Rupert Read’s Guardian letter

Left Foot Forward’s Rupert Read has a letter in today’s Guardian. Rupert suggests that “Copenhagen cannot end the climate crisis … A pretence of effective action is worse than no action at all.” We publish the letter here in full:

Your article (Leaked draft deal widens rift between rich and poor nations, 9 December) underlines the view that an increasing number of us have: that a mediocre and unjust agreement at Copenhagen – which is all that we could possibly get now – would be worse than no agreement at all. It is important to understand why what is on offer at Copenhagen cannot end the climate crisis. The “solutions” are almost exclusively based around carbon offsets and carbon trading. These would make no meaningful contribution towards tackling the climate crisis for all sorts of reasons, but most crucially because they would mean that, just as with Kyoto, there is no “hard” cap on total emissions. A carbon trading system that allows offsets against emissions – which allegedly would have happened without the system being in place – even if it works, offers no guarantee at all that overall emissions will fall, let alone fall at the rate that they need to if we are to have a chance of keeping the world to within 2C of overheat.

Thus it may be serendipitous that the Copenhagen talks seem likely to fail. In this connection, the CRU hack at the University of East Anglia may even have a silver lining. For, though it is utterly ludicrous to claim that the “revelations” from these illegally hacked emails cast any substantive doubt over the facts and the science of global overheat, nevertheless we can be grateful to the deluded hacker if his/her actions undermine the prospects of a – useless – agreement emerging at Copenhagen.

A pretence of effective action is worse than no action at all. Rather than pursuing the chimera of an agreement based on carbon trading, it is time to fight for an agreement that would actually be worth having, such as the brilliantly designed Contraction and Convergence scheme, which includes a “hard” cap. We should all do our best – in person or remotely – to bring the talks this week to a standstill if the alternative is allowing our leaders to sign up to an agreement that offers only the shadow of securing our common future against climate chaos.

Dr Rupert Read

School of philosophy, University of East Anglia

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