Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Green jobs for British workers

George Monbiot previews Oliver Tickell's new book, Kyoto2: How to Manage the Global Greenhouse:

"Tickell proposes setting a global limit for carbon pollution then selling permits to pollute to companies extracting or refining fossil fuels...These firms would buy their permits in a global auction, run by a coalition of the world's central banks. There's a reserve price, to ensure that the cost of carbon doesn't fall too low, and a ceiling price, at which the banks promise to sell permits, to ensure that the cost doesn't cripple the global economy. In this case companies would be borrowing permits from the future. But because the money raised would be invested in renewables, the demand for fossil fuels would fall, so fewer permits would need to be issued in later years.

Tickell calculates that if the cap were set low enough to ensure that the world became carbon neutral by 2050, the total cost of permits would be about $1 trillion a year, or roughly 1.5% of the global economy. The money would be spent on helping the poor to adapt to climate change, paying countries to protect forests and other ecosystems, developing low-carbon farming, promoting energy efficiency and building renewable power plants."

This is useful and interesting work, as ideas which often start out seemingly on the fringes of political debate or hopelessly utopian (global limits on pollution!? administered by the world's central banks?!) often end up either with everyone pretending that they agreed with them all along, or forming the basis for more achievable policies. The policy debate can move quite rapidly in times of economic difficulty.

This also seems like a significantly better idea that the one Monbiot used to support of 'Contraction and Convergence', which involves rationing the amount of carbon that each individual uses. As Tickell points out, running a permit system for a few thousand companies has many advantages over trying to run one for a few billion individuals.

Another Green idea that I like, one which seems a bit more achievable in the short term, is the 'Green New Deal'. As I understand this, it is about the government investing lots of money in things like renewable energy, energy efficiency, public transport and conservation. The adaption to a carbon neutral world where emissions are 80% or more below current levels is going to have to happen at some point, and now seems like exactly the right sort of time to invest in new public works programmes and creating new, good quality 'green collar' jobs.

And when Mr Tickell's pollution limit is finally agreed, there will be $1 trillion being spent every year on building new renewable power plants, developing low carbon farming, promoting energy efficiency and the rest of it. If we had already built up expertise in doing all of this in the UK, that sounds like an awful lot of opportunities for Green jobs for British workers, all round the world.


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