Debate on 4 solutions to the climate challenge

Many solutions are put forward to take up  the climate challenge, We asked Brigitte Gloire, in charge of the climate record at Oxfam Solidarity, to explain how these solutions are credible or not . The heart of the matter, she recalls, is the use of fossil energies, which are responsible for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; the solution is to change our patterns of consumption, and to increase investments in renewable energies.

The Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA)

CSA consist of  a series of concepts and ideas proposed by the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA). “Those who promote the CSA are the advocates of a highly intensive and industrial agriculture, unsustainable and geared towards the international market” , explains Brigitte Gloire. This raises the question of the alibi of those advocating such a solution ´. The lack of capacity of the States to finance agricultural solutions in response to climate change increases their reliance on private actors, which have the freedom to promote guidelines serving their interests. In addition, the CSA does not impose environmental or social criteria that would make it a positive innovation for the society.

The carbon market

The Kyoto Protocol set up a “carbon market” as a mean of reducing emissions. Its promoters designed a mechanism in which GHG emitters can trade emission rights.
In Brigitte Gloire’s view, this is not a solution: it shifts the emphasis of the problem but does not solve it . «The carbon market appeared because the States waived a strong legislation that would impose standards and prohibitions. Conversely, it allows States to meet their emission reduction targets by performing “good deeds”, while continuing to release GHG . Implementation of the system is another part of the problem. Indeed, it could work if the price of a tone of carbon was high enough, but in 2013 it cost less than 6 dollars compared to 30 dollars when the system was set up» . «Public funds finance six times more fossil energy than renewable energies».

The «carbon offset» was then introduced at international level. It gives a country the right to purchase GHG reductions elsewhere. «In a way, a right to pollute that shifts the responsibility for reducing emissions to other countries, and does not impose emission cut within the territory».

“Net zero” emissions

This solution implies that it is always possible to emit CO2 provided it is offset by reduction projects such as reforestation or carbon sequestration. Again, Brigitte Gloire warns «it is a permit for “business as usual”, to go on using fossil fuels by cutting back on territories that are necessary to guarantee human rights». Moreover, among the means used to offset CO2 emissions, some do not seem very credible.
The carbon sequestration, for example, which consists in deep layer injection of the CO2 released by industrial companies, is not yet technologically reliable and the impact of such process are still unknown .

Biofuels

Biofuels are bioenergy because they are derived from living material. They are used to supply the transport sector. In theory, bioenergy emits less CO2 because it emits only sequestered CO2. In practice, it depends on the source used. In the case of palm oil, for example, it is the opposite. Biofuels need a lot of space and challenge the prioritization of land. The land must first and foremost be used to feed and achieve food security, and then for growing biofuels . The European initiative “10% of biofuels for 2020” goes against this evidence. Powering all cars with biofuel in Belgium would require an area equivalent to 17 times this country.  «Biomass fuels can be a solution as long as they meet strict sustainability criteria-respect for the right to food and the right to land- and reach a positive balance in terms of GHG economy», explains Brigitte Gloire.
The four solutions we have discussed are not credible, says Brigitte Gloire. A solution requires to thoroughly change our patterns of consumption and development . Business as usual is not an option!

Manon Eeckhaut, volunteer

More information

Read Dajaloo : Climat, business as usual is not an option ! (Fr)