaged people the most.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Woodchopper » Sun Aug 22, 2021 11:32 am

Fishnut wrote:
Sun Aug 22, 2021 12:40 am
I know this is a very basic question, but how does a carbon tax actually work? Speaking from a place of complete ignorance on the subject my fear is that the costs will simply be passed on directly to the consumer rather than them forcing companies to change their practices, which would hurt already economically-disadvantaged people the most.
There’s lots of different ways that carbon taxes would work. A simple version would involve an extra tax on fossil fuels.

The level of the tax would be such that it makes the carbon intensive good or service so expensive that many people choose to buy far less. Either people stop doing something all together (eg no holidays in New York) or they switch to a lower carbon alternative that is now much cheaper (eg replacing a petrol driven car with an electric car).

A benefit of such an approach would be that it would be easy to implement as it would piggyback on existing taxes.

In addition, the tax would provide a strong incentive to industry to innovate and reduce the carbon used in production. For example, steel making is very CO2 intensive. It’s possible to make low CO2 steel but it’s currently more expensive, and so a heavy carbon tax would encourage industry to buy the now cheaper low CO2 steel. (Though as mentioned in another thread, radical change in global production takes time).

However, there is a huge collective action problem. Governments may decide to cheat and carve out a competitive advantage for their industries by implementing lower carbon taxes than in other states (or not at all). There is and will be huge amounts of special pleading from specific industries. Some of it won’t be an exaggeration. The people currently working in old fashioned steel plants would probably lose their jobs.

If too many governments decide not to implement the tax properly then the system will break down. Industry will be able to buy carbon intensive products at low prices and there will be huge political pressure on governments to reduce the carbon taxes.

As for your second question. In general, attempts to reduce consumption by making some products and services more expensive will affect poorer people much more than rich people. Making air travel from the UK five times more expensive will affect a nurse from the Philippines far more than a banker from Hong Kong. The former may not be able to fly home to see his family, while the latter may just decide to downgrade her ticket from first class to business class.

That effect could be mitigated in two ways. Firstly by targeting taxes on carbon intensive luxury products that are not used by poor people - eg motor yachts, private jets or hummers. But that’ll only get us so far in terms of reducing emissions.

Secondly, the proceeds from the carbon taxes could be channelled to poor people. But we can’t just increase incomes via benefits or tax credits as that that money could be spent on the more expensive carbon intensive products or services. Spending would need to be focused on low carbon sectors. Hypothetically, the nurse might not be able to fly home, but might benefit from free adult education.

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