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Bigger Ideas on Climate Change

By Paul Robinson - 04 Mar 2015 10:6:0 GMT
Bigger Ideas on Climate Change

For those on coasts or islands, carbon emissions have created a global problem that will affect their sea levels as well as the already-extreme conditions we have in our weather. Now is the time to concentrate on the lives of millions, instead of the concerns of a greedy few.Island image; Credit: © Shutterstock

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) is an independent UK organisation which yesterday consulted with 2 leading advisors on climate change, Britain’s David King and Professor Qi Ye of China’s Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy. The link is to a video. All of that is fairly irrelevant for many people, but springs right into focus when you consider the imminent negotiations for the Paris Summit (in December.)

China has already rebalanced economic growth to achieve a 3% drop in coal consumption. The slowdown in growth is probably partly responsible, but policies on fossil fuels have also had some effect. The need is to persuade government to cut emissions quickly rather than wait till 2030 to reduce them. Europe is far-advanced in trying to curb emissions by 40% by 2030, while the US is cutting them by up to 28% by 2025.

Qi Ye points out the lead China has in producing renewable energy and nuclear power, as well as hydroelectric power generation from enormous dams. As the leader of China’s first low-carbon development plan, he eagerly embraces the concept of energy efficiency that has transformed the lives of ordinary people as well as state-owned companies. We have all seen Chinese cities cloaked in particles, large and small that dramatically raise health-related problems. Diesel fumes have also contaminated many western cities in less visible ways.

David King sees the UK as prominent in climate diplomacy with other governments. This need for global agreement has been seriously lacking as national targets are set this month before the long-wished-for Paris Agreement. Switzerland is the only nation to formally submit UN proposals, with a proposed 50% reduction in emissions, although only 30% will be within Switzerland, the rest being achieved through the carbon market or other means of off-setting their pollution. Their lead will hopefully encourage others to follow quickly.

The UK’s most eminent scientific advisor also holds new technology as pre-eminent in the race to meet targets. While novel biofuels research has produced simple but effective uses for agricultural waste, possibly in China, perhaps most nations will see proven solar and wind technologies as more progressive. They all appear simple however, with technological innovations such as those solar cells we noted most recently or even wave and tidal energy, once the science involved in generation of regular power can guarantee high efficiency.

In the US, Todd Stern is the envoy for climate change. His approach is to be hopeful that Paris will not fail to reach the finish line. Over the years following this super-influential Summit, the need will be for action alongside patience, as effects kick in. We can start by fixing the US plans to coincide with everybody else in 2030, not in 2025, but I’m sure the adjustment won’t be a deal breaker!