Traditional attitudes to the environment
- Foundation in both Christian and classical traditions.
- Genesis suggests dominion of humans over environment.
- Aristotle, a greek philosopher suggested a hierarchy where organisms with less reasoning ability exist for the sake with more.
- These views unlikely to detrimental in a world with small human population
- Today man's impact on the environment is a matter of almost universal concern
- Huge human population
- The technological means of shaping and changing the environment in significant ways.
Impact on the environment
- Changing the course of large rivers by damming
- Controlling pests with crop dusters
- Production of chemical propellents that damage ozone layer
- Changing the physical environment with mining projects
- Using the amazonian rain forests for their timber resources (and so diminishing the quantity of oxygen producing foliage)
The tragedy of the commons
- According to Adam Smith's Invisible Hand argument, society as a whole will be better off if individuals are free to pursue their own self interest.
- However there are some circumstances where the pursuit of individual self interest does not contribute to the common good but rather to making everyone worse off.
- This phenomenon is often referred to as 'the tragedy of the commons'.
- The common is a piece of land where all are entitled to pasture their animals.
- It is in the interest of each to allow his animals to graze without limit on this public land.
- But the common will soon be overgrazed and be of no use to anyone.
- Arrow discusses this problem when he looks at the problem of externalities.
- The case of companies that produce harmful pollutants where the harm produced by those pollutants is not factored into the price.
Legislating to protect the environment
- First difficulty in formulating environmental protection policies is deciding what standards are to be enforced.
- Often little consensus within communities concerning the environmental standards that are appropriate.
- Retaining wilderness areas is desirable but what if the cost of retaining those areas is higher unemployment?
- Should we use nuclear energy rather than continue to burn fossil fuels?
- Often argued that we have an obligation to preserve the environment for future generations. But do we?
- Do generations as yet unborn have a moral claim on us?
- Or is it acceptable to leave future generations to look after themselves?
Disregarding future generations
- What would justify disregarding future generations?
- It has been argued that knowledge and technology will have increased and so future generations may have solutions to problems that we have no answer to.
- The problem of ozone layer
- The sale disposal of nuclear waste.
- But we have no assurance that future generations will have the answers that we lack and so we are not justified in creating problems for unborn descendants.
- Most think NO
Ecologically sustainable development
- In 1987, The World Commission on Environment and Development issued the Brundtland Report, which launched into popular consciousness the concept of 'ecologically sustainable development'.
- Ecologically sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
- Attempts to integrate economic, social and ecological criteria.
- It tries to give proper weighting to the requirements of future generations while paying attention to the demands of equity for those living now.
Brundtland and Federal Environmental Policy
- Australian Federal Government has been heavily influenced by Brundtland.
- The Environment Protection and Biodiverty Conservation Act 1999 provides the framework for a systematic national approach to environmental management, and for the first time clearly defines the Commonwealth's role.
Global warming and climate change
- During 1990's concern about the environment increased
- Concern about global warming and climate change in particular.
The Kyoto Protocol 1997
- the Kyoto protocol is an international treaty the aim of which is agreement among developed countries to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
- Australia's Kyoto Protocol target was to limit growth in greenhouse gas emissions to 8% above the 1990 baseline level by 2008-2012
- Sources to be counted in that 1990 baseline level are all emissions from the energy, agricultural, waste and industrial process sectors
- in 2001 George Bush announced that the US would not ratify the protocol because it did not bind developing nations and so the US industry would be put at a competitive disadvantage.
- John Howard subsequently announced that if the US did not ratify the protocol then neither would Australia.
The Howard Government's position on Kyoto
- The Kyoto Protocol did not provide an effective framework.
- At most, Australia would contribute about 1% to reducing the growth of global emissions.
- If Australia ratified the protocol it would disadvantage Aus industry but not do anything significant toward fixing global warming.
- Like Bush, Howard argued that The Kyoto protocol did not involve developing countries which (with the USA) are responsible for the bulk of greenhouse emissions.
- Pascal argued that it was rational to run your life as though God existed even in the absence of total certainty bc of the pay off matrix.
- A similar argument can be mounted for running things as though global warming is occurring even in the total absence of certainly.
- This is precisely the starting point of the Garnaut Report
- Prior to 2007 federal election, the Labor party commissioned its own climate change report by leading trade economist Ross Garnaut.
- Final report issued in June 2008
Structure of Garnaut report
- The science behind climate change
- Comparison of the costs of action and inaction
- Acting to mitigate climate change
- -Within the international context
- -Within australia
Garnaut: Climate Science
- The report acknowledges that scientific opinions on climate may differ but that the majority informed educated scientific opinion is that climate change is with us.
- This opinion is that there is increased greenhouse gas concentration and consequent increase in global temperature.
- Those who agree that there is climate change differ with respect to how much they believe is man made.
- However this does not change the case for action since the man-made portion may be what tips us over the brink (Pascal's wager)
Garnaut: International mitigation strategy
- Climate change can only be addressed by effective global action.
- To be effective there will need to be broad international agreement requiring acceptance of:
- Global limits on emissions
- Sharing of rights to emissions across countries within these limits
- International collaboration to help achieve these national restrictions
Domestic Mitigation strategy
- Price on emission (carbon price)
- Government funding of innovation and R&D
- Address market failure in end-use of energy- subsidise education to reduce demand for energy
- Government funding of energy infrastructure upgrades.
Garnaut on Emissions trading
- Distinction between business that can pass on price (to customers?) increase without damaging competitive position and those that cannot.
- In the case of the domestic energy sector, customers will have to pay more.
- Trade exposed emissions intensive industries will need exemption until there is an acceptable international scheme in place.
The Rudd Government
- After refusal of the Howard gov to ratify Kyoto history, moved on.
- Experienced one of worst droughts in Aus history.
- Water shortages everywhere including capital cities leading to severe restrictions.
- In 2007, Kevin Rudd was elected Prim Minister and signed Kyoto Protocol.
- Dec 2008, Rudd gov issued CPRS (Carbon pollution reduction scheme)
- Target set were heavily criticised from both
- Left (greens) for not doing enough to protect environment
- Right (eg. mineral council aus) for destroying aus industry
- Ross Garnaut (author of report)
The global financial crisis
- On May 2009 the government announced it would defer the introduction of mandatory obligations under the Carbon pollution reduction scheme until 1 july 2011 to allow the economy more time to recover from the impacts of the GFC
- At same time, the Gov maintained its commitment to passage of the scheme legislation, while balancing the need for business to have more time to prepare for the significant reductions in carbon pollution that would be required.
- At end of 2009 the then PM of Aus Rudd went to Copenhagen in expectation (hope) that the nations of the world would reach consensus in regard to the need for reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse emissions.
- A consensus was not achieved.
- China and India refused to agree to enforceable targets.
- The US refused to be bound by anything not binding India and China.
- US argued that if China and India did not participate any action would be ineffective and only serve to disadvantage US businesses.
The saga of the CPRS
- The failed efforts of the Rudd gov to introduce measures to protect the environment illustrates all the very real problems involved in regulating business within globalised economy.
- In 2010, intro of CPRS put on backburner until 2013.
Saga of CPRS continued
- In run up to election Julia Gillard replaced Rudd and won 2010 election.
- Gillard gov set up a committee to look at a carbon tax and compare it to the CPRS.
- This was a cross party committee which included a scientist and Ross Garnaut
- The two leading strategies for reducing greenhouse gases discussed in the literature are cap and trade schemes and carbon tax schemes.
- Australia's carbon pollution reduction scheme was an example of the former, that is a cap and trade scheme
- The critical difference between the 2 schemes is that cap and trade directly controls the quantity of emissions, while carbon taxes directly control their price.
Clean energy bill 2011
- Australia's controversial carbon tax bill- passed in the Legislative Assembly by 74-72 in October 2011 and was passed by senate and became law in November 2011
- Became operative july 2012
- Opposition committed to recinding it if elected in 2013
Repeal of carbon tax
- September the coalition was elected
- On July 2014 the carbon tax was repealed
- This repeal was an election promise
US China agreement to reduce emisions
- November 2014: US and China unveiled a secretly negotiated deal to reduce their greenhouse gas output.
- China agreeing to cap emissions for the first time and the US committing to deep reductions by 2025.
- China, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, agreed to cap output by 2030 or earlier if possible.
- Previously had only pledged to reduce rapid rate of growth in emissions.
- Now it has also promised to increase its use of energy from zero-emission sources to 20% by 2030.
- US pledged to cut emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025.
- The EU had already endorsed a binding 40% greenhouse gas emissions reduction target by 2030.
Paris Climate Change Conference 2015
- Nov 2015
- Nations responsible for about 2/3 of global emissions agreed to targets but some countries, most notably India, have not yet done so, despite being asked to meet a deadline of March 2016.
- All-in all not a success
- In Nov 2016 Trump elected as president of US
- Under the Trump EPA (environmental protection authority) announced that the US would pull out of Paris global pact to cut emissions.
- Trump now according to some reports is 'reconsidering'
General lesson to be learnt
- While there may be 'in general' agreement about the need for change in a particular direction it is another matter to get the kind of consensus necessary for a government to put in place and keep in place specific laws and regulation to achieve that end.
- There are two reasons for this:
- 1. different views concerning the best means fo achieving that end
- 2. different views about what individuals are prepared to sacrifice to achieve that end
The global context
- The G7 nations- the industrialised nations of North America, Europe and Japan hold about 1/5 of population and produce and consume 4/5 of the world's goods and services.
- G77 is the opposite (4/5 population, 1/5 consume, produce)
The equity perspective
- The developed nations over-utilise the world's natural resources
- At the same time the developed nations demand that the poor third world nations not use their natural resources in any but environmentally sustainable ways (eg. rainforest of brazil)
- Is this demand fair?
Developing countries such as china and India (major emitters of greenhouse gases) need to be involved in the global effort or the efforts of developed countries will be ineffective.
- In a globalised economy nations compete to attract investment (and employment)
- A nation's regulatory framework is effectively in competition with the regulatory framework of other nations.
- Insisting Australian trade-exposed emissions intensive industries meet standards higher than their competitors will put those businesses out of business.
- Regulators and governments (like businesses) are caught in prisoners dilemma or assurance problem situation.