Greenhouse Development Rights

The Greening of the South

Posted in Climate justice issues,Climate negotiations by tathanasiou on March 6, 2008

Here’s something interesting — a well-informed and honest article from a significant British magazine (Prospect) that takes a hard look at the core political challenges of global climate stabilization and then draws some actual conclusions. And it’s written by Simon Retallack, who knows his way around both the climate policy debate and the climate movement.

Retallack, now head of Climate Change at the UK’s Institute for Public Policy Research, did not come blithely to the Greenhouse Development Rights perspective, which he here recommends. He’s way too much of a realist for that. But Retallack, as it happens, is an honest realist, one who rejects most of the goods currently being sold under that label as being long, long past their use-by dates.

Per-capita emissions come into his argument. How could they not when they’re five times as high in the US as in China, which is supposedly eating America’s lunch. But the real issue, now absolutely clear, is not equalizing emissions but rather phasing them out. And quickly. The real issue is redefining prosperity, or at least development, in a climate-constrained world.

By the way, Retallack’s take on emissions trading is particularly interesting, especially given that he has deep roots in the British climate movement. He’s not an academic policy wonk, but neither is he an automatic enemy of emissions trading. And his focus here is on criticizing the alternatives to trading. It’s not a definitive move, but it’s an overdue one, and he deserves credit for making it.

So place Retallack within the swelling ranks of those who welcome the critique of “false solutions,” but insist as well that it’s time to take the next step and actually propose institutional and financial mechanisms capable of supporting rapid global mitigation and adaptation. The ranks of those who recognize that, come what may, the climate end-game is going to be played out soon, within the institutions of this our very capitalist world.

Which reminds us of Susan George, a long-time global justice leader and theorist who’s also been staring into the climate abyss, and drawing her own difficult conclusions. It’s well worth your time to listen to those conclusions, which you can do here.


One Response to 'The Greening of the South'

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  1. Jörg Haas said,

    There is an interesting set of posts on gristmill, referring to the Greenhouse Development Rights Framework and the use of carbon trading as a means to support the South in reducing emissions. First, Tom reproduced the above posting at gristmill:

    The greening of the global south, by Tom Athanasiou

    Unfortunately, you can forget the debate following this posting because someone misled the debate.

    Then Gar Lipow, in a separate posting, took the effort to explain GDRs. And then, in another, separate posting, to criticize it.

    The paragraphs Tom Athanasiou left out of his last post, by Gar Lipow

    Climate justice: yes. Carbon trading: no, by Gar Lipow

    This last posting sees some interesting debate following.

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