The British Airways chief executive, Willie Walsh, will unveil an agreement between airlines, airports and aircraft companies to cut emissions to 50% below 2005 levels by 2050.
Now I have to declare an interest here. There are at least three projects which I supply weird metals to which are working on reducing the fuel usage of an aircraft flight. More money being spent on reducing fuel usage (and thus emissions) per flight will benefit my little sector of industry and thus, I assume, benefit me.
This is still an absurdly stupid idea.
For it is committing the unpardonable economic sin of assuming that the economy is static.
Let us start from the assumption that the IPCC is correct: the earth is warming and it\’s our emissions that are causing it. Let us go further and agree that we thus wish to limit emissions.
Excellent, does this mean that each and every sector of the economy must thus cut its emissions?
No, absolutely not. It means that we want to cut aggregate emissions: and we want those remaining emissions to be the ones that provide us with the most value per unit of emissions.
This will mean sectoral shifts. Perhaps we can reduce emissions from households through insulation by 80% (or whatever number is now being claimed). Does that mean that aviation should also cut by 80%? No, the opposite, it means that if we value the service of aviation more than warm houses without insulation, that emissions from aviation can grow.
What the damn fools are assuming is that the economy will always have the same structural divisions as it does now. But by pricing carbon we\’re going to, and this is the very point of actually pricing carbon, introduce pressures to change that set of structural divisions.
What we want to end up with is that lower number of aggregate emissions at the lowest cost to our standard of living. That means that those emissions left are the ones that provide us with the greatest utility. This, in turn, might mean that we have more flights than we do now, more aviation emissions than we do now, while having fewer from housing, driving, cows farting or whatever.
It might also mean that we value steaks more than we do flying and so beef farming expands at the expense of aviation.
But the very point of what we\’re trying to do is to find which set of emissions we value the most: so to insist upon reductions in one or another field is to fly in the very face of what we\’re out to achieve.
Outrageously stupid nonsense, these people don\’t understand the basics of what we\’re setting out to do.