Obama allies lead the way on a positive approach to climate change

The fracking debate continues apace, with the announcement by the British Geological Survey that there are over 4 billion barrels of oil in the shale rocks of the South of England. The government has proposed new rules of access to land in order to speed up the exploitation of this oil, with payments of £20,000 being made to those living above the land where fracking takes place.

Opinions are highly polarised. In part, they reflect differences of views on climate change, with scepticism being much more widespread amongst the population as a whole than it is amongst scientists. But, perhaps paradoxically, the strongest opposition to fracking seems to come from those who are most vociferous about the potential threat which climate change poses to the planet. Many environmentalists appear to relish the idea of wearing the hair shirt, of making sacrifices to deal with the issue. They do not like the idea that technology might solve the problem.

In America, a much more pragmatic consensus is emerging, as Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute in California points out. Shellenberger and his colleagues have argued for a long time that United Nations climate treaty efforts were doomed. Caps on emissions and other efforts that make fossil fuels more expensive would fail in world where competitive alternative fuels do not exist, and where billions of people need to consume more, not less, energy.

Two powerful allies have emerged in the shape of former senators Tim Wirth and Tom Daschle, close liberal and environmental allies of President Obama. Shellenberger draws attention to their recent essay in the widely-respected environmental magazine, Yale Environment 360. Wirth was lead negotiator for the Kyoto treaty, which was centrally focused on limits. Yet Wirth and Daschle now call for a completely different approach.

They argue that there should be a move away from global targets and restrictions to encouraging bottom-up measures to build cleaner and more prosperous economies. It is much easier to persuade electorates to adopt climate-friendly policies when they benefit from them, than when the policies impose costs. As Wirth and Daschle say “such a shift would change the psychology of the climate change issue from one of burden to opportunity, and change the likely outcome from one of hand-wringing about failure to excitement about tangible action to build a better world”.

In contrast, many green activists in the UK and the rest of Europe adopt a deeply reactionary stance, which denies the ability of innovation to solve climate problems, and which relies on the failed approach of global bodies trying to impose targets on individual nations. One of the worst offenders is the current Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey. As Shellenberger points out, major advances have come from polices inspired within countries, shaped in the national interest, and which bring direct benefits to electorates. The recent shift in America from coal to gas, the French programme of building nuclear power stations, increased resilience to tropical cyclones in India, these are all examples of this positive theme.

Paul Ormerod

As published in City AM on Wednesday 28th May

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e: aobyrne@volterra.co.uk
t: +44 020 8878 6333

Alex O’Byrne, Associate at Volterra, is an experienced economic consultant specialising in economic, health and social impact, economic strategy, project appraisal and socio-economic planning matters.

Alex has led the socio-economic and health assessments of some of the most high profile developments across the UK, including Battersea Power Station, Olympia London, London Resort, MSG Sphere and Westfield. He has significant experience inputting to EIAs and s106 discussions as well as drafting economic statements, employment and skills strategies and affordable workspace strategies.

Alex is also experienced at economic appraisal for infrastructure. He was project manager of the economic appraisal for the City Centre to Mangere Light Rail in Auckland. He also led the economic and financial appraisals of the third tranche of the Transport Access Program for Transport for New South Wales, in which Alex developed and employed innovative methodological approaches to better capture benefits for individuals with reduced mobility.

He is interested in the limitations of current appraisal methodologies and ways of improving economic and health analysis to ensure it is accessible to as many people as possible. To this end, Alex recognises the importance of transparent and simple to understand analysis and ensuring all work is supported by a robust narrative.

Alex holds a BSc (Hons) in Economics from the University of Manchester and he was a member of the first cohort of the Mayor’s Infrastructure Young Professionals Panel.


Senior Partner

e: eevans@volterra.co.uk
t: +44 020 8878 6333

Ellie is a partner at Volterra, specialising in the economic impact of developments and proposals, and manages many of the company’s projects on economic impact, regeneration, transport and development.

With thirteen years experience at Volterra delivering high quality projects to clients across the public and private sector, Ellie has expertise in developing methods of estimating economic impact where complex issues exist with regards to deadweight, displacement and additionality.

Ellie has significant experience in estimating the economic impact across all types of property development including residential, leisure, office and mixed use schemes.

Project management of recent high profile schemes include the luxury hotel London Peninsula, Battersea Power Station and the Nova scheme at London Victoria. Ellie has also led studies across the country estimating the economic and regeneration impact of proposed transport investments, including studies on HS2 and Crossrail.

Ellie holds a degree in Mathematics and Economics from the University of Cambridge.