Notes from the Edge conversation
Sir Dieter Helm, CBE, Professor of Economic Policy, University of Oxford and Chair of the Natural Capital Committee.
Climate change is a global problem. Therefore we need to reduce to net zero consumption, not just net zero production. This therefore includes all the things we import. This is much harder and will demand radical changes in life-style. Net zero means carbon emissions less carbon sequestrated. Nature has been successfully keeping the planet in carbon balance for thousands of years. Soil and the ocean sequesters most carbon. Carbon emissions have been rising by 2 parts per million each year since 1960 including last year. Our destruction of the soil and killing the ocean is aggravating the problem of our excess carbon consumption.
Agriculture is the most carbon emitting human activity per unit of production. In the UK it contributes 0.6% to GDP and contributes to 11% of carbon emissions. If you add soil degradation and loss of habitat sequestration this rises to 15%. Most carbon storage in soil and soil quality is a good proxi for bio-diversity.
Three key principles should guide policy.
1 Polluter pays
The price must be the same for all sources of carbon emission. It can’t be voluntary. It needs to include imports and deal with border adjustments
2 Public goods
Society needs to provide public goods i.e. things the market can’t deliver efficiently, including electricity, transport, water, broadband and the natural environment.
3 Net gain
If you cause damage i.e. emit carbon, you need to be held to deal with the consequences (Same idea s poluter pay?) Any major development needs deliver net environmental gain.
Dame Fiona Reynolds, Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge and Chair of the National Audit Office
People need to love nature if we expect them to protect it. A connection with nature woven throughout our lives.
Shaun Spiers, Executive Director, Green Alliance
Three conversations about climate change and zero carbon.
1 Treasury and government position is that it’s easy to get to net zero and will only cost us 1% of GDP. They are not considering carbon consumption.
2 Green NGOs position is that the rhetoric is good but policy and action leave a lot to be desired.
3 I can’t remember the last one.