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Memorandum to the inquiry into the international challenge of climate change: UK leadership in the G8 and EU

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With this memorandum a coalition of The Corner House, SinksWatch and Carbon Trade Watch comment on a number of issues which have arisen form the UK Environmental Audit Committee's present inquiry into the feasibility of emissions trading systems as a framework for negotiating a post-Kyoto agreement.The Memorandum investigates whether an international emissions trading system (ETS) is feasible, what other alternatives to an international ETS exist and what approach and specific objectives in relation to climate change the UK Government should adopt.The principal conclusions of this Memorandum are :international ETS as currently conceived are not feasible: in particular mixed trading systems such as (a) credits allowing the emission of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion and (b) credits for carbon sequestration, 'avoided emissions', 'emissions reductions' or baseline-and-credit projects generally all trading systems that involve the allocation by the state of large quantities of free emissions rights to business are prone to a fundamental contradiction, which tends to render such systems climatically ineffectivemixed trading systems involve an additional regressive global redistribution of land, water, air, forests and other goods which also renders them politically and environmentally unsustainablecontraction and convergence, which involves a nominal or theoretical egalitarian pre-distribution of private property rights in the earth’s carbon cycling capacity, overcomes some of the political difficulties associated with trading systems that rely on 'grandfathering' of rights insofar as contraction and convergence allow mixed trading systems, however, it would be climatically ineffective and prone to set off conflicts over land, water, air and other goods in local areasnumerous more effective, more efficient, and more egalitarian alternatives exist both to emissions trading systems and to the particular types of emissions trading system currently enjoying a vogue. These include regulation, taxation or support for existing low-fossil-carbon economies for these alternatives to be properly researched, explored and supported, it is necessary for government to promote a public debate on the issue, halt the rush into ETS, and redirect research and development funds toward more realistic, non-market-based schemesalso the government must halt subsidies for continued exploration, extraction, exploitation and burning of fossil fuels, and instead support communities’ and local authorities’ own attempts to follow low-carbon ways of life internationally, the UK can exercise leadership both in the G8 and the EU on all these scores.