So how to extricate ourselves? We believe that a good crisis should not be wasted. To move forward, a startling proposition must be understood and accepted. It is now plain that it is not possible to have a ‘climate policy' that has emissions reduction as the all-encompassing and driving goal. We advocate inverting and fragmenting the conventional approach: accepting that decarbonisation will only be achieved successfully as a benefit contingent upon other goals that are politically attractive and relentlessly pragmatic. These criteria rule out a methodology of binding targets and aspirational timetables which has, in any case, not worked.
Without a fundamental re-framing of the issue, new mandates will not be granted for any fresh courses of action, even good ones. The core of the problem is epistemological. Open systems of high complexity and with many ill-understood feed-back effects, such as the global climate, produce no self-declaring indicators which tell the policy maker when enough knowledge has been accumulated to make it sensible to move into action — even less the type of action that ought to be taken. Climate change is best understood as a persistent condition that must be coped with and can only be partially managed more — or less — well.
II. Human Dignity and The Climate Change Condition
In our opinion, the organising principle of our effort should not be sin but virtue. Atonement is not an efficient animator of action. The division of the world into ‘Annex 1' and ‘Non-Annex 1' Countries in the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) may have expressed the heady ethos of the Rio Earth Summit; but it made no provision for emerging economies to graduate from one list to the other. Furthermore it has perpetuated a negotiating environment in which apportioning blame for the past frequently seems to be more important than finding pathways for the future. So instead, we advocate the raising up of human dignity and in that pursuit, re-frame primary goals. First is an access goal: to ensure that the basic needs, especially the energy demands, of the world's growing population are adequately met. Second is a sustainability goal: to ensure that we develop in a manner that does not undermine the essential functioning of the Earth system. Third is a resilience goal: to ensure that our societies are adequately equipped to withstand the risks and dangers that come from all the vagaries of climate, whatever their cause.
Energy policy should focus on securing reliable and sustainable low-cost supply, and, as a matter of human dignity, attend directly to the development demands from the world's poorest people, especially their present lack of clean, reliable and affordable energy.
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