Time For A World Climate Management Agency


Back in 1997 Lord Browne of BP famously spoke at Stanford University on the need to take the threat of climate change seriously. TreeHugger's Alex Pasternack explained the modern context of that decade old call to action here. In spite of anything BP has ever done "wrong" in the intervening time, Lord Browne was correct, of course. On that basis, perhaps we should pay attention to what he just said, in yet another invited speech at Stanford University. A few excerpts follow. "And the [1997] speech itself, and the change of policy which it represented, opened up a similar debate across the industry. The instant reaction was, in the enduring words of one industry veteran, that we had "left the church". The more thoughtful reaction led to a process of reconsideration and over time, a realization that the industry had to engage with the problem and to be part of the solution. Many other companies had been moving in that direction over a long period of time. But some stood and continue to stand outside that consensus. That is their privilege in a free society. But the old church is now a pretty small place.""The world uses 30 per cent more electric power than it did in 1997 and around 50 per cent of that new power has been fueled by coal. There are some 100 million more cars on the world's roads - almost all still fueled by oil."

The whole issue of climate change is rapidly moving from being a long term problem to a real medium term challenge which will affect the lives not just of the next generation but of everyone in this room.

And that in turn means that this is not an issue we can leave until tomorrow in the hope that a magical solution turns up. We have to take action now.
The truth is only Government can create and police the framework within which progress can be made. I am not a historian but I think it is true to say that at moments of a fundamental shift of values, the leadership role which has enabled society to keep making progress has been the responsibility of Government.

That is not to argue for policies which are prescriptive and which seek to manage the economy and individual lives in micro detail. I don't believe that is the most effective way forward.

The best way in my view is strategic intervention which sets a framework of rules in which market processes can operate.

Governments too will need to continue to use their policy direction to ensure that the right level of research and development takes place, in particular ensuring that risks are made tolerable in demonstration projects.

And they must also work together because this is a global issue, and the costs of meeting the challenge will be higher if we don't act together. Governments need to re-establish the sense of collective endeavour which secured peace and prosperity after the second world war.

They need to create the right legal basis for global action and introduce an "International Climate Agency". This will need recognition of and then a move beyond the limitations of national sovereignty.
That "Agency" should have the responsibility for:

* Firstly, establishing a long term stabilisation goal, setting fair and equitable emissions targets on a trajectory which leads to this goal;
* secondly, issuing allowances in line with those targets;
* thirdly, designing new mechanisms which encourage clean, low carbon development in the emerging market economies;
* fourthly, encouraging global technology transfer; and
* finally, the monitoring and verification which will build trust in the new international system.

Government action, well designed, and making full use of market mechanisms is imperative.

Footnotes: TreeHugger strongly recommends reading Lord Browne's speech from start to finish. He's tipped us before. He might just have tipped us again.

This statement is sure to put fuel to the ideological fires of those who fear world government. When howls of opposition rise, it will be important to remember that Climate change poses economic and social risks on a scale never before contemplated.

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