Posted by keith on February 11th, 2009
There’s a lot to be said for having progressive targets in all sorts of things, foremost among these is reducing the amount of climate changing gas being poured into the atmosphere; so when, for instance, a government (like that of the UK) says that it will aim to reduce the amount of carbon the nation is sending into the atmosphere by 80% by the year 2050, then it’s good to know that somewhere down the line people are going to check that they are on target. That said, of course 80% by 2050 is hopelessly inadequate, given that that only a net reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – as distinct from the amount being emitted – by, say, 2050, will have any chance of preventing the worst effects of climate change.
You would think that, even with the rather modest reduction of 80% by 2050, a regular check would be made, say once a year, just to make sure the current government in power can’t blame the previous one or the next one, or be blamed by the next one, etc. But that requires committment; it requires sticking by your policies; it requires continuity of action – all the kinds of things that the governments of the industrial West are very, very bad at. And that’s why you never see year on year targets and audits.
Another reason you never see such things is because, to be quite frank, the recent performance of governments in the industrial West in reducing emissions has been crap. For instance, if we look at the two great Kyoto bashers, the USA and Australia (based on DoE statistics), we see that between 2001 and 2006 the USA increased its emissions by 2.4% and Australia had increased by 11.5%.
So what about the keenest signatories of the Kyoto Protocol:
Germany reduced its emissions by 2.3%
France increased its emissions by 2.9%
Britain increased its emissions by 1.8%
The Netherlands reduced its emissions by 6.4%
Spain increased its emissions by 12.4%
Five years of “action” and only one country out of five so-called advanced European nations — all of which fought with the USA to get it to sign the Kyoto Protocol — has managed to reduce its emissions by more than 5%. “Blair’s Britain”, the most vocal of the governments pushing the Kyoto Protocol has utterly failed, showing quite clearly that in the battle between the corporate-political agenda and the real needs of the planet, it’s the corporate-political agenda that comes out on top. The system is not going to permit annual targets, or even 5 year targets, because that makes it extremely hard to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes: in this era of greenwashing excellence, that’s a definite no-no.
When a politician says that they are going to fix things, then you might want to consider in whose favour the fixing is being done. When thay say they are making progress, you might want to wave a few statistics in their face and shout: “Why don’t you show me!”