CONTRACTION & CONVERGENCE: The Global Solution to Climate Change by Aubrey Meyer
Review by Dr. Mayer Hillman, Senior Fellow Emeritus, Policy Studies Institute, London, UK
Climate change caused by the greenhouse gas emissions from our past and present profligate energy-intensive lifestyles already appears to be having tragic consequences. If the reduction of these emissions to a relatively safe level is more important than the pursuit of economic growth, then it is clear that a framework for action is needed within which the reduction can be achieved.
This concise book profoundly and lucidly spells out such a framework. Its author, Aubrey Meyer, founder and director of the Global Commons Institute (GCI), logically calls it 'Contraction and Convergence'. It requires the reduction to be completed within a timetable determined by scientific evidence whilst at the same time programming it towards an end-state of per capita emissions 'shared out between people globally, equitably and sustainably'. This, he says, will deliver a clean and green form of prosperity which does not seriously prejudice the future of the planet. He argues convincingly that it is the only way of avoiding ecological catastrophe.
In addition to a devastating critique of the failure of economics to treat with the subject of the welfare of all mankind and the global environment, he provides a fascinating history of the process by which a transition has been made in the space of ten years from what was at first ridiculed as a totally unrealistic and impractical solution to a centre stage proposition at the heart of current climate change negotiations.
The effectiveness of his argument is reflected in a growing consensus around the world that 'Contraction and Convergence' may indeed be the only realistic route to ecological salvation. For instance, last summer, the Royal Commission on Environment and Pollution and Jan Pronk, the Netherlands Environment Minister and Chairman of the Hague Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, supported the case for an international agreement based on the principle. In his environment speech in the City of London in the autumn, Prime Minister Blair acknowledged that the massive reduction in greenhouse gas emissions must be achieved on 'an equitable basis'. A month later, in the Hague, President Chirac stated that 'France proposes that we set as our ultimate objective the convergence of per capita emissions'. It is extraordinary that acknowledgement by these two world leaders and others of the relevance of the concept of equity to the subject, with its seismic implications for the future of economic growth, received almost no coverage in the media.
It is clear that radical changes are called for not only in the policies and practices of government, industry and the business community generally, but also in our own lifestyles. If these are to be conducted according to principles of conscience and survival, we cannot continue to play down the significance of climate change. The fact that greenhouse gas emissions remain in the atmosphere for several generations makes it urgent that we take our responsibilities on this portentous issue far more seriously.
I can think of no better investment of time and no more effective means of jolting people out of their complacency on the ramifications of global warming than to read this remarkable book...