Deep solidarity

Deep solidarity

Sometimes, like Kant, I'm moved to write by reading something I so profoundly disagree with. Tonight, curiously, I'm moved by a wish for a little less disagreement. Reading Jeremy Lent's excellent post What Will You Say To Your Grandchildren? and seeing it so passionately take issue with Jem Bendell's "dangerously flawed" calls for Deep Adaptation, I just felt deep solidarity with both. I left a comment on Jeremy's piece, then thought I'd expand it a little and post it here too, because, in truth, vigorously debating the question of whether it's all too late is not where I want to see these two outstanding gentlemen spend their potency. The more critical question - I believe they would both agree - is what to do in these times. And, counter-intuitively and doubtless controversially, I've come to believe that the answer to the first question isn't necessarily central to that. Wendell Berry's words bear repeating: “Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success, namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one’s own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.” For me, standing in resistance to the system driving mass extinction is not dependent on knowing - or even believing - we might succeed. I know Jem's a fan of this piece I wrote six years ago about my painful grappling with 'is it all too late?':
And yet there I was in Parliament Square on Hallowe'en when we declared rebellion against the UK government, and accordingly getting arrested for the first time in my life 14 days later. The next day I stood on Blackfriars Bridge and gave a speech to my fellow rebels about my experience in jail, but also about the fact that I believe it's all too late, and how I relate to that. Many have come to thank me since, for not being afraid to voice that dark truth, and for sharing a vitalising way forward for those who share that belief. The whole day was so profoundly nourishing, and while I don't intend or expect to have grandchildren - I have enough on my plate trying to ensure the safety of the children already on the Earth - it would be a rich pleasure to tell the tale to yours: https://vimeo.com/301399993 Of course, in the months since, just as Roger Hallam and others predicted, those 100+ arrests garnered headlines that helped launch a global movement in a world sick and terrified of the future we're creating. Does that change my belief that it's all too late? No. But does that belief in any way undermine the joy and delight I feel at telling a story with my life that I'm proud to tell? Not one bit! And I'll be proud, grateful and emboldened to know that when I take my stand this month, I'm shoulder-to-shoulder with authentic and impassioned folk like Jeremy and Jem.
Why I’m Rebelling against Extinction (wait, should that really need explaining..?)

Why I’m Rebelling against Extinction (wait, should that really need explaining..?)

I got arrested for the first time in my life this week. And I'm proud of it. As long-time followers of this blog know, over the past 13 years I've tried everything I know to get our society to change its omnicidal course. I've written books, co-founded organisations, taught courses, worked in my community, lobbied governments, given talks, participated in grassroots discussion and action... I've failed. We've all failed. As a global society we are accelerating towards oblivion, and taking everyone else with us. And last week, someone said something that stuck with me. That if everyone around you is carrying on like everything's fine, then no matter how much one reads or understands intellectually about a situation, it's so difficult not to go along with that. Equally, if you're somewhere and everyone else starts screaming and running for the exit, then you probably start running for the exit, even if you have no idea what's going on. Maybe there's seemed to be a disconnect between the message we've been bringing - that this society is knowingly causing the harshest catastrophe in history - and the actions we've been taking? Maybe if the wider public see that hundreds feel the need to go to jail over this, they might start to seriously ask why? With these stakes, it's worth a shot. https://vimeo.com/301399993 That film was shot yesterday on Blackfriars Bridge, one of five bridges surrounding Parliament that we occupied as part of the Extinction Rebellion. The sheer mass of thousands of people meant that the police couldn't possibly arrest everyone, so the bridges were ours for all the family fun you can see. But when, at the hour we decided, we collectively moved on, many ordinary folk stayed behind and refused to leave in order to be arrested. If all we have left to amplify the message with is our liberty, then we offer it up. And paradoxically - as I said in my speech in the clip above (from 4m15) - in doing so we have discovered a new freedom. That following our conscience and refusing to be bound by laws that insist on inflicting death and misery is an act of liberty. Hundreds of thousands of humans are dying of climate change each year now. Most of the wild nature that existed fifty years ago is gone. What's a little time in jail, by comparison?
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As I sat in my cell, I felt peace. I knew that I was doing all I could for our collective future, and am proud to have that recorded against my name for the rest of my life. Perhaps, as ever, Wendell Berry said it best, "Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success, namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence." Maybe we can't stop what's unfolding, but it would diminish us not to try. And yesterday was the first event I've attended that felt as though it might be a historic turning point. Equally, it might not. That's up to us. One child held a placard saying "When I grow up, I want to be alive". Yep. See you there next Saturday. (and there are plenty of crucial non-arrestable roles too) -- I'll leave you with the song that has been the soundtrack to my personal Extinction Rebellion. It makes me cry every time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTFFOr_G6ZM
#Brexit, #Gaiexit and the borders of our globe

#Brexit, #Gaiexit and the borders of our globe

On the eve of the #Brexit referendum, I have found myself struck by the juxtaposition of two exceptional pieces of writing which run somewhat deeper than the 'lowest common denominator' debate running in the mainstream media. It wasn't immediately clear to me which way I would vote, but reading these nuanced pieces - which draw out sensible reasons for considering both sides of the argument - helped me to make a decision. The first is this piece by Giles Fraser in The Guardian. I believe Fraser has declared that he will vote 'Out', yet unlike many 'Brexiteers' his piece makes a crucial argument in favour of free movement for people:
--- National borders exist to pen poor people into reservations of poverty Why, in this era of advanced globalisation, do we believe in free trade and the free movement of goods, but not in the free movement of labour? ~Rev. Giles Fraser~ World Borders
He is not one of my regulars. From Cameroon, he says. And hungry, poor bloke. I can tell he’s had to swallow a lot of pride to beg for food at my door. I apologise to him, say that because we’ve just made a delivery to the food bank, the church is out of supplies. And personally, I haven’t done a shop in days. I rummage around in my cupboards and come up with an avocado and some spaghetti hoops, which really isn’t good enough. Is there any work out there, I ask him. It’s hard to find without the right papers, he says. Bloody Home Office, I say. He smiles. We are so hypocritical about borders. We cheer when the Berlin Wall comes down. We condemn the Israelis for their separation barrier and Donald Trump for his ludicrous Mexican fence. But are we really so different? We also police our borders with guns and razor wire as if we had some God-given right to this particular stretch of land. Through the random lottery of life, I have a UK passport. I didn’t work for it or do anything whatsoever to deserve it. In economic terms, I just happened to be born lucky. My new friend from Cameroon, not so much. Within our own borders we complain at any suggestion of a postcode lottery. When the north of England has a different standard of healthcare to the south, we consider it a scandal. But when the global north has a radically different standard of healthcare to the global south, we think that’s just the way it is. In fact, it’s far worse than that – we somehow think it our duty to fence off our advantage, to protect it against those who would share in our good fortune. And these people we disparage as illegal immigrants, as if they are thieves or terrorists – though they are just doing globally what Norman Tebbit famously advised millions of unemployed in the 1980s to do: to get on their bike and look for work. In this era of advanced globalisation, we believe in free trade, in the free movement of goods, but not in the free movement of labour. We think it outrageous that the Chinese block Google, believing it to be everyone’s right to roam free digitally. We celebrate organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières for their compassionate universalism. But for all this talk of freedom from restriction, we still pen poor people into reservations of poverty. It’s like our own little version of The Hunger Games. And it is so normal to us, we don’t even recognise it as a moral issue. The free movement of people is what political scientist JW Moses called “the last frontier of globalisation”, implying that it too will fall. Because, in the grand scheme of things, of course, no force on earth can insulate us against billions of people without enough to eat. Many will tragically drown in our Mediterranean moat, others will be stopped for a while at our fences, but nothing will stop more people from trying to come. And eventually they will succeed. Artificial national boundaries, just lines on a map, are no match against the massed forces of human need. This week I met in London a guy I last saw in Calais trying to get into the back of a truck. It took him months of trying to get past our borders. But in the end he made it. And good for him. Before the Aliens Act of 1905, the UK had no border controls to speak of. They were first erected to stop Jews coming from eastern Europe. “England for the English,” was the slogan. The Manchester Evening Chronicle explained what this meant: “That the dirty, destitute, diseased, verminous and criminal foreigner who dumps himself on our soil and rates simultaneously, shall be forbidden to land.” Border controls have always been racist in character. And it’s much the same today. They are about locking in our wealth and keeping mosques out of the Cotswolds. At present, globalisation is a luxury of the rich, for those of us who can swan about the globe with the flick of a boarding pass. The so-called “migrant crisis” is globalisation for the poor. They are blowing their trumpets around our walls. And our walls will fall.
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The second piece is this extract from the late David Fleming's Dictionary for the Future, which I have been editing in preparation for its release next month. It is the dictionary's entry on "Closed Access", building on Elinor Ostrom's Nobel Prize winning work on the concept of the commons: (the *s are pointers to related entries in the dictionary)
--- Lean Logic
Closed Access. A *necessary condition for the management of a *commons. With limited numbers of people within its boundaries, the demands made on it, too, are limited, making them realistic and *sustainable. The members of a managed commons must undertake to comply with the rules necessary for its maintenance; it follows that they must exclude others who do not comply with those rules, or whose demands would exceed the limits of what it can supply. The principle underlying this is known as “subtractivity”, or “rivalness”—the idea that what one person harvests from a resource subtracts from the ability of others to do the same. There is a simple recognition here of the objective reality of the resource: it has its limits, and no amount of technical trickery or *emotional pleading can make that fact go away. Recognising subtractivity is a case of growing up—as in realising that the powers of your parents to provide are not unlimited; moving on from the child-think of unqualified confidence that the*political economy you live in can provide. And a second principle follows from this. If the resource is limited, then there has to be some way of excluding people who, if their access were unlimited, would destroy it. That is, there has to be a way of defending it, which may be relatively straightforward in the case of, say, farmland, but is harder in the case of a fishery, or a forest, or a river, or a culture, or an atmosphere with a limited ability to absorb *waste; it is also harder when the damage caused by exceeding the limits will only become evident in the future, by which time it may be too late to repair. This is an especially difficult problem for a super-scale *civic society such as our own. Our *size, *growth and *technical powers insulate us for a time from having to think about the limits to the resources we depend on. There therefore seems to be no need to think about the cost of *protecting them. Maybe we can all be free riders, benefiting from assets which we have done nothing to produce or protect: we can affirm a liberal right to be a free rider. It is an attractive, inclusive philosophy. It would be immoral to disagree with it—until, that is, it comes face-to-face with the laws of physics. For the human societies to which the laws of physics are more immediately evident, closed access is the determining and shaping property of their *culture. This does not by any means imply a Scrooge-like hoarding of an underused resource without regard for the needs of other people who could make use of it. Closed access, once established as the enabling condition for the sustainable management of the commons, can provide the foundations for an extensive and rich culture of sharing and generosity: it can be expected to allow access to others for particular purposes, such as harvesting medicinal plants, or hunting a prey across the territory; it is able up to a point to share the proceeds on a regular basis. Sometimes a softening of strict closed access extends to “sleeping territoriality”, in which, say, a Pacific island reserves the right to exclusive access of a fishing-ground, but applies it only at times of scarcity. What we might see as uncaring exclusion is seen by the participants in a closed-access commons as responsibility, as belonging to the land:
"Expression of worldview through respect, patience and humility; and people being viewed as a part of nature are common in traditional communities. The Lax’skiik and Gitksan of British Columbia, in general, have a personal and spiritual identification with their territories and resources, which form the basis of their cultural and economic life."
But, in order for qualities of sharing and altruism to happen, the responsibility of a particular group, and their ability to sustain the commons and determine access to it, must be unambiguously defined:
"...the management of common property is impossible unless the land is owned by a well-defined community."
The alternative is the ‘Tragedy of the *Commons’, the destruction of a common resource as individuals make ever-greater demands on it, benefiting from what they can get individually, but not seeing as their problem the damage done by those ever-greater demands to the commons as a whole. This is a Tragedy created by the global *market economy, which has destroyed the community cohesion essential to the long-term management of commons. In a society used to cheap travel, and to the idea that destruction—when it comes to *boundaries and the *rhetoric about “tearing-down barriers”—is a good thing, the idea of closed access at first invites unease; there is a sense both of being locked-in, and of unfairly locking-out. But in fact it works the other way. Almost wherever you go in the market economy, you find yourself in the same place—in the globalised market with its shared banality, its fullness; at the end of every lane is a busy road and a housing estate like the one at the beginning of it. You cannot get out of a *globalised world, because there is no out. Closed access does not mean closed-in, it means the protection of distinctiveness: when you are out, you are somewhere else, in a different in.
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At first reading, these two pieces seemed to be in contradiction with each other, yet both made clear sense to me - especially given that 'the commons' has been core to the only sustainable societies the planet has seen. This confusing juxtaposition got my attention, because it clearly had something to teach me. After some reflection, integrating the two perspectives seems to demand a recognition that those of us inside the walled palaces are collectively acting as free riders - taking no responsibility for the resources and ecologies that we benefit from. We of course recognise that there must be a limit to the number of people who can be supported in the manner to which we are accustomed (by accident of birth, as Fraser says), and so many instinctively want to defend 'our land' from overwhelm. Then we draw an arbitrary line of entitlement - of 'us' - perhaps around those who were born here, and declare those who were not to be 'them'. As Fraser highlights, this is morally unjustifiable (especially since so much of our wealth is taken from other nations). respectful discourse But both sides of that debate rarely follow the analysis to its logical conclusion and accept the corresponding need to take practical responsibility for caring for the place we live (whether born there or not). Since there is little acknowledgement that most native Brits are free riders, the argument never gets beyond whether we should open the doors to allow others to strive for similar lifestyles or not. Yet if we could get past "us and them" altogether, the underlying question of limits - of "subtractivity" - would still await us. Wherever people come from, no place can support unlimited numbers of free riders (and to be honest, having worked with asylum seekers and refugees in the UK, I tend to think they are far from the main culprits in this regard).
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Then there is the question of closed access on the global scale - taking us straight into questions of global population. In a sense our planet itself also has a border - that between the living and the as-yet-unborn. I find it interesting to consider the immigration debates in the light of this border, and apply the same arguments here, such as: Should more potential humans be stopped at the border and excluded from our global commons..? Should more already-living non-humans be forced to emigrate..? The late David Fleming has already emigrated across this border, so gets no vote on #Brexit. I believe Giles Fraser has declared that he will vote 'Out'. As for me, like Noam Chomsky, I'm left without any strong allegiance in the Brexit debate, but I am concerned that a more independent Britain would likely be even more environmentally destructive than it currently is, and that a national 'out' vote would only be perceived as the voice of xenophobia. So I voted "in" - with slight apologies to the rest of Europe for inflicting our politics on them - but I can't escape the feeling that it's really somewhat beside the point. What gets my juices flowing is avoiding something with far clearer consequences for all of us - #Gaiexit. The illusion of choice
Fee and Dividend or TEQs?  In the aftermath of Paris COP21, what *should* effective climate policy look like?

Fee and Dividend or TEQs? In the aftermath of Paris COP21, what *should* effective climate policy look like?

We just sent out our Fleming Policy Centre newsletter, with reflections on the Paris climate summit. Bottom line: it's not good. In the words of the author Naomi Klein, "Our leaders have shown themselves willing to set our world on fire." Meanwhile, the mainstream media seem to be doing their best to put the world to sleep again. One excitable front-page headline I noticed in The Observer proclaimed:
"World leaders hail Paris climate deal as ‘major leap for mankind’: Almost 200 countries sign historic pledge to hold global temperatures to a maximum rise of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels".
The same article concluded on p9, with a quiet mention that: "there will be no legal obligation for countries to cut emissions". In truth, the good news is found elsewhere, with the ever-swelling numbers of ordinary people realising that our future is being destroyed in our name. In the print edition of the paper though, one tiny voice of sanity did sneak in to a sidebox, as climate scientist James Hansen commented on the agreement: “It’s a fraud really, a fake”. But if we are so dismissive of what global politics is producing, then it is perhaps fair to ask what we wish to see instead. Hansen, a long-time hero of mine, argues for Fee & Dividend - a tax on carbon whose revenue is paid out to the population of the nation implementing it. And the recent peer-reviewed paper that I lead-authored on this topic (now the most read in the history of Carbon Management) instead advocates TEQs - a carbon rationing system with free rations for the population of the nation implementing it. Jim and I have in fact been discussing these alternatives via very occasional emails since I first wrote to him on it in 2008 (and Citizen's Climate Lobby UK opened the same discussion on Facebook earlier this year), but it feels the right time to broaden out the conversation. My hope is that we can either agree that one approach or the other is preferable or - perhaps more realistically - at least identify the circumstances/aims for which one or the other is preferable, so that we know when to reach for one tool, and when to use the other. So, below are the similarities and differences between the two approaches, for your delectation and deliberation. I will again be sending the link to Hansen and the Citizen's Climate Lobby for comments, and may edit it based on comments received, especially if any inaccuracies come to light.

So how are they similar?

Let's start with why both TEQs and F&D are excellent ideas that would represent a radical break from the status quo. Both are ways of ensuring that society finally gets serious about addressing our climate challenge, neither is open to the extensive corporate windfalls that characterise existing 'Cap and Trade' schemes (which have no effective cap, and thus are really just 'Trade' schemes), and both look to protect the poorest in society as energy prices rise to take account of the impact of the carbon therein (although I have a concern that dividends - delivered after energy purchases - may come too late for folk priced out of the fuel they need. TEQs, by contrast, delivers entitlements to energy up front, ahead of time). Both are also grassroots alternatives to the UN process of which the Paris COP21 summit is the latest expression. Instead of seeking global agreement on a global deal, both TEQs and F&D allow adoption by individual countries or groups of countries. Any countries doing so will necessarily introduce import tariffs alongside, to ensure that their manufacturers are not disadvantaged relative to international competitors (discussed here). And since these tariffs will generate revenue for the 'adopter countries' when they import goods, this will in turn provide a strong incentive for the exporting countries to themselves implement similar policies, so that they can collect this revenue, instead of letting it flow overseas. In this way, effective climate policy could spread around the world, without the necessity for the apparent impossibility of global agreement. Importantly though, both are also vulnerable to a lack of political ambition. Both require adoption at government level, and thus require defence against being corrupted and compromised by lobbying interests as they move towards implementation. And if F&D was adopted with too low a carbon price, or TEQs was adopted with too high an emissions cap, either could provide merely a useful means to inadequate ends.

And what are the essential differences?

Fee and Dividend & TEQs
Now let's look at where they differ. There are two fundamental design decisions here - the choice between a price-based framework and a quantity-based one, and the choice between an 'upstream' framework and a 'downstream' one. The essential difference between price-based frameworks and quantity-based frameworks, then, is which of two variables is adjusted. Price-based policy frameworks (e.g. F&D) act to raise the price of carbon-rich purchases in the belief/hope that consequent emissions reductions will be sufficient to avoid climate catastrophe, while quantity-based frameworks (e.g. TEQs) act to place a cap on emissions in the belief/hope that the price rises this is likely to cause will not cause economic catastrophe. The second difference is between ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ approaches. These widely-used terms draw an analogy between the flow of water in a stream and the flow of energy/carbon through an economy. ‘Upstream’ advocates (e.g. F&D) want to regulate the few dozen fuel and energy companies that bring carbon into the economy, arguing that this is cheaper and simpler than addressing the behaviour of tens of millions of ‘downstream’ consumers. 'Downstream' advocates argue that such engagement with the general populace is essential if we are to meet the climate challenge, with TEQs providing a way to deliver that without the need for downstream monitoring.

Tentative conclusions

Thoughtful
It is undoubtedly true that current politics favours the price-based and upstream approaches, which present far less of a challenge to today's dominant thinking. Certainly in the U.S. political context, Jim Hansen has argued that TEQs are just too radical an option for the American public to swallow. I am not an expert on the U.S. political scene, so he may well be right. However, I do worry that a more radical shift in society *is* needed here. There is a rift between political reality and scientific reality, and they must be reconciled. To my mind, upstream price signals are not going to be enough, though a scheme like F&D would certainly be a step closer to sanity than current policy. To really achieve the change required, we will need TEQs. And since I believe that the economy is fully dependent on a functioning ecology, for me a hard cap on emissions must be primary, and the price of goods and services has to be secondary, which is why I favour a quantity-based approach. I also don’t believe a long-term emissions trajectory can be set effectively through a tax/fee alone. I do think that Fee & Dividend would be far cheaper and more effective than current carbon policy, but while upstream frameworks are clearly cheaper (and politically easier) to implement, I believe that this is partly because they don't bring about the fundamental changes that are needed in society. Of course it is more straightforward to pass laws that only affect energy suppliers, but Big Energy Companies alone are not going to be able to resolve climate change, even if they wholeheartedly wanted to. They supply what we demand, and this challenge requires that we all engage with the need to change the way we live, work and play. TEQs, accordingly, is built on the latest work in social psychology, and provides visibility to the intrinsic incentives that exist for businesses, government, communities and individuals to collaborate in working towards the shared long-term desires to retain both a benign climate and secure access to essential energy services. Upstream schemes can only provide an extrinsic (price) signal to encourage low-carbon behaviour. In the words of the UK Environmental Audit Committee (the UK government’s oversight body on the environment):
“We remain to be convinced that price signals alone, especially when offset by the [additional income from the dividend], would encourage significant behavioural change comparable with that resulting from a carbon allowance … A meaningful reduction in emissions will only be achieved, and maintained, with significant and urgent behavioural change.”
In summary then, in addition to their shared benefits, I see the relative advantages of the two schemes as: Fee & Dividend: Cheaper and faster to implement; less challenging to politics/markets; carbon price set by the Department of Energy. TEQs: Deeper engagement with the whole population based on principles drawn from social psychology; consistent, cohesive integration of a long-term perspective; stimulation of cross-sector collaboration in reducing emissions; a carbon cap set in accordance with climate science.
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As ever, it comes down to that rift between scientific reality and political reality. To my eyes, Fee & Dividend represents the less challenging political path to policy change, and that is certainly attractive. However, while it is tempting to think of adoption of a carbon fee or cap as a solution in itself, the true political challenge is quickly getting and keeping the fee high enough (or cap low enough) to avoid destabilising our climate. Which in turn means the transformation of our society so that it can thrive within such a limit. Without such a fundamental transition to low-carbon living, society (and particularly the poorest) will hurt badly as any effective policy makes high-carbon energy less accessible. Such suffering is both inherently distressing and likely to lead to irresistible political pressure to loosen or abandon any such policy. Why then does that point me towards TEQs? Well, the full arguments and evidence are set out in the peer-reviewed paper I recently lead-authored. I believe it's worth a look - it has proved popular, perhaps due to the extensive efforts I made to keep it more readable than academia usually manages! But in short, I believe that TEQs is far better placed to support and facilitate the depth of decarbonisation required - and thus defend its long-term political feasibility - than an increase in the price of carbon ever could. This is because it has been shown to be more popular with the public (due to its fairness and effectiveness); because it most effectively protects the most vulnerable; because it destroys at a stroke the impossible political tension between needing to keep energy prices low and carbon prices high; and because it does not treat all emissions as equal (in recognition that while some are within people's discretion, others are not, and that these decisions should be left with the people in question), nor require the inherently uncertain and faintly absurd estimation of an 'appropriate carbon price'. Of course, with the current direction of politics, the catastrophic destabilisation of our climate looks far more likely than either alternative, but if we are to fight, it is important that we clearly identify the alternative course or courses worth fighting for.
We Are Not Drowning, We Are Fighting
Finally, for those who prefer a more visual layout, here is a quick comparison table (also including the existing EU Emissions Trading Scheme), with thanks to Nicola Terry for the idea and initial work: I look forward to hearing what you think, in the comments below. --- Long-time readers may note some similarities with this 2008 post on TEQs and Cap and Dividend (an older variant - a quantity-based, upstream system), or my summer piece on the dangers of carbon pricing. I do believe that carbon pricing is an inherently flawed approach, and that the World Bank/IMF/Big Oil's reasons for pushing it are not what they pretend - see this brilliantly straightforward explanation on that - but nonetheless, Fee & Dividend is certainly worthy of respect and discussion as the gold standard representative of that path.
The Dangers of Carbon Pricing, and the Canny Way Forward

The Dangers of Carbon Pricing, and the Canny Way Forward

Lately we've seen the president of the World Bank and 'business leaders from the very carbon-intensive industries' pushing for carbon pricing (taxes or 'carbon trading' schemes). This is intended to demonstrate their deep change of heart and determination to start seriously addressing climate change, but to my eyes it is a deeply cynical, pernicious attempt to channel the passion of those deeply-committed to action on climate change into mechanisms that will only maintain the suicidal status quo. Which is why I poured all my experience of ten years' work on the topic into this peer-reviewed academic paper, which I believe demolishes the case for carbon taxes or carbon trading schemes as the way forward, and shows a clear, well-researched alternative (though it took almost as much effort as writing my book!). The paper, co-authored with Drs. Larch Maxey and Victoria Hurth, focuses on the TEQs scheme devised by the late David Fleming, the radical economist whose work was a core inspiration for the Transition Towns movement. Since meeting David in 2006 I have been rather inspired by his design for a policy framework for a society that really wanted to decarbonise. We may not live in that society yet, but it's nonetheless a rather important tool to have in the box. Over the years that inspiration has led me to write and speak widely on TEQs (to audiences ranging from community groups, Climate Camps and Occupations to the UK Committee on Climate Change, the London School of Economics, the UK and Scottish Parliaments and the European Commission), as well as advising the UK government on their feasibility study into the scheme. After David Fleming's sudden death in 2010, it fell to me to keep the fruits of his genius on the table, and so I created The Fleming Policy Centre to continue advocacy in light of the extensive media interest the scheme was attracting. Carbon Management cover This new piece in the Carbon Management journal has emerged from all of that as the definitive paper on TEQs, covering its design, history and importance, and directly contrasting its hard cap on emissions with the ‘carbon pricing’ approach that has undermined public engagement with, and support for, climate policy. I have written before about the shortcomings of global-scale action on global-scale problems, but local-scale action has its inherent problems too. Without a supportive economic/political framework in place, it is always swimming against the tide, and this can be exhausting and disheartening. As explained in the paper, TEQs provides the key framework to join up local and global scale efforts into an effective solution, making it clear to everyone - across all sectors - how to act on our intrinsic shared desires to sustain affordable access to energy and preserve a benign climate (see section on "Integration – cross-sector engagement, motivation and collaboration", pp. 8-10). Not to mention leading to support and investment for human-scale, community-level initiatives and enterprises and local economies, making for more integrated, happier, resilient communities and a stronger sense of common purpose across society. I really believe that TEQs could catalyse a turning point towards a happier world and, more importantly, the extensive research done to date backs that up. Also, as discussed in the paper, unlike many other beautiful ideas, it actually has a hope of being implemented! Rather than seeing our most committed people channelled into building inherently flawed 'carbon pricing' mechanisms, let's focus our energies on something genuinely radical that creates a fairer, more equitable world, and which enjoys greater public support. I look forward to hearing what you make of our work, in the comments below or elsewhere. ~ UPDATE - This was my first venture into scientific academic writing (and likely last, after such an arduous process!), but I strove to ensure that academic-speak was kept to a minimum, and that the message is clear. So it is gratifying to see that only a month after publication it is already in the Top 10 most-read pieces that have been published in the Carbon Management journal and, according to Altmetric, in the top 5% most discussed articles among the 4 million or so that they track! That said, it will have to have one hell of an impact to tempt me into academia ever again ;) ~ ~ SECOND UPDATE - 23rd Sept 2015 - Tom Burke has published an exceptional blog post giving far more insight into the devious motivations of Big Oil in promoting carbon pricing. And in the meantime, our paper has become the most read in the history of the Carbon Management journal, and in the top 3% most discussed on Altmetric. Despite Big Oil's best efforts, word's getting out... ~ In the meantime, I have been 'offsetting' the pain of academic writing by indulging in some deeply nourishing artivist agnosticism with Reverend Billy and his glorious Stop Shopping Choir (spot me flyering around the 1m30 mark). A little analysis and deep thinking is important - after all “action for action's sake is the last resort of mentally and morally exhausted men” - but too much makes Jack a dull boy... I must confess, I'm rather tempted to run away and join the church. My mother would be truly horrified! I'll have to content myself with heading to the Reclaim The Power direct action camp this weekend :) See you there?