Strategic Futurists; Value Systems Specialists


Copenhagen Consensus is likely - just not the type we want.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

I'm tipping that Consensus will be reached at Copenhagen this week. Alas it will be a consensus for more talking, thinking and commitments to agree to a proposal to set a time for a discussion around more concrete targets. In otherwords, a commitment to not commit. The politicians waver whilst our planet is being poisoned. Copenhagen will stall because the framing of the issues does not allow success to be created. What is missing are a couple of ideas to balance the ledger and here's what they are:

1)  The Oxygen Credits System.

This is an idea I first presented at a UNESCO conference in Austria in early 2005.  During my presentation I indicated that the Carbon Credits systems were just a permission slip for (mainly 1st world) countries to keep polluting.  At the same time, developed nations want to improve their societies yet most of them need to rely on natural assets like minerals and timber to do so.  The Oxygen Credits System is a counter balance to the polluting credits system and it would work by developed nations paying developing nations NOT to cut down their forests.  The well to do countries would pay the developing countries to continue to be the lungs of the planet, which allows the developing nations a chance to earn an income to help improve their societies, whilst the earth retains some fresh air producing capacity.

2)  The Sustainability Import tax

Initially I suggested this in a paper I wrote on the subject of water in 2003 (available on this website for free - see 'A Drop in the Ocean...'.  Back then it was titled the 'Non Kyoto Signatory Import tax' and called for a 20% tax on imports of goods from countries who were non Kyoto signatories.  The French picked up that idea and ran with - the then Australian Goverment attacked it.  What the Sustainability Imports tax would do is allow countries who commit and action carbon reduction targets, to place a trade impost on goods from countries who are not taking serious action at reducing carbon emissions.  In otherwords, countries that claim it's 'too expensive to take action', would see their manufacturing and service industries hit with a tax at such a level that it would make better economic sense for their Governments to take serious action.  

This idea would also see the emergence of a trading block among the countries who commit to carbon reduction targets.  They'd form a Sustainability Trade Cartel, whilst closing off their markets or imposing high costs on those who are trying to get away with doing nothing.

I have strong hopes for Copenhagen consensus of the type we need.  The history of our species suggests that is very unlikely.  We respond well to disasters after they have happened - we tend not to stave off the disaster before it strikes.  A global population of around 5 Billion (and all of the pain that would be required for that outcome to occur) would seem to be the kind of disaster that might jump us out of our lethargy.  We are a smart species but we are yet to become 'wise' and for that ignorance (or arrogance), many will suffer untold (and uneccessary) lives of misery.

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