Saturday, 17 May 2008

Bugger balance

Posted on the Bevan Foundation blog on 24 March 2008

As ever there's an interesting debate taking place on the Normal Mouth blog about how Wales should respond to the threat of climate change.

He argues that more developed parts of the UK should bear a greater burden for delivering carbon reductions than Wales, and because of our relative poverty we should be given "greater latitude to balance environmental, social and political objectives". Further, he advocates allowing Wales some intensive development to 'catch-up', while still meeting "overall reduction targets".

It is an attractive argument and one I have heard time and again: we need 'a balanced approach' which, in effect, means 'business as usual'. Yes of course climate change is a terrible thing, and we all agree something must be done. But it is not for us to do it first - lets get the by-pass built, sort out poverty and then we can be Green.

No doubt I am simplifying an altogether more sophisticated argument. But I say, bugger balance.

Of course the wealthiest parts of the world need to take a lead. But our Structural Funding status aside, we are one of the wealthiest parts of the world. As the International Institute for Environment and Development reminds us it is the world's poor who are on the frontline of climate change, yet they have done the least to contribute to the problem.

The UN - hardly a front organization for radical Environmentalists - says that we have less than 10 years to stop the planet's life support systems from shutting down. And Nicholas Stern (an economist) warns us that unless we act now we face an economic shock equivalent to a 5% drop in GDP - a bigger slump that the combined effects of both World Wars and the Great depression.

So in the face of such threats talk of balance, or waiting for Surrey to do something first, is a bit daft.

And if we accept that then a whole series of consequences flow. We need to move to a low-carbon (or even a zero-carbon?) economy pretty damn quick. If we are ahead of the curve there are economic opportunities for Wales in being a leader.

But we do love our by-passes...

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