12 May 2010

A Response to Richard Black

Richard Black, of the BBC, posted some thoughts on The Hartwell Paper on his blog. Below is how I responded to him. Such an exchange is exactly why we wrote the paper -- to open up a broader discussion of climate policy. I thank Richard for the exchange.
Below please find a few comments in response to your very thoughtful piece on The Hartwell Paper.

I have taken the liberty of copying the set of co-authors to my reply, however these comments are of course my own. On to them ...

1. You write:
"Firstly, its advocacy of first chasing warming agents that may be more tractable than carbon dioxide assumes that isn't happening already; but it is."
I don't think that we assume this at all. In fact, we cite such efforts and arguments in the paper. But as in your BBC news article which quoted Bill Hare of PIK, there are many who are opposed to anything other than a narrow focus on CO2. The very design of the FCCC reinforces this myopia. The various efforts to broaden the focus to other human influences on climate beyond CO2 is certainly gaining steam. Our work should be viewed as part of this broader trend.

You might check your claim the the CDM is being used to address black carbon. While this may be an ancillary benefit of some CDM programs, it is my understanding that black carbon is not considered under the Climate Convention, and efforts to bring it in have been objected to, notably by India.

2. You write,
"Secondly, there's no notion here that developing nations would buy into the kind of voluntary mechanisms espoused here."
I don't think that this is correct. For instance, we cite in the paper the Indian proposal to levee a 50 rp tax on coal to support clean energy innovation. Just this week China re-floated a similar proposal. Further, given that expanding energy access is already a top priority of India, China and others, the only part of the proposal that would need buying into is how to pay for it and through what mechanisms. That debate of course is what would make international negotiations far more productive.

3. You write,
"That not one of the 14 academics behind the Hartwell Paper hails from the developing world perhaps tells its own story."
A bit unfair I think. Why not ask some people from, say, China and India what they think? We did.

4. You write,
"perhaps the biggest hole in the Hartwell principles concerns the notion that western governments are going voluntarily to increase their spend on the issue - by coughing up the 0.7% of GDP in aid, and by imposing a hypothecated carbon tax that would kick-start renewable energy research and development."
If this is a hole in our proposal, then it is also a hole in every other proposal, as every climate policy proposal, not least the FCCC, requires increased spending. So this criticism is not specific to our proposal.

We believe that governments, and the people that they represent, are far more likely to invest in energy innovation and adaptation if there is a clear and direct connection between those investments and tangible benefits, on time scales where costs and benefits are comparable. The current approach to climate policy does not offer such a connection.

No one would claim to have all the answers, however after 20 years of experience following the approach outlined by the Climate Convention, it has become familiar and comfortable. It has also been a failure. There are many reasons to question new proposals, and not all such questions have ready answers.

However, one point seems inescapable ... if we do not change directions we will end up exactly where we are headed.

Thanks again for the comments!