Category Archives: Climate Change

We need to change – but to what? and how fast?

“cognitive dissonance: the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change.”

We are living in a time of cognitive dissonance – on the one hand, many people (particularly in business) now realise that the economy can’t go on the way it is – with increasing climate changing emissions, pressure on resources and biodiversity – while at the same time taking the view that it’s not politically practical to do anything about it. Continue reading

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Resource Efficiency flagship launches tomorrow

The European Commission’s President José Manuel Barroso will launch the Flagship Initiative on resource efficiency tomorrow. As mentioned in my previous post, this should start to spell out what the Commission intends to do to address the challenges posed by our increasing use of the world’s resources.

President Barroso’s web page is here, and the press release should appear on the “Midday Express” page at around 12.00 CET on Tuesday 26th.

Many groups will release press statements during the afternoon following the release, including Friends of the Earth Europe and the European Environment Bureau. I expect that it will also be covered by the news sites Euractiv and, in the early evening, ENDS Europe Daily.

Update: There should also be a live video feed here on the Commission’s web site; after the event you should be able to watch a recorded stream from the same page

Changing our culture to achieve sustainability…..

The Worldwatch institute have just released a fascinating – and lengthy – publication on ‘Transforming Cultures’ as part of their ‘State of the World’ series.

It covers a wide range of issues, from the environmental & wellbeing advantages of working fewer hours per week, to the role of education, business, religions and Government in the transformation to a sustainable society.

A free preview version – with a number of full chapters, including the one on working time, is available from here; the full 268 page report costs $9.95 for the pdf.

The 20-30-40% issue and some Copenhagen blogs….

I’m not at Copenhagen, and I don’t work directly on climate (though of course much of what I do is closely linked to climate). However, it’s a bit strange to have an EU Environment blog without mentioning Copenhagen!

One key EU question in the whole process is whether the EU should go for a 30% reduction in emissions by 2020, rather than the 20% that they have already committed to…

The ENDS blog is quoting the Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren as saying:

“We need more ambitious offers from the US and China. We want to go to 30% but don’t want a sell out… 30% will be part of the end game. It could be decided in the last hours of Copenhagen.”


Friends of the Earth is arguing that the EU should in fact be committing to a 40% cut – without offsets – and have a report to show it is possible.

If you want to follow what’s happening, these three blogs are a good start:

“Other worlds are possible” – a new book on climate, development and growth

New Economics Foundation has published a new book, “Other Worlds are Possible”, which contains a set of essays on climate change, development & growth.

It features contributions from Dr Rajendra Pachauri (Chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Professor Herman Daly (Leading environmental economist and winner of Right Livelihood Award), Professor Wangari Maathai (Nobel Peace Prize winner), Professor Manfred Max-Neef (environmental economist and winner of the Right Livelihood Award), Professor Jayati Ghosh (economist) and David Woodward (nef fellow).

It can be bought in print, or downloaded free from this page:

http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/other-worlds-are-possible

A forward by Herman Daly introduces the book:

Climate change, important as it is, is nevertheless a symptom of a deeper malady, namely our fixation on unlimited growth of the economy as the solution to nearly all problems. Apply an anodyne to climate and, if growth continues, something else will soon burst through limits of past adaptation and finitude, thereby becoming the new crisis on which to focus our worries.

The fact that the contributors to “Other Worlds are Possible” realise this makes this report a serious study. The fact that they seek qualitative development that is not dependent on quantitative growth makes it a hopeful study. It is a valuable collection of the specific and the general, of the grass roots details and the macroeconomic big picture regarding climate change and economic development.

The reader is told up front that, ‘This report represents the work and views of a range of individuals and civil society groups. It is a contribution to debate on what other worlds are possible. Not all the views and policies discussed are necessarily held by all the groups and individuals’. Although I did not find any contradictions among the various contributions, they differ greatly in approach and perspective—mainly between top-down and bottom-up modes of thought. Some people like to start with a big picture. They are impatient with concrete details until they can fit them into or deduce them from a framework of meaning consistent with first principles. Others are impatient with a big picture unless they first have a lot of concrete details and examples that inductively suggest a larger pattern. I confess that I belong to the first type, but that is more of a bias than a virtue. Both approaches are necessary, and are present in this collection, but the bottom-up predominates, at least in number of pages.

My advice to the top-down types is to first read Manfred Max-Neef’s fine big-picture essay. Then fit in the inspiring examples of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, Thailand’s self sufficiency, Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, the Happy Earthworm Project, the Happy Planet Index, etc. More inductive types should save Max-Neef for last. I do not mean to characterize Max-Neef as a top-down thinker since he has spent much of his life doing grass roots, ‘barefoot’ economics. But in this volume’s division of labour his is the big-picture essay.

To have packed so much information, inspiration, and analysis into less than 100 pages of clear prose leaves the reader grateful to the authors, the Working Group on Climate Change and Development, and nef.

Some challenges for the new Environment Commissioner (updated)

So, Commission President Barroso has nominated his new Commission, and moved around some roles.

Given the name of this blog, clearly the Environment Commissioner is particularly important, and President Barroso has nominated the current Slovenian DG Research Commissioner, Janez Potočnik.

Commissioner Potočnik has a blog already, as DG Research Commissioner, and he has posted quite a few entries on climate/low carbon economy, and also on the broader issue of sustainable development, including the following statement:

“Our ability to sustain will depend on whether we can and want to change our behaviour, both at global and at local levels in our daily lives. It will hinge on whether can find a new model of economic development that marries economic, social and environmental objectives: profit, people and planet. Sustainability is no longer an issue of morality only; it is also becoming an issue of self-interest”

Update: He has also posted a brief statement on his nomination as Environment Commissioner.

In his new job (assuming he is accepted by the parliament) he will be in an important position to address the challenge of sustainable development.

It’s true that DG Environment has lost climate policy to the new DG Climate Action, but there are many other important policy areas still in the DG, which have an important part to play in reducing our climate impacts, as well as moving us towards a more sustainable world.

For example:

[For a longer list of policies for the new Commission, see the Spring Alliance manifesto.]

Welcome pack for Environment Committee MEPs, briefing documents on climate policy

The Institute for European Environmental Policy’s (IEEP) latest newsletter is full of interesting stuff, including links to a couple of projects involving training MEPs, and stories on EU land use, sustainable development indicators & promoting the importance of biodiversity:
http://www.ieep.eu/publications/pdfs/newsletters/newsletter_autumn_2009.pdf

The first training project is a set of briefing documents on climate policy, aimed at MEPs and assistants (they are also running a training programme):
http://www.ieep.eu/climatebriefings//

The second is a welcome package for new MEPs on the Environment Committee, which summarises legislative progress in the last parliament, identifies some priorities for the next & lists upcoming implementation and review dates for legislation:
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/activities/committees/studies/download.do?language=en&file=26671