2. Curbs in fossil fuel consumption must also address social and economic inequalities on a world scale. At the moment world politics are dominated by a network of vested interests locked into a carbon economy - this has been termed the carbon aristocracy.
3. Conflicts over oil and natural gas are moving to become the central political issues in the world today. The conflicts and rivalries are sharpening most of all between producer and consumer countries, but also between different consumer countries and between different producer countries. At stake are who controls vital oil and gas supplies at the point of production and in the transport and pumping routes, at what price oil and gas are available, and to whom they are available.
4. These sharpening rivalries do not always appear to be about energy on the surface. They are fought out about "weapons of mass destruction", "terrorism" and "Wars for the Good against Axes of Evil" or "For the creation of God/Allah's law ".
5. Having united to smash leftism, oil consumer interests with links to Christian fundamentalism, and Islamic fundamentalist movements funded by oil supplier interests, are increasingly at loggerheads. The energy conflicts intensify, and are connected to, a variety of conflicting religions, ideologies, and "ways of life". The most embittered protagonists are being driven into simplistic fundamentalist variants of their religious belief systems.
6. A carbon politics is necessary. In order to be equitable any future politics must be based on the central political notion of the right of every member of every country to carbon equality.
7. Carbon equality is both a world programmatic principle and, also, a programmatic principle for the situation internal to countries. On a global scale the idea leads to the 'contraction and convergence' formula. On a national scale it leads to the notion of personal energy rights.
8. In order to 'stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level which would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system' (UNFCCC 1992) a target must be set for CO2 emissions. The scientific evidence suggests that this target needs, most likely, be in the region of 350ppmv atmospheric CO2 by the year 2100. There is general consensus that the limit can not be forced higher than 450ppmv without causing massive ecological and social dislocation.
9. This, in turn, helps determine the level of a global yearly carbon budget, the equal division of which, in turn, would lead to the setting of the limits for national and individual energy rights. (See the writings of Aubrey Meyer of the Global Commons Institute). Thus the annual emission budget would be assigned to each country proportional to population, according to the principle of 'equity for survival'
10. Over a specified time frame, all nations would need to work toward bringing their emissions into line with their budget.
11. A system of emissions trading allows carbon-light economies to trade their emission permits to countries which are struggling to meet their obligations and would lead to a resource flow from the carbon aristocracy to the carbon poor.
12. This concept has support within the European Parliament and the governments of China, India, the Africa Group and the Non-Aligned Movement.
13. As things stand at the moment, however, there is no chance whatsoever of the network of vested interests of the carbon aristocracy, led by the White House, relinquishing its privileged position. It spends on the largest arms budget in the world to defend it and it has an enormous PR, and dream machine in its entertainment industry. Its policy is to intimidate and distract.
14. The difficulties of adjustment would also hit large parts of the population in the industrial countries. They will not, in current circumstances, be willing on a sufficient scale to give up their holidays abroad twice a year, their cars for bikes and public transport, their meat for an organic and locally supplied low energy diet, nor spend their time and money on insulating their energy wasteful homes. Only in "socio-economic system shocks" is mass support likely to swing behind such huge life style changes.
15. Such huge shocks are most likely to arise in war crises connected to energy conflicts. The 1973 OPEC embargo which sent oil prices spiralling perhaps give a forestaste of what might happen. However, the USA, the EU and other big energy consuming countries are wise to the dangers of such embargoes happening again. Like Mrs Thatcher building up UK coals stocks before the defeat of the miners strike in 1984, the USA is trying to build up huge strategic petroleum reserves. The EU is also moving to increase its oil reserves against any future crisis.
16. This is much less easy for natural gas (although Austria has considerable storage capacities) and there is a long term political issue in Europe's increasing dependence on Russia's natural gas.
17. The other aspect of the carbon aristocracy's global policy is, of course, its reservation of the right to use "overwhelming force" (nuclear weapons) and therefore to crush any resistance quickly, before oil stocks run out during long conflicts. Wars, with all their disruption of energy supplies and economic processes, must last no more than a few months - otherwise weapons of mass destruction will be used.
18. Nevertheless there is every prospect that the big kill/big lie policies of the carbon aristocracy will end up alienating larger and larger parts of the world population. Nor is it ruled out that considerable disruptions in energy supply will occur. For the world's poor access to energy will become more and more the key issue. As Ted Trainer puts it "A market economy is an ingenious device for ensuring that when things become scarce only the rich can get them." In energy crises people may find themselves confronted with the need to restrict energy dramatically anyway - and in war conditions it would be perceived as grotesquely unfair for this to happen without a rationing system that allows equal shares for rich and poor alike. It is in this way that one might build mass support for the policies that would limit the amount of energy consumed and distribute it equitably.
19. Considerable effort has been put into developing the technologies, techniques, design systems and forms of social organisations that would underpin an ecological transformation of society in the direction of sustainability. These have all developed, however, under the most unfavourable conditions. In particular there is an absence of finance and political support on the scale needed. Much has been done in the areas of community permaculture, forest gardening, energy efficient housing, renewable energy systems, the facilitation of bicycling and public transport, energy efficient substitutes for meat, ecological textiles. Yet their evolution into a mass basis for a different kind of sustainable lifestyle, based on different criteria for the quality of life, does not yet exist. The market conditions and policy framework is unfavourable because it is determined by the priorities of money addicts in the carbon kleptocracy, whose self-serving world view also prevails.
20. An alternative policy and political framework is needed that would foster and support the new technological, design and social developments. Currently the organisers of a sustainable green future are stressed, exploited and frustrated. The connection of a coherent policy for energy with the anti war and human rights agenda is a means to create a movement into the future. Indeed it is not credible to draw attention to the way a future war with Iraq is about oil, and then not to have an alternative energy policy.
21. Domestic Tradable Quotas (DTQs) are a way of equally regulating energy consumption inside countries. As defined by David Fleming they are "an electronic system of rationing designed to reduce the greenhouse gases released by the combustion of fuels." The budget allocated to each individual would be stored on the magnetic strip of a charge card. Laser scanners in the supermarket or petrol station would read one bar code for the price and one for the CO2 content. A new card would be introduced each year. If someone used up their allowance before the year they would have the choice of earning more, by environmental restoration work like planting trees, or would be able to buy extra credits from people who did not use all of theirs. This would be the ideal framework in which it would be possible to develop an energy conserving and renewable energy based lifestyle. It would also be redistributive. Such a system could be used if fuel supplies are disrupted in a war situation.
22. Although egalitarian (based on the concept of an equal right to all in regard to energy) this energy proposal is not a proposal for a communist planned economy. It would give individuals and organisations the information they needed - while they would be left free to take their own economic choices within their carbon limited personal rights. Individuals would have a measure for their environmental impacts and a limit within which to live, which was fair to all. It would encourage the development of renewable energy, reduce energy squandering, and reduce foreign trade (because the energy transport costs would be added to traded goods). It would encourage the redevelopment of local and regional economies and reverse the ever greater concentration of economic and political power on a world scale.
C&C Refs http://www.gci.org.uk/consolidation/
© BRIAN DAVEY