"To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing." - Raymond Williams

Heinberg – after Copenhagen

by Shaun Chamberlin on March 15th, 2010

An interview with the ever-insightful Richard Heinberg, discussing where we should put our efforts in the aftermath of the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit. It is well worth a watch, and you might want to consider spreading it to your contacts via the “Share This” link in the bottom right corner of this post.

I heartily endorse his perspective, but disagree when he argues in support of carbon taxation at around fifteen minutes in, saying that “we need to make fossil fuels more expensive”. In my opinion, we do not – we need to guarantee a fair entitlement to the available energy, not ration it by the depth of people’s pockets.

As Richard says, “if you’re taxing everybody on their use of fossil fuels – raising their cost of living – it’s pretty hard to get their buy-in to that”, but once you guarantee people a fair entitlement, in line with a declining cap, society can then collectively focus on keeping the price of energy as low as possible, which is a simply-understood task that everyone can buy into with enthusiasm.

Richard is touching on a widely-unrecognised contradiction at the heart of present energy/climate policy discussions – the desire to raise carbon prices while keeping energy prices low. Market-based approaches struggle to see past this, but TEQs would resolve it at a stroke, through the recognition that reducing the quantity of carbon emissions can be best achieved by means other than a high price.

Debate at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre

by Shaun Chamberlin on February 17th, 2010

Dana Centre Debate

I’ve just been sent this footage from a debate on carbon trading and offsetting I took part in at the Cheat Neutral event at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre (video of the full event available at link, more on Cheat Neutral here). As will be obvious, this all took place in December, just prior to the Copenhagen conference.

Eagle-eyed readers will also notice that I have created a new page on this website with full details of The Transition Timeline, pulling together the various online reviews etc, and including the means to buy signed copies. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for some time, but I was nudged into action by receiving the happy news that the book has been selling over a hundred copies a week thus far!

The Story of Cap and Trade

by Shaun Chamberlin on December 1st, 2009

The Story of Cap & Trade is the second offering from the project that brought us The Story of Stuff. In this ten minute video, host Annie Leonard presents an excellent, clearly explained look at some of the devil in the detail of Cap & Trade, explaining how it works and who it benefits.

Having said that, it does leave out perhaps the most damning criticism of cap and trade schemes like the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) – that they are not only a passive distraction from real solutions, but are actually used to justify avoiding them. As The Guardian reported in October 2007:

“One of the main objections of government to meeting the renewables target…is that it will undermine the role of the European emission trading scheme.” Leaked UK Government documents argue that “[Meeting the EU’s target of 20% of energy being renewable by 2020] crucially undermines the scheme’s credibility … and reduces the incentives to invest in other carbon technologies like nuclear power.”

All Party Parliamentary TEQs report – rationing, not carbon trading

by Shaun Chamberlin on August 14th, 2009

Market invisible hand

As the evidence for the utter inapplicability of free market carbon trading to our climate emergency continues to pile up, interest continues to grow in the less PR-friendly alternative – the rationing of carbon-rated energy.

Yesterday, the UK Government’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas previewed a draft report commissioned from The Lean Economy Connection. The report, which I co-authored with Dr. David Fleming, emphasises the necessity of considering our pressing energy challenges alongside climate change, and argues that national energy rationing systems on the model of TEQs (Tradable Energy Quotas) will be essential to the fair distribution of fuel as shortages unfold, with implementation now an urgent priority for the UK.

John Hemming MP, Chairman of the All Party group, stated that the UK government remains unprepared for peak oil: “The evidence is now strong that peak oil is either upon us or just over the horizon. Even the International Energy Agency accepts that an oil supply crunch seems to be on its way. The UK government should urgently consider the TEQs system, as I believe it’s the only comprehensive and fair way to tackle climate change and the coming oil crisis.” Read more »

Despairing of Ed Miliband, Becoming a Filmstar, and Other Adventures

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 4th, 2009

Shaun Chamberlin
It has been another crazy whirlwind of a month, with this weekend set to be the first in five which I get to spend in Transition Town Home, having spoken recently in Bungay, Glastonbury, Belsize Park and the Forest of Dean, as well at the Transition Conference (I hate that name, can’t we call it a ‘Gathering’ or something?) in Battersea, and at the Sunrise Celebration Festival.

One highlight for me was watching the world première of the movie “In Transition” and being surprised and delighted to find that I was in it (having completely forgotten the quick interview they grabbed with me at my book launch!). Another was meeting an A-Level teacher who is already using my book as a teaching aid for his Environmental Design students.

But perhaps of wider interest was the fact that Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, turned up at the Transition Conference as a ‘keynote listener’, but still managed to drop a few bombshells. Read more »

Scottish Parliament discusses TEQs

by Shaun Chamberlin on May 12th, 2009

Tradable Energy Quotas

I was delighted to read this week that my recent article in Resurgence magazine has helped inspire Bill Wilson MSP to champion TEQs (Tradable Energy Quotas) in the ongoing debate on the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Dr. Wilson highlighted that “climate change could be an opportunity for Scotland, rather than a malign threat, a driver for truly sustainable development. We will be a greener country, of course, but we could and should also use climate change to become fairer, healthier and wealthier, smarter, safer and stronger”. Read more »

BBC Radio 4 discusses Peak Oil (intelligently!)

by Shaun Chamberlin on September 27th, 2008

BBC Radio 4

The “You and Yours” programme on BBC Radio 4 this week held a studio discussion on Peak Oil, with energy investment banker Matt Simmons, peak oil educator Richard Heinberg and the Chair of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil, John Hemming MP. The 12 minute discussion can be heard here and includes discussion of the options open to the UK government, including Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs).

Polly Toynbee joins Team TEQs

by Shaun Chamberlin on August 17th, 2008

Polly Toynbee

Last month I attended an Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) meeting called to announce their latest research into personal carbon allowances. Polly Toynbee was invited to chair the meeting, and was clearly impressed with what she heard as she has now written a very positive article about TEQs in her column in the Guardian. In it she reminds us of DEFRA’s description of the scheme as “ahead of its time” and derides the Government’s delay in moving towards implementation.

The IPPR have now joined our challenge to DEFRA’s decision to delay a full feasibility study into TEQs, announcing that their research found that the public are far better disposed towards personal carbon allowances than DEFRA claim, and much prefer the idea to carbon taxation or upstream carbon trading (IPPR’s research took the time to explain the three schemes rather more thoroughly than DEFRA had, which certainly helped on this score).

The Sheila McKechnie Foundation Awards 2008

by Shaun Chamberlin on July 29th, 2008

Sheila McKechnie Foundation

I am honoured to have been shortlisted for this year’s Sheila McKechnie Foundation Environmental Campaigner Award, for my work on TEQs. Read more »

From the Chair of the UK All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group

by Shaun Chamberlin on July 2nd, 2008

In your opinion

My mother pointed out to me that on Saturday Colin Challen MP, Chair of the UK Government’s All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group, had a letter published in the Guardian.

After numerous other eminently sensible suggestions about how the Government should be stepping up its response to climate change he concluded with the following:

“And most urgently we need to recognise that early carbon reductions are the most important step, and that will only happen with rapid behavioural change, which means some form of carbon rationing.

In this last respect, for any minister or potential minister to say the time for personal carbon allowances has not yet come illustrates either deep cynicism, defeatism or complacency, or perhaps a combination of all three.” Read more »