Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A question to Mona Sahlin

(On the PES@ctivists Manifesto - Yourspace website Mona Sahlin, the leader of the Swedish Social Democrats, answers questions 24 October 2007 - I sent her this rather huge question.)

Dear Mona Sahlin

For us as PES activists it is clear that we’ll have to link and to fulfil the requirements for as well decent work and fair trade, as for the need for energy savings, energy efficiency and radical transition to renewable energy sources. The EU has been quite ambitious in setting targets regarding all of these issues. The Bali climate negotiations are approaching, and already in 2009 we should meet in the climate summit in Copenhagen to agree on a “Kyoto 2”.

Many of the barriers slowing down climate negotiations are well known: The US and Australia don’t want to sign any commitments but advocate “voluntary mechanisms” instead. G77 and China want to “develop first” and clean up only afterwards. For obvious reasons, the oil producing countries do not like to discuss reducing the use of fossil fuels, and note that they won’t invest in cleaner technologies unless there is certainty on growing demand. Some see the climate issue as a great opportunity to promote more nuclear power, and so on. Our own trade unions are sceptical, to say the least. – At the same time, the only ones profiting of our growing thirst for more energy seem to be the oligarchs in emerging economies or oil-producing developing countries, and the military industry providing equipment for those fighting to secure access to oil resources.

Mona Sahlin, in this extremely controversial climate/energy framework, do you see any “windows of hope”? Any new initiatives, new arguments to push our agenda? In particular, can we develop new mechanisms to bring the great emerging economies – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – on board? Such as CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) and carbon trade on a truly large scale and covering more sectors? – And the second difficult question for us European Social Democrats: What does it take to turn our own Trade Unions into drivers of the “fight against CO2” instead of them “joining the enemy”?

With warm regards from Helsinki

Kaarin Taipale

Kimi and Kaarin in Brazil

... tämä tuskin tulee toistumaan: F1-sankarin kuva on pienemmällä kuin jonkun kattoa mulkoilevan kestävän kaupunkikehityksen ekspertin... terveisiä Brasiliasta! (leikkaa ja yhdistä linkin pätkät, muuten se ei toimi)

... I don't think that this will ever happen again: the picture of the F1-hero is smaller than the one of a sustainable urban development expert looking up to the skies... best regards from Brazil! (please cut and join the two parts of the link for it to work)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Energy – the new realm for moral double standards?

Oh boy, energy and climate change again. Aren’t you getting tired? Too bad, since I’m afraid that the topic won’t disappear from the headlines in quite a while. But what is this with double standards; speaking one thing and doing the other, acting as a saint in public but committing sins in private?

Let’s go back to climate change. When we burn fossil fuels, oil, gas, coal or peat, carbon dioxide gets into the atmosphere and changes it. Temperatures rise, glaciers melt, oceans get warmer, hurricanes get more frequent, some places get more rain and floods, others are hit by draughts and forest fires. Extreme phenomena become more frequent.

If this is caused by excessive burning of fossil fuels, it should be clear, what the medicine is: let us burn less non-renewables and more renewable!. But as you know, it is not that simple, and that is where the double standards enter the picture.

The first lobby says that they do not ”believe” in climate change, as if it was a religion, not science. I find it interesting that often the same guys have a strong belief in their investment portfolios, hedge funds and whatever. If there would be a way to predict the moves of the stock exchanges as accurately as we can calculate global warming, we’d all be millionaires!

These calculator people are the same, who demand accurate predictability of tax percentages and inflation rates. However, for them it is quite clear that no one can prophesize the price of oil. Quite recently, 50 USD per barrel seemed the ultimate limit, now 80+ is the going rate.

We, the consumers know that we should save energy, but it is so nice to buy cute gadgets that use electricity, keep our summer cottages warm all around the year, and dream of a bigger car. Four-wheel-drive SUVs are fabulous. And how many nuclear power plants does it take to make sure that the tiny red light on the digi-box stays on?

The industrialists yell that growth and competitive edge must not be put in danger, energy must be cheap and there must be plenty of it available. The same guys move their factories to countries with polluting energy and cheap labor. They pretend that the problems can be outsourced, hidden in China or India. But the same guys speak quite fluently about globalization, and they know very well that we have only this one single planet.

Every year, the automobile industry brings new, slightly less polluting car models to the market. “Save the environment, buy a new car!” – This must be the ultimate energy double standard! In Norway, the consumer protection authorities recently forbid such advertising. In Finland, the conservative government plans to raise the price of gas just a little, so that it won’t hurt anyone. Gas is like vodka, always worth every cent.

Then we have those who believe in technology. “Engineers will come up with a solution, don’t worry.” – Strangely enough, the same people who regard themselves as rational thinkers call windmills “ugly”. “New energy technologies have to be developed on the market, subsidies would distort free competition!” they say. However, these engineers are not bothered by the fact that crude oil has soon been subsidized with a sum of one trillion dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is about 300 million Euro per day. – In Finland, it is ok to subsidize burning peat, that is called agricultural policy. But subsidizing wind energy, no, that would distort the market!

And then we have the politicians. They know that they are supposed to talk about climate change in a noble manner. But the also know that their voters want to have a bigger house, a bigger car and faster growing investment portfolios. It is not politically correct to remind them that 20% of all energy is burned in traffic, and almost 40% in heating, cooling and lighting of buildings.

But there are strange news coming from across the oceans. Even US companies are asking for regulation and limits to carbon emissions. They know that their competitive edge depends on who develops the most energy efficient products and production methods. The firms want to have a level playing field and no free riders. Building researchers don’t talk about energy consumption any more, they think of buildings that will produce their own energy.

The homeless ice-bears are not our biggest problem. The real risks are linked with economy and security. Energy will force us to rethink everything. That is why I suggest hereby that we’ll leave moral double standards to bedrooms and start being honest at least in energy issues.