COP21 Climate Change

 ©Climate Action

©Climate Action

Welcome to 2016. Towards the end of last year, the world’s nations agreed in Paris a non-binding framework agreement to slow climate change. Since then, swathes of the United States have been wracked by snow blizzards and tornadoes. Torrential rainfall has flooded, or threatened to flood, half of Britain; in China, a rain-induced mudslide has swiped Shenzhen, collapsing buildings and killing many. And Chinese stockmarkets have collapsed too. 

What’s the connection ? At first  glance not obvious : but look again. After the Paris COP21 conference, commentators hailed the agreement there as a major success, not because it had any binding force but because it might encourage financial markets to direct investment into low-carbon renewable energies.

Actually, that’s not how financial markets work. Still, perversely, work they do.

In 2005 the European Union launched an ambitious emissions trading market to cap atmospheric carbon dioxide pollution. Industries were issued with licences to pollute. The idea was that low polluters could sell their permits to high polluters, driving up production costs for dirty industries and encouraging them to clean up their act.  

Within three or four years, Europe’s carbon emissions had plunged. But it wasn’t the CO2 trading market that did the trick. It was the financial markets crash and the consequent global economic depression. Frozen credit markets collapsed the demand for goods, shuttering factories. That pretty much killed the carbon trading market – nobody needed its pollution permits and their price dropped through the floor. But the good news is, a decade after the market opened, Europe’s carbon emissions are still way below their forecast levels.

Perhaps China’s stockmarket crash will have similar beneficial consequences – that, and the financial pain for insurers of clearing up the mess left by ever more frequent and violent tornadoes and typhoons.  

Something to hope for, then. According to a  study in the January 7 edition of the journal Science, the permanent impact of human activity on the environment has become so pervasive that it marks a new era in the global geological record – the Anthropocene Age. To the extent that geological eras are often distinguished by the fossil remnants of their extinct species, this is a chilling thought.

By Brian Childs

 Entrance to SIF15 ©Climate Action

Entrance to SIF15 ©Climate Action

欢迎来到2016年。去年年底,世界各国在巴黎达成了一项不具约束力的框架协议,以减缓气候变化。其后,美国的大片土地已经被暴风雪和龙卷风毁坏。半个英国被暴雨淹没或受到洪水威胁;在中国,一场大雨造成的泥石流冲刷深圳,导致许多建筑倒塌和许多人丧生。中国股市也出现暴跌。

这之间有什么联系吗?乍一看并不明显,但请再看看。巴黎COP21会议结束后,评论家称赞该协议是一个重大的成功,不是因为它有任何约束力,而是因为它可能鼓励金融市场对低碳的可再生能源进行直接投资。

其实,金融市场并不是这样运作的。然而,他们仍倔强地工作着。

2005年,欧盟发起了一项雄心勃勃的碳排放交易市场,以覆盖大气中的二氧化碳污染。行业获发污染许可证。当时的想法是低污染者可以出售他们的许可证给高污染企业,推动对污染行业的生产成本,并鼓励他们清理自己的行为。

在三四年内,欧洲的碳排放量已经大幅下降。但是,这并不是说二氧化碳交易市场做了什么特技。这是金融市场崩溃以及随之而来的全球经济衰退。冻结的信贷市场摧毁了商品需求和许多加工工厂。这几乎消灭了碳交易市场——再没有人需要它的排污许可和它们的价格跌到了谷底。但好消息是,开市十年后,欧洲的碳排放量仍然远低于他们的预期水平。

也许,中国的股市崩盘将会有类似的有益的后果——即保险公司要处理这些比以往任何时候都更加频繁的猛烈的龙卷风和台风留下来的烂摊子的金融痛苦。

我们会对未来有所期望。据1月7日出版的《科学》杂志上的一项研究表明,人类对环境活动的永久影响已经变得无处不在,它标志着在全球地质记录的新时代——人类世时代。在某种程度上,地质时代是由他们灭绝物种的化石残存进行区分,这是一个令人不寒而栗的想法。

 By Brian Childs

 Logo @Climate Action

Logo @Climate Action

  HE Hakima El Haite @Climate Action

 HE Hakima El Haite @Climate Action

 Plenary Area @Climate Action

Plenary Area @Climate Action

 Cool Effect Stand @Climate Action

Cool Effect Stand @Climate Action

 Helen Clark @Climate Action

Helen Clark @Climate Action

Global Intuition