Climate treaties suffer from a problem that is pervasive in our society. It is the same problem that is destroying British state schools, makes public sector out-sourcing fail, and cripples businesses. Once you set a numerical target, the metric becomes more important that what it measures.A good example of the problem is the EU’s pushing of diesel cars. This has, thankfully, been reversed, but it remains a good example of bad consequences. There are still a far greater number diesel cars on the road than there otherwise would have been and this is not a problem that is easily solved.
I have a diesel car. We do low annual mileage and much of our driving is through open country, so I am pretty sure the environmental costs of scrapping it and replacing it with a new vehicle would massively outweigh any gains from running a cleaner car. I suspect that eventually the government will encourage people to scrap regardless of this: because it helps meet the numbers.
The British government defended the policy on the grounds that “it was not known” at the time that diesel was bad? The EU did not know about diesel particulates? Really?
The EU still requires that diesel contains a proportion of bio-diesel. This, again, meets the treaty targets because it is a renewable. The fact that we are chopping down forests to achieve this. In case it is not obvious this policy is that the forests that remove CO2 from the atmosphere are being cut down, and we are causing localised climate and other environmental damage, and we are worsening the already terrible mass extinction.
The British governments subsidises the Drax power plant in Yorkshire because it uses “renewable” wood instead of dirty coal. This, once again, means chopping down priceless forests and increasing CO2 emissions and using the only fuel that is actually dirty than coal. Once again, the underlying problem is that the metric is out of touch with reality, and the metric is what matters because it has become a treaty obligation.
There are two political problems:
- The need to have fixed targets, which requires a metric, and a metric will never reflect the reality of as complex a problem as this.
- The influence on government policy of vested interests such a businesses that have products to sell to solve the problem.
The latter problem is worth expanding on, Have you ever wondered why there is so much focus or reducing the use of fossil fuels, and so little on preserving the forests that are vital to removing CO2 from the atmosphere? The answer is simple. There is money to be made in selling new power plants, new cars, and all the rest. A lot of money. There is no money to be made in not doing something. Guess which the world’s invariably “business friendly” governments prefer?