The Guardian recently reported that targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are ‘crucial to create the certainty needed for investors to back technologies such as sun, wind and tide; the current target is credited with spurring a huge rise in renewable generation’.
A strong argument, and who could deny that we are witnessing a rash of solar panels and wind farms spread rapidly across our landscapes?
But what is the quote above, and the article really saying, and what is the context?
1. Targets are demanded by investors, ie the owners of capital. Thus, targets are essential for ‘solving’ climate change within the paradigm of neo-liberal economics. Targets are the language of neo-liberal economics. Neo-liberal systems cannot reproduce themselves without targets. To abandon targets would require a non-capitalist way of thinking about and responding to climate change. (Okay, state capitalist societies use targets, the old USSR, and China, but that is another debate).
2. So to talk about climate change in the language of targets is an attempt to tame the beast, so it does not attack the capitalist hand that is feeding it.
3. This attempted defence of targets is being mounted by The Guardian because in fact policy makers are watering down the targets for financing renewables. In other words, to frame the debate in terms of targets provides a very flexible framework for policy makers. The targets can be abandoned whenever they get inconvenient. If policy makers defined their response in terms of a clear set of values, it would be very difficult to change course. ‘Oh, we believed in a more equal and safer world yesterday, but today we changed our mind, because it would cost the richest 1% too much’.
4. And in fact those targets are not working, as in the UK carbon emissions continue to rise despite the adoption of emission reduction targets 7 years ago at Kyoto in 2005
So someone please remind me again – why do we need targets?