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UK’s market-driven climate policies ‘insufficient’

The UK government needs to realise that, despite ambitious targets, greenhouse gas emissions in the country are rising because of consumption of goods produced overseas, says a report by the British Academy.

The report, “Climate change and public policy futures”, warns that the UK’s market-driven approach to tackling climate change and achieving green growth is insufficient.

Published on 25 July, the report was written by Ian Gough, a research fellow at the London School of Economics.

It says that although the UK’s production-based emissions have dropped by some 15 per cent in the last two decades, emissions from the consumption of goods produced in other countries have increased by 19 per cent during the same period.

Such “global emission flows”, it argues, are unaccounted for in international protocols such as Kyoto and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In the absence of effective international policies, says Gough, individual countries must think carefully about the balance between growth and environmental sustainability.

Modern liberal democracies, he argues, could be “unsuited” to tackle climate change since they are short-sighted, influenced by well-organised interest groups, and lack “political constituencies voicing the concerns of future generations and of peoples outside the borders of the nation state”.

Instead, says Gough, social democracies and coordinated market economies are likely to have a better chance of succeeding.

Policies in the UK, he says, are largely “market-based, fall far short of the radical targets, and are regressive in their impact”.

The UK’s approach, he adds, includes major investments in new technology, reframed carbon pricing, and policies to change consumer behaviour. But such efforts, as they stand, are not enough—it would take “major reversals” in government policy to find a sustainable way forward, he argues.

“There is as yet insufficient recognition of the scale of policy integration— across economic, environmental and social policies—that will be required,” reads the report.

“In any case, it is impossible for the large Asian economies to follow the Western growth model … if the economics of a finite planet point to the end of economic growth in the West, still more radical thinking and action will be required,” it adds.