Climate Change

Drastic Action on Climate Change is Needed Now. Here's the Plan

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 01, 2006

The mighty George Monbiot, science columnist for the Guardian (UK), has dedicated most of his time in recent years to climate change, which he calls "not just a moral question: it is the moral question of the 21st century."

On the heels of a new report that concludes preventing climate change will be much cheaper than dealing with climate change (big surprise there), Monbiot has come up with a ten-point plan to reduce greenhouse gas production by 90 percent by 2030 - with most of the reductions taking place early rather than late.

The greater part of the cut has to be made at the beginning of this period. To see why, picture two graphs with time on the horizontal axis and the rate of emissions plotted vertically. On one graph the line falls like a ski jump: a steep drop followed by a shallow tail. On the other it falls like the trajectory of a bullet. The area under each line represents the total volume of greenhouse gases produced in that period. They fall to the same point by the same date, but far more gases have been produced in the second case, making runaway climate change more likely.

Ignoring what's 'politically feasible' in favour of what the actual evidence dictates, Monbiot has offered Great Britain an affordable plan to avert the worst crisis of the 21st century without bringing civilization to its knees.

Not bad for a newspaper column!

I urge you to read the article in full, but here is Monbiot's ten point plan in its entirety. There's no reason why it couldn't be implemented in Canada as well.

Ten Point Climate Change Plan

1. Set a target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions based on the latest science.

The government is using outdated figures, aiming for a 60% reduction by 2050. Even the annual 3% cut proposed in the early day motion calling for a new climate change bill does not go far enough.

Timescale: immediately.

2. Use that target to set an annual carbon cap, which falls on the ski-jump trajectory.

Then use the cap to set a personal carbon ration. Every citizen is given a free annual quota of carbon dioxide. He or she spends it by buying gas and electricity, petrol and train and plane tickets. If they run out, they must buy the rest from someone who has used less than his or her quota. This accounts for about 40% of the carbon dioxide we produce. The remainder is auctioned off to companies. It's a simpler and fairer approach than either green taxation or the EU's emissions trading scheme, and it also provides people with a powerful incentive to demand low-carbon technologies.

Timescale: a full scheme in place by January 2009.

3. Introduce a new set of building regulations, with three objectives.

A. Imposing strict energy-efficiency requirements on all major refurbishments (costing £3,000 or more).

Timescale: in force by June 2007.

B. Obliging landlords to bring their houses up to high energy-efficiency standards before they can rent them out.

Timescale: to cover all new rentals from January 2008.

C. Ensuring that all new homes in the UK are built to the German Passivhaus standard (which requires no heating system).

Timescale: in force by 2012.

4. Ban the sale of incandescent lightbulbs, patio heaters, garden floodlights and other wasteful and unnecessary technologies.

Introduce a stiff "feebate" system for all electronic goods sold in the UK, with the least efficient taxed heavily and the most efficient receiving tax discounts. Every year the standards in each category rise.

Timescale: fully implemented by November 2007.

5. Redeploy money now earmarked for new nuclear missiles towards a massive investment in energy generation and distribution.

Two schemes in particular require government support to make them commercially viable: very large wind farms, many miles offshore, connected to the grid with high-voltage direct-current cables; and a hydrogen pipeline network to take over from the natural gas grid as the primary means of delivering fuel for home heating.

Timescale: both programmes commence at the end of 2007 and are completed by 2018.

6. Promote the development of a new national coach network.

City-centre coach stations are shut down and moved to motorway junctions. Urban public transport networks are extended to meet them. The coaches travel on dedicated lanes and never leave the motorways. Journeys by public transport then become as fast as journeys by car, while saving 90% of emissions. It is self-financing, through the sale of the land now used for coach stations.

Timescale: commences in 2008; completed by 2020.

7. Oblige all chains of filling stations to supply leasable electric car batteries.

This provides electric cars with unlimited mileage: as the battery runs down, you pull into a forecourt; a crane lifts it out and drops in a fresh one. The batteries are charged overnight with surplus electricity from offshore wind farms.

Timescale: fully operational by 2011.

8. Abandon the road-building and road-widening programme, and spend the money on tackling climate change.

The government has earmarked £11.4bn for road expansion. It claims to be allocating just £545m a year to "spending policies that tackle climate change".

Timescale: immediately.

9. Freeze and then reduce UK airport capacity.

While capacity remains high there will be constant upward pressure on any scheme the government introduces to limit flights. We need a freeze on all new airport construction and the introduction of a national quota for landing slots, to be reduced by 90% by 2030.

Timescale: immediately.

10. Legislate for the closure of all out-of-town superstores, and their replacement with a warehouse and delivery system.

Shops use a staggering amount of energy (six times as much electricity per square metre as factories, for example), and major reductions are hard to achieve: Tesco's "state of the art" energy-saving store at Diss in Norfolk has managed to cut its energy use by only 20%. Warehouses containing the same quantity of goods use roughly 5% of the energy. Out-of-town shops are also hardwired to the car - delivery vehicles use 70% less fuel.

Timescale: fully implemented by 2012.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Locke (registered) | Posted November 02, 2006 at 15:14:57

Speaking of Electric Cars: "Who Killed the Electric Car?" will screen at Melrose United Church on Friday November 3rd @ 6:30pm. Dave Braden will facilitate a conversation afterwards and describe his efforts to bring the Think Nordic electric Car to Ontario. http://www.melroseunited.ca/events.htm

Hope to see you there.

  • Craig

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By (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2006 at 15:30:34

Hi Craig,

Thanks for sharing! One problem with electric cars is that the batteries just don't last very long. A Silicon Valley company called Tesla Motors is launching a car that runs on banks of laptop batteries; it has a ridiculous acceleration rate and a long range.

Unfortunately, vehicle fuel is only part of the problem. The sprawl land use pattern that cars encourage is inherently wasteful and inefficient, forcing destinations apart, paving and destroying local farmland, creating expensive public infrastructure, and encouraging unhealthy lifestyles.

I'm concerned that electric cars will alleviate one problem but exacerbate another. As Richard Register wrote in his book _Ecocities_:

"The less fuel it takes to drive about and the cheaper per mile, the farther people are willing to drive. The better the gas mileage, the more the suburbs sprawl out over vast landscapes, the more demand there is for cars and freeways, and the more cars are needed to service the expanding suburbia. Ultimately and ironically, the more gasoline is needed.

"Thus the energy-efficient cars help create the energy-inefficient city."

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