Camp for Climate Action has a common sense failure

I strongly support the Camp for Climate Action. I attended the camp at Heathrow in 2007 and saw that the participants were engaged with policy in a relevant and radical way, and that they were exploring new and more sustainable ways of living and organising.

So I was dissapointed to see that the camp is organising a demo at the European Climate Exhange on the 1st of April.

ECX is the biggest exchange for EUAs (the permits traded in the EU Emmission Trading Scheme), and during February an average of 15m tonnes were traded there per day (1 EUA = 1 tonne of CO2. To put that into perspective, the annual carbon footprint of the UK is about 500m tonnes).

The Climate Camp’s website says:

By creating a brain-bending system of carbon pollution licenses, fossil fuel companies and trading firms have found a way to keep on churning out global warming gases and to reap huge windfall profits at the same time … [The UK government is] handing control of our climate over to the same people and systems that caused the financial collapse … Don’t let the financial and fossil fools make the rules!

This is wrong, of course – the Directives behind the EU ETS were written by the European Commission, not the traders and polluters, making the EC the most successful environmental regulator in history. The EU ETS will effectively limit carbon dioxide emissions within its perimeter to a known amount. Billions of Euros have already been invested in energy efficiency as a result of the carbon price this creates. This investment is the net economic effect of the scheme – not the windfall made a minority of companies.

Cap-and-trade is not viewed by anyone as the single solution to climate change, and it is not incompatible with the technology and lifestyle changes that the Climate Camp endorses. There’s not much to be gained from dismantling the EU ETS.

Finally, ECX is just one of several private exchanges that facilitates trade in EUAs – it has nothing to do with European or member-state level environmental policy.

The Climate Camp’s targetting of ECX is poorly informed and unconstructive. It panders to activists’ natural distrust of the market and establishment. As climate change moves into the mainstream and becomes more of a concern for governments, effective activists will need to engage with mainstream initiatives like the EU ETS rather than instinctively rejecting them.

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3 Responses to “Camp for Climate Action has a common sense failure”

  1. Well, it’s fair enough that they would feel that way. Markets and profiteering have been the root cause of the environmental problems, so how can they fix it? It’s like making drug dealers and pimps iresponsible for managing crime in a neighborhood. They might do the job for a while, but as soon as they think they can get away with it they’ll be back to their old habits.

  2. Well, it’s fair enough that they would feel that way. Markets and profiteering have been the root cause of the environmental problems, so how can they fix it? It’s like making drug dealers and pimps responsible for managing crime in a neighborhood. They might do the job for a while, but as soon as they think they can get away with it they’ll be back to their old habits.

  3. I agree with this post. Climate change is too important and deserves an analysis more sophisticated than ‘markets are bad’. Whether it’s enough, it is the case that the EU has the most sophisticated environmental regime out there.

    Roger makes an interesting point, but it’s not necessarily markets that are the root cause here. Economies that don’t (or didn’t) have market based economies like the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China were actually far worse polluters.

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