Answer the question then!

8th Jul 2019


Last week I posed a series of questions about who pays the international cost of decarbonisation. It was prompted by a blog reader from Wales, so I’m grateful that at least one person reads my musings.

To recap, the Chancellor has costed the UK’s bill to meet Net Zero at 1 trillion pounds. Our historic contribution aside, we currently contribute a little under 1 per cent of global emissions, so the rest of the world is going to have to pay a very large bill. The latest estimate I had of this was 68 trillion USD $. It’s simply a staggering sum, so far off the scale that we really can’t visualise it.

So back to that fairness issue. If the UK does its bit and our generation (and the next) takes the financial hit what mechanism exists to stop us being disadvantaged compared to others who don’t? There is no formal procedure for dealing with this situation. That’s why the US walking away from international treaties matters. That’s why encouraging China and India, with huge populations driving up emissions, is important too. 

The UK has taken the lead on climate change, as it does with international aid spending, partly because it sees the moral case for doing so. But with both, there’s also self-interest too. Enlightened self-interest is the term I use.

 Maybe in the future the UN will ensure that every country pays their fair share until then our task is to make progress as fairly and economically as we can. That’s why the Government kept two important caveats in the recent Net Zero commitment, both against the advice of the CCC. They have kept a review period of five years, to see if other countries are also making progress – just watching for fair play. And they have kept the ability to internationally off-set our emissions.

This is a particular hobby-horse of mine. Whilst the UK may be able to afford to decarbonise, some countries can’t. Often they will be the same countries that face the most direct costs of climate change too. So if we can offset our emissions by helping others and economically benefit them too, surely that also meets our moral obligation and self-interest?

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CEO