2013: climate change, industrialisation, development and environmental governance
There are two ways to read the news on environment and climate change. You can read the edited press or you can read what the scientists are saying. It’s easier to read press than to read reports, so you may have a skewed idea of what is actually happening.
In a nutshell, all the talk of mitigation and reduction of emissions has to take second place to adaptation. The real tipping point was years ago, and current weather variability and climate effects verge on catastrophic. If those two sentences don’t make you sit up, read them again. Mitigation is still important, but it has to be part of a long range strategy of ongoing adaptation.
There are two components to this matter. Firstly, the maths and the projections say that the feedback effects of climate change are magnifying, but in an unpredictable manner. If carbon emissions were seriously reduced, the process of climate change would still continue for decades, if not centuries. Secondly, there are ongoing economic processes which have to be preserved.
The ideal of ceasing emissions is not possible. Firstly the argument that renewable sources are an investment only kicks in when the capital is available to make the investment. Secondly, revision of the means of production to accommodate lower emissions will lead to lower job creation rates and civil discontent.
It is easy, in this regard, to make broad, sweeping statements about renewables, but they will hold little water. Solar is incredibly expensive and the batteries are a huge expense in terms of environmental economics. The same holds true for wind. The only sound option is feed onto the national or regional power grid. As for capital availability, in Namibia, this is in the hands of regional and national bodies, who are hard pressed to finance development needs as they now stand, without the added financial burden of renewables.
Although early investments may be made, they will be limited, and they will lead to trade-offs that involve poverty as resources are shifted away from other areas of need. Unfortunately environmentalism is in some degree a luxury, but mostly an unmanageable expense.
The radicalism of refusal of industrialisation, particularly at the coast, is disappointing, not in its ideal, but in its exercise. Stating a problem does not solve a wider need. Those who refuse deny ability of large industry to create jobs. The elements that need to be considered are what jobs can be created and the level of incomes which they can generate. Industry presents the prospect of jobs, but environmentalists are vague on concrete solutions and implementation.
On the other side of the coin, there is the fact that industry cannot be allowed to wantonly degrade the environment and natural resources. ‘Sustainability’ is a vital forward-looking aspect of the life of a community or economic sphere, and it is being translated into the realm of governance.
Unfortunately the translation is vague and there are very few standards or mechanisms that can be put in place with confidence. The absence of generally accepted principles allows a wide range of interpretations, as well as practices that range from cynically damaging to well-meaning but ineffective.
Hostility between industry and environmentalists is a major barrier to development of formalised environmental governance mechanisms. Both sides hold at their disposal knowledge and capacity, but these still verge on mutually exclusive depending on the willingness of either side to incorporate economic and environmental needs.
The proposal of this piece becomes the fact that in order for economic and environmental need to be accommodated, both sides have to enter into conversation, and sacrifice positions in order to make incremental gains as starting points. If you have any interest in this matter, perhaps you will also want to read that last sentence again.
As much as entities can take the cues for governance from external members of boards who are skilled in the aspects of the enterprise, they can also take cues from environmental expertise sitting on the same boards. Both sides have to come to the boardroom table.
Climate change and environmental issues will not be addressed by global mechanisms. They have to be micro-managed as a part of the governance of the individual entity. When this is recognised, there will be a possibility for adaptation and accompanying mitigation measures to take effect.