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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Response to DECC - urgent proposals needed for Durban Platform

Dear Hadiza

Thank you for your email, reference TO2011/23141 in response to my letter linking the failure to achieve nuclear disarmament and the failure to agree climate change agreements.

Your letter confirms the worst fears.  We should prepare for the worst possible future of global heating, nuclear war and economic collapse. 

To address your points:

The Durban platform is flawed. It is premised on starting CO2 reductions in 2020, we cannot wait this long. Atmospheric emissions are currently rising faster than the worst-case scenario of the IPCC report. Section 4 of the Durban platform suggests a review of the IPCC report is carried out over 2013-2015.  A two-year review is unnecessary and time wasting. Basic maths that is within the capabilities of a secondary school student shows the worst case scenario is already being significantly exceeded.

In 2010 the biggest ever atmospheric greenhouse gas increase of 6% was recorded.  If this trend continues annual emissions will have increased by 69% in 2020. We are not witnessing a mere increase in greenhouse gases. We are witnessing an explosion.

The situation is so severe that even cutting emissions to zero today would not guarantee that global heating can be kept below 2 deg C. By contrast, a downward reduction starting at 2020 following the exponential increase that we expect over the coming years makes planetary survival impossible.

In these circumstances it is absolutely incredible to hear that time continues to be wasted with debate on what to do with unused carbon credits from the first period.

It is hard to see how you can be so positive that the Durban Platform sends a signal to industry and business to invest in low carbon technology. There are no targets, other than to acknowledge that the existing targets will not keep the planet's temperature rise below the 2 deg C threshold and the leisurely timescale allows them 10 years of unfettered growth.

By contrast, restoration of economic growth remains the objective of all nations along with increasing greenhouse gas output. In the UK we are seeing proposals being put forward for an additional airport in the Thames, an energy consuming high-speed rail network and support for virtually every other high carbon industry. This country is no different from any other country in the world. There is absolutely no evidence of any substantive behavioural change since the Durban COP. Instead, there is increasing effort to preserve the business as usual scenario, despite it being manifestly more impossible and immoral to sustain. The current efforts by USA and China to overturn aviation's incorporation into the EU ETS further highlights how little the Durban COP has impacted actual behaviour.

This failure to see significant change in behaviour is in contrast to the opening sentence of the Durban Platform which acknowledges, “that the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation.” However, the nation-state system that forms the basis of the COP compels nations to compete economically and militarily. Failure to achieve success in either sphere results in national collapse. The cooperation that is needed is therefore impossible in a competitive environment and it becomes impossible to transform to a zero carbon economy.

The epitome of this competition is the possession of nuclear weapon systems such as Trident. They require huge resources to build and huge economies to raise enough taxes.  The maximum cost estimate quoted in your response of £17billion for the platform and warhead is impossibly low. It takes no account of cost growth, which is likely to be high given the technological risks involved. It does not include operational costs, or the costs to defend Trident. Greenpeace’s well-prepared report suggested a more likely figure would be £100billion for the entire through life cost. Even their report does not include the cost for the eventual decommissioning of the submarine and disposal of the nuclear waste from both the reactors and the warheads.  Once the decision is made to pursue Trident, it becomes impossible to build a zero carbon economy, as consumption must be kept high to raise the taxes and a high carbon industry must be kept in place and operational to build it. Trident massively increases the stakes in a competitive environment.

What makes this expenditure totally inappropriate is that it is impossible to foresee any time when Trident could be used. Your letter correctly suggests, “We face a more dangerous situation now than we have for several decades. There are substantial risks to our security from emerging nuclear weapons states and state sponsored terrorism.”  If deterrence is credible we must be prepared to pre-emptively destroy cities such as Tehran in the event of a nuclear threat from Iran and before they strike our cities. It is hardly surprising they feel the need to build their own nuclear weapons. Likewise if a terrorist group such as Al Qaeda obtains nuclear weapons, which is not affiliated to a state, though gets state support such as from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, are we proposing to destroy Islamabad or Riyadh? It is better by far to focus on the dirty work of stopping nuclear weapons proliferation.

Given the strategic failure of Trident in the face of climate change, it is hugely disturbing that the initial gate document states a primary objective of the decision to proceed with a Trident replacement is that “We must retain the capability to design, build and support nuclear submarines and meet the commitment for a successor to the Vanguard Class submarines.”  This objective will be shared by our competing nations who also must continue to build nuclear submarines to keep their submarine building capability intact. This is the ultimate paradox; the thing that is meant to protect us has become our biggest threat. The nation states have become more concerned about the preservation of their arms industries than the security of their people. Both the UK security review of 2008 and the American Centre for Naval Assessment concluded that their biggest threat was climate change.

As a further disconnect from reality, the initial gate document states that the Trident replacement will “deliver our minimum credible nuclear deterrent out until the 2060s.” This is beyond 2050, when the planet is not expected to be habitable through global heating. If Trident is successful in preventing nuclear war, then the last survivors on the planet will be the crews of the Trident submarines and their equivalent submarines from other countries. If for no other reason, this is the strongest reason for not proceeding with replacement. There will be no intact economy able to safely decommission the submarines and these will pose too big a risk to the few survivors.

Section 8 of the Durban Platform states “Parties and observer organizations to submit by 28 February 2012 their views on options and ways for further increasing the level of ambition.”  As a party to this I would ask that by this date you raise the linkage between nuclear disarmament and action on climate change.

I would therefore ask that you submit the following proposals for submission by the above date:

1.       There is a global agreement to stop further building of strategic nuclear forces.

2.       The existing strategic forces are put under a multinational command and any country committed to greenhouse gas reductions can join this grouping and seek protection from it.  

3.       That an alternative economic system is introduced based on personal carbon rations and these are tradable within the countries committed to carbon reductions.

If you are not able to advance these ideas, then please advise what alternatives you propose that will allow the international co-operation needed to avoid disaster.

This correspondence will be made public on my blog

Yours sincerely,
Kevin Lister

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