Never a good time for a climate deal

by | Jan 27, 2009


 

Flickr user aturkus

Flickr user aturkus

Over at (the truly excellent) Clusterstock, Jay Yarrow notes that US car-markers are complaining bitterly about being forced to cut their fleet’s emissions.

The crippled industry, which we’ve already pumped full of cash, just can’t support changing its production. Big beefy SUVs and light trucks are profitable, compact cars are not. Gasoline is oversupplied, the economy’s in a rut, fewer people are buying hybrids. General Motors just laid off 2,000 workers yesterday. The timing is not right for tougher emission standards.

“When exactly will the timing be right for a shift in fuel standards?” Yarrow asks. “When the economy is flying high? Like it was just a few years ago and nothing changed? Or when gas prices spike again and it’s too late?”

I made a similar point in last week’s talk at the United Nations University. In the boom years of 2000-2006, global emissions shot up by 2.6% a year – blowing to bits the figure of 1% that Stern used in his models. Reflecting on these trends, Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows argued that:

It is difficult to envisage anything other than a planned economic recession being compatible with stabilization at or below 650ppm.

But now we have that recession (not planned of course), falling energy demand, and a breathing space where global emissions are likely to decline. Will leaders use the opportunity to do a global climate deal? Or will they listen to their industrial lobbies and decide that tomorrow (or the day after that) will surely be a better time?

Author

  • David Steven is a senior fellow at the UN Foundation and at New York University, where he founded the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children and the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, a multi-stakeholder partnership to deliver the SDG targets for preventing all forms of violence, strengthening governance, and promoting justice and inclusion. He was lead author for the ministerial Task Force on Justice for All and senior external adviser for the UN-World Bank flagship study on prevention, Pathways for Peace. He is a former senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of The Risk Pivot: Great Powers, International Security, and the Energy Revolution (Brookings Institution Press, 2014). In 2001, he helped develop and launch the UK’s network of climate diplomats. David lives in and works from Pisa, Italy.


More from Global Dashboard

Justice for All and the Economic Crisis

Justice for All and the Economic Crisis

As COVID-19 plunges the world into its most serious economic crisis for a century, a surge in demand for justice is inevitable. Businesses face bankruptcy – and whole industries may be insolvent. Similar pain is being felt in the public and non-profit sectors....

Who Speaks for the Global South Recipients of Aid?

Who Speaks for the Global South Recipients of Aid?

The murder of George Floyd and the resurfacing of the Black Lives Matter movement has led to heightened discussions on race in the international development sector. Aid practitioners in the North have not only condemned the systemic racism that they (suddenly) now see...