Azara Blog: Another useless consultant wants to hammer the British economy

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Date published: 2008/03/11

Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation (nef) says on the BBC (with a large amount of padding, so you have to persevere through the verbiage to find out what he really wants to say):

Analysis by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University suggests that for the UK to play its part over the coming decades, we need to reduce the carbon intensity of our economy by between 9% and 13% year-after-year.

Any delay in hitting those targets - which already go far, far beyond anything achieved in recent history - simply raises the bar further for what needs to be achieved in later years.
...
The cost of carbon clearly has to go up. But taxes to change behaviour are a blunt tool that cannot guarantee that a particular emissions reduction target is met.

Emissions trading is also meaningless unless it is part of an inclusive global system whose emissions budget is set in accordance with science-based targets for avoiding runaway warming.
...
the UK could learn from Norway's experience, and set up an Oil Legacy Fund, paid for primarily by a windfall tax on oil and gas company profits.

Mr Darling could then re-commit to the fuel duty escalator which would help progressively change behaviour, whilst having the resources to invest in a range of measures to smooth the transition.

These might include:

Such a new fund, coupled with a new "Demand Reduction Obligation" placed on the energy utilities to manage better what is left, could help achieve the needed shift of policy gear.
...
While our economy has grown continuously over the last few decades, study after study shows that our sense of satisfaction with life has flat-lined.

The economy should be there to help deliver long, satisfied lives, and it must do so within environmental limits.

The greatest mark of a conversion to new environmental realities in the Treasury would be the national adoption of a measure that showed the resource efficiency with which we help achieve good lives.

Such measures exist; the so-called Happy Planet Index devised by the New Economics Foundation (nef) is one.

The other message to take away is that there could be an upside to the downturn.

The financial crisis is driven by debt that has allowed us to live beyond our means. The climate crisis is connected because it is driven by the resulting over-consumption.

The problems and solutions appear linked. Because high levels of life satisfaction can be achieved at low levels of consumption, a new system of incentives to encourage thrift could help tackle the debt and climate crises simultaneously.

This is classic puritanical stuff from a typical so-called environmentalist (environmentalism just being another 21st century religion that plagues the world). Needless to say, Simms is academic middle class and earns far above the median UK wage. But his high consumption is just fine and dandy, it is just the consumption of others that is a sin. You can almost see him cheering as poor people are now finding it hard to afford to buy food because of growing inflation (part of the current "financial crisis"). Well, what he means, of course, by the patronising phrase "over-consumption" is the kind of consumption of which he doesn't approve (e.g. ordinary people flying abroad for a holiday). More consumption of the kind he approves of (e.g. throwing more public money at buses) is no doubt fine and dandy.

It's always rich people like Simms who talk about our "sense of satisfaction". Why doesn't he ask people if they are willing to give up their mobile phone, internet connection and car? He'll find the answer is "no". So what people tell pollsters about their "sense of satisfaction" is rather meaningless. But anyone who comes up with an index with the silly (two fingers in the throat) name of "Happy Planet" is obviously incapable of understanding that most people do not want to go back to life in 1850, even if a certain section of the ruling elite do. If "high levels of life satisfaction can be achieved at low levels of consumption" then perhaps Simms will ask his employer to cut his pay in half.

Fortunately Darling has voters to consider, so would do well to ignore unaccountable control freaks like Simms. Unfortunately, the only people who are given a public voice (e.g. on the BBC), are the academic middle class like Simms, so Darling will never hear an alternative. And the government is seriously in debt, so will likely take the opportunity in the budget to pretend that it is "green" by screwing the ordinary people of Britain, as requested by Simms. Needless to say, the ordinary people of Britain are not fooled by this.

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