The apparently common-sense nature of this approach, however, is blinding us to basic questions — questions which the now parlous state of the Kyoto Protocol imbues with new urgency. Why should we expect comprehensive, fast and effective policy responses to emerge from what is the most long-winded political decision process imaginable, namely consensus-orientated negotiations between the parties to an international treaty?
What were the reasons for the success or failure of other international treaty negotiations? But above all, is it even possible to achieve international agreement on the technological and structural transformation of the energy sector that a successful climate change strategy would require?
FOREWORD xi The conference process has given governments a perfect excuse to postpone any environmental overhaul of their respective domestic energy sectors until a global treaty has been agreed and ratified, on the pretext that a global framework is essential to preserve international competitiveness. Governments have thus largely been able to forestall taking swifter action at the national level — such as increased taxation on fossil energy — while still protesting innocence on the global stage.
The effect of the climate change negotiations has thus been to preserve the status quo.
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Movement towards sustainable energy supplies is conspicuous by its absence, and the power of those primarily responsible for global warming is structurally more entrenched than ever. National governments have proved themselves incapable of moving on from their traditional role as the protectors of the energy industry at the national level, and they are unlikely to do any better as delegates to international conferences. And yet this latter at least would fit nicely with the ideal of free-market capitalism trumpeted by the World Trade Organization WTO process.
It is also no coincidence that the global conferences have become fixated on policy instruments such as tradable emissions permits and the win—win solutions that they claim to offer. Environmental economists who front such proposals hope that they can reconcile the interests of the fossil energy industry with the goal of preventing climate change.
These supposedly realistic proposals take on trust the assertion by the energy industry that its interests are identical with those of the economy as a whole, and thus that the costs for individual companies of preventing climate change are burdens on the economy as a whole.
Where all the talk is of costs and burdens, it is easy to lose sight of the economic benefits of tackling climate change — benefits that will accrue to everybody. The most important weakness of the Kyoto Protocol, however, is its shaky scientific foundations. The Protocol presupposes that the existing energy infrastructure can be retained; it need only be made more efficient.
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Tradable emissions credits can be earned only by improving on one link in the chain, namely the ratio of energy input to energy output, for example in a power station or an electric motor. Supplychain losses before and after the point of conversion are simply ignored.
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Unrecognized losses and emissions occur in extraction, processing, shipping and storage of primary energy, and in waste disposal and distribution. If the efficiency of a power station is increased from 30 to 40 per cent, the final gain over the entire supply chain from extraction to consumption may only amount to an increase from 10 to 12 per cent.
Moreover, if a power station in the UK switches from domestically extracted coal to coal imported from Australia, then the lengthened supply chain must necessarily result in increased emissions and energy losses. Following the liberalization of the global trade in primary energy and the consequent lengthening of global supply chains, it could very well be that the piecemeal calculations set out in the Kyoto Protocol will appear to demonstrate a global emissions reduction, while in fact the opposite has taken place.
In other words, the environmental and energy economics of the Protocol has no basis in science. A fossil supply chain can never be truly efficient. The short supply chains of renewable energy sources provide the real key to furture efficiency gains. This is the new paradigm on which this book is founded, and which is invisible to the traditional analyses of the conventional energy system. Negotiating a global agreement probably only has a real chance of success where the subject of the negotiations is FOREWORD xiii manageable and can be clearly defined, and only a few scattered interests are adversely affected — or when the dominant interest groups expect to benefit on a large scale.
The subject of climate change negotiations is the supply and consumption of energy, which is neither manageable nor easy to delineate. And if the benefit in terms of climate protection is to be great enough to justify the considerable international effort, then the interests of the energy industry must inevitably suffer. The outlook for a consensus-based intergovernmental process is consequently less than promising. By contrast, the Montreal Protocol on the protection of the ozone layer did have a manageable and clearly defined object.
The task — difficult enough in itself — was to reign in the interests of certain manufacturers of coolants and cooling systems. The Antarctic Treaty was agreed before any vested interests had arisen, and before any significant investments had been made.
The WTO treaty, while extremely broad in scope, matches the interests of the most influential states and other global economic agents. International agreements on disarmament and arms control treaties also have well-defined objects, but go against influential interests in the defence industry. In most cases, unsurprisingly, arms treaties are only ratified if — as in the case of the ban on chemical weapons — the core interests of the defence industry are not significantly affected and the sectors concerned, like the chemicals industry, produce primarily for the civilian market.
In other cases, the price of ratification was compensation for the affected interests in the form of new defence contracts in areas not controlled by the respective treaties. The Kyoto Protocol also contains compensatory measures for the energy industry, and these are not limited to emissions trading and the accreditation of energy-efficient investment in developing countries, but also include the measures agreed in Bonn to compensate the oil-producing countries for lost sales.
Yet the transition to inexhaustible and emission-free sources of energy must form the core of any sustainable climate and environment strategy. There is no point in constructing a global strategy for climate change if renewable energy is seen as a secondary issue. Where the aim is to replace fossil with renewable energy, there can be no question of compensation for the fossil energy industry.
Renewable energy, correctly understood, must supplant fossil primary energy and the infrastructure and businesses that supply it. Sunlight and wind are supplied by nature free of charge, and biomass primary energy requires a gradual switch from oil, gas and coal suppliers to an entirely different structure of agricultural and forestry businesses.
Having set out with the wrong premise, the negotiating parties have been swept along by the ever more absurd logic of the discussions. Ever since the decision was taken to pursue climate protection through the instrument of international conferences designed to achieve equitable and binding obligations, it has been inevitable that the goal of climate protection would at best be watered down or more probably compromised. It is not just the tangled web of vested interests that makes global climate change negotiations, as they have hitherto been conducted, unlikely to succeed.
Even if this web did not exist — and it should be noted that it is broader-based and more intense than the links between politics and the defence industry — there are still economic and technological reasons why a negotiation-based approach has little chance of success. An energy supply that protects the climate and the environment must necessarily be based on renewable, not fossil or nuclear, energy, which means replacing the current system with more efficient energy technology using renewable sources.
For this reason, and because renewable energy implies a wholly different supply chain, this is a challenge which calls upon a different set of economic agents to the conventional energy industry and, consequently, it also calls upon other economic interests. FOREWORD xv Renewable energy requires a highly distributed approach — each energy consumer is potentially also a producer — while also affording wholly new opportunities for agriculture biomass , the construction materials industry energy-efficient materials , engineering professionals and tradespeople building to make maximum use of the sun , manufacturers of industrial plants, machinery and motors wind turbines, biogas plants, distributed motor generators, fuel cells , the electrical and electronics industries devices with no need for mains electricity and many others besides.
Properly followed through, this would be an economic revolution of the most far-reaching kind. The widespread resistance to renewable energy is motivated by fear of the changes this revolution would bring. History provides many examples of technological revolutions that have reshaped the world.
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None have run their course without encountering massive resistance; no change has been brought about in consensus with those on the losing end, and none has been the subject of an international treaty, even when its effects were felt on a global scale. Nevertheless, many of these revolutionary changes have needed a political framework or targeted help at their inception in order to develop and showcase the economic and cultural benefits. The list includes railways, electricity grids, the car society, shipping and aviation, nuclear power and telecommunications. This is the way dynamic processes have developed and continue to develop, to the point where they become selfsustaining a point which the politically sheltered conventional energy industry has yet to reach.
The microelectronic revolution happened because of the productivity gains it brought, despite the almost universal structural upheaval it caused. Countries that promoted microelectronics — for example, through government-sponsored research and development — benefited accordingly.
Those who held back in order to forestall economic turmoil subsequently fell behind. The same process can be seen today in the biotech industry. Demands that these technologies should be introduced on the basis of an international agreement with binding quotas, in order to forestall incalculable economic upheaval, were conspicuous by their absence. Countries strove and continue to strive to bolster national competitiveness by being the first to make the next breakthrough. And yet the lessons of the past are comprehensively disregarded in the case of sustainable energy technology, although the range of potential applications is greater than for any other technological innovation.
A dynamic climate change strategy that takes the threat seriously must have at its heart the economic opportunities arising from a revolution in energy supplies. It does not take a global treaty to unlock the benefits of renewable energy. Rather, first one and then ever more states and companies must be prepared to seize new opportunities without pandering to the fossil energy industry. The German Renewable Energy Act leads the way in this respect.
To the surprise of international observers, it has resulted in unexpectedly high growth rates and brought forth new industries. Inspired by this example, Egypt, China, India, Brazil, Argentina, France and some US state governments are now developing ambitious wind power programmes of the order of thousands of megawatts.
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