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Fossil-fuel emissions: what can be done?

05 December 2014


From Mr Peter Greaves

Sir, - A good review by Bishop David Atkinson of Naomi Klein's challenging book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the climate (Books for Christmas, 28 November) nevertheless misses an important point that was picked out by Paul Kingsnorth in the London Review of Books (23 October), who said that she agreed that "the simplest way to proceed might be to impose a cap on fossil fuel extraction itself, rather than on the resulting emissions - something which, incredibly, has never been discussed at any of these global gatherings."

One of the first to propose this approach was Oliver Tickell in his closely argued book Kyoto2 (2008). His proposal involved companies' bidding for permits to extract coal, oil, or gas up to a steadily diminishing global cap, estimated at that time to yield about $1 trillion per year for a climate-change fund. This could be used for programmes to address the causes and consequences of climate change, particularly addressed to the needs of the most vulnerable.

Nothing so far has curbed rising emissions, now at record levels; why not give this idea a chance? Klein believes that mass mobilisation is the only force with a chance to persuade governments to act, but most such movements fail because they are not focused enough. If the key issue is to keep fossil fuels in the ground, a focus on the K2 approach to achieving that could have a chance of success.

2 The Plantation
London SE3 0AB


From Mr Julian Skidmore

Sir, - Joe Turner (Comment, 7 November) appeals for the Church to be in the vanguard of action on climate change. So, surely it's worth mentioning two things the Church can do right now. First, we can commit ourselves to divesting from fossil fuels: the C of E has more than £60 million invested in this industry, and that's completely at odds with its mandate for stewarding the planet. It is no good, for example, to jet off to St Lucia and tell the victims of the latest tropical storm that our shiny new aid programme was made possible by investments in the fossil fuels that devastated their towns and villages.

The Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) generated a consultation questionnaire that failed to recognise any of our responsibility in causing climate change, and ignored the possibility that we could invest in clean energy instead. Now, after a successful Synod motion in February 2014 calling for a review of fossil-fuel-industry investments, the EIAG plans to delay any response until the end of 2015. This has caused Bill McKibben and Archbishop Desmond Tutu to condemn the delay publicly.

Second, churches in the UK can shift to clean energy now by simply changing their suppliers to 100-per-cent renewable-energy options. A small church might save around ten tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by doing that - not only a concrete symbol of our willingness to put God's ethics before our pockets, but also the potential saving of up to 145,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year in the UK, ignoring the knock-on effect in changing church members' priorities in energy supply.

21 Oakmeadow Way
Pype Hayes
Birmingham B24 0RZ

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