Not Climate Denial but C&C Denial.
Is it now C&C-Deniers who should face charges of crimes against humanity?

International Health Policies
Headlines in Global Health Policies Reactions from Global South Experts

This week BMJ casts a spotlight on climate change. The journal provides a nice collection of articles with the latest news, state of the art research and viewpoints on the enormous political challenge. Some articles explore how a low carbon economy can boost people’s health, whether contraction and convergence is the way forward, etc. Suffice it to say: recommended reading.

You can tell people are getting downright desperate, if ideas are being floated like Tom Burke’s: “My own very strong feeling is that what it’s really going to take politically to solve this problem is an insurgency of those under 40 against those over 40.“ If only it were that simple. This is anything but a generation issue (full disclosure: I turn forty in October). Last time I checked, greed was still in all of us, young and old. Adjusting incentive structures of decision makers and CEOs seems inevitable and part of the solution. However, in this short piece I’d like to focus on the popular claim that health professionals are “uniquely placed to guide the climate change conversation towards better policies that are good for the planet and for people.” They are, indeed, and pointing out that a low carbon economy would also be great news for our health is an excellent example of this. Publications like the New Economics Foundation’s ‘The great transition’ are very much in line with this kind of thinking.
Time to stop instrumentalizing health for economic growth
2012-03-23 13:50:39 Editorial - Kristof Decoster


This letter was sent in November last year by Dr Mayer Hillman of PSI.

Dr Mayer Hillman

It expresses grave concern about Tom Burke's denunciation of C&C and his refusal to state what his alternative is. Generally this is also concerned about the confused attitude of British civil servants as they prepared for climate change negotiations at COP-17. Now in March 2012, as we go forward to COP-18, all these concerns remain. This is not least, because in Tom Burke's recent article in the BMJ, he has taken to calling 'insurgency' by the under-40's against the over-40's. Is he suddenly calling now for 'cultural revolution'?

Mayer's letter was sent to Dr William Rees, Terry O'Connell and Mike Hutchinson.
It was also copied to an extensive list of other eminent persons. 


The letter below was from Mayer Hillman to Bill Rees, Terry O'Connell, Mike Huthcinson [and cc to numerous others]. Tom Burke had denouced C&C at the BMA Converence in October 2011 as having 'nothing to do with what he called 'the real world'. Mayer's letter is about Tom Burke's refusal to explain to him what his alternative to C&C is. Mayer was seeking views on how to progress past this impasse.

Below that is a letter from Tom Burke responding to Mayer Hillman but again refusing to volunteer what his alternative is.

Dear Bill, Terry and Mike,

I have waited a couple of weeks for a reply from Tom Burke to my email of 2 November asking him at least to give references to where his alternative framework can be found. However, with no reply forthcoming after this length of time, I think it reasonable to assume that he does not intend to provide this. This is in spite of the fact that, as I pointed out, I do not see how that would impose much of 'a call on his time' by simply letting me know the best site for his recommended alternative to C&C. His grounds for not being prepared to continue with the exchanges were, as you may recall, simply that his views were too well-known to need repeating!

You may have seen an article by John Ashton in yesterday's Guardian, The planet has no plan B

Like Tom Burke, John Ashton is a 'founding director of E3G'. They effectively speak with one voice. It would appear that John too is happy to leave those with an interest in his reflections on the dire predicament in which we find ourselves, guessing as to what his 'take' on the way forward actually is, though his article falls short of actually stating this.

In reality, his strategy is actually a mix of ignoring the other side and just more guesswork. His article says: -

[1] an agreement at Durban based on 'a voluntary (my italics) framework' will prove insufficient; 
[2] what is needed is an 'effective regime binding all major economies' . . .
[3] he then states that this requires a second phase of Kyoto commitment from those willing (again my italics) to accept them!
[4] He also quotes the calculation of expert climate scientists that global emissions must not exceed two degrees Celsius,
[5] but says nothing about how this framework will be structured, implying that we will be starting again from scratch.

Thus, in common with Tom, John Ashton makes no attempt at all to set down the 'globally structured time-line' for what he nonetheless believes must be a workable framework for global resource-sharing, working under a now extreme time-constraint.

Worse still, like Tom, he appears to be unaware or culpably unwilling to admit to the facts that: -

[1] the UK was already party in December 2009 to laying out C&C at COP-15; 
[2] this was in a version where the rates of C&C were prescribed as those that are already in the UK Climate Act of 2008 with convergence by 2050; 
[3] while the C&C principle was accepted at COP-15, the rates prescribed by the UK for total convergence by 2050 were not.
[4] the UK Government foolishly blamed the disagreement and negative result from COP-15 on the Chinese Government;
[5] However, the Chinese Government had published a document on this in July 2009. This said the convergence to tradable equal per capita emissions entitlements should be immediate upon the agreement being reached even if convergence to actual per capita emissions would only be completed by 2050.
[6] Any differences between the two could be traded away.

There is no way of scrutinising Tom Burke's 'proposal' because, as far as one can tell, he doesn't have one. Furthermore, in his Guardian article, John Ashton simply promotes the view that the way out is 'technology and capital'. Tom asserts that we don't need a framework for limiting a global temperature rise to a maximum of two and three degrees, while John quotes the IEA as saying that, within 5 years, the two degree maximum will have gone for ever!

What conclusions can we, and those to whom our exchanges have been copied, draw from all this? Can it be that, in fact, neither of them have an alternative framework because they and the key politicians whom they advise don't want a framework even if it is obviously - and by definition - necessary to sharing out a global resource within a specified time-frame? Do they want to be able to blame the other side for the inevitable failure that attends our refusal to listen to what they are saying.

It seems we have to choose between pressing again for a sight of some documentation of what their strategy actually is, or now highlighting their disingenuous contribution to the debate on where we should go from here.

What do you think?

Warm regards


Dr. Mayer Hillman
Senior Fellow Emeritus
Policy Studies Institute
c/o The Coach House
7a Netherhall Gardens
London NW3 5RN
Tel. 020 7794 9661 


Tom Burke has been an active C&C opponent for years. However his letter responding to Mayer [below] is a partial climb-down over C&C as he acknowledges that many people support it. At the same time he chooses to remain amongst the C&C-deniers with whom he co-founded E3G some years back, John Ashton and Nick Mabey.

E3G Directors Tom Burke John Ashton & Nick Maybe

Remember that after 17 years of 'negotiations' and nobody knows this better than the above three: -
We are now causing the climate problem even faster than we were responding to correct it 17 years ago.
UNFCCC-compliance requires that we have to reverse that and achieve sufficiency, or doing enough soon enough.
The odds for success are dwindling all the time.

The UN itself says, "C&C is inevitably required" for UNFCCC-compliance. It is common sense.
Continuing with C&C denial now, ensures that we won't achieve UNFCCC-compliance. It makes failure inevitable.
So, while 'climate-deniers' face charges of crimes against humanity, is it not C&C-deniers [as much as climate deniers] who should now really face those charges?

To argue about 'evidence' is one thing, but to accept it and then argue against common sense is quite another.
Nick Mabey's line is simply to say that, "C&C is dead!"


An 'Incontestable Truth'

It is fundamental to see that 'choosing C&C' has nothing to do with the straw-man of 'C&C-ideology' that Tom Burke and his counterpart John Ashton and others have decided to create and then to burn. To do this is just avoidance.

The reason for choosing C&C - and why so many people have 'chosen C&C' - is because it is non-random and it is effective as it can yet resolve the bitter North/South row over 'equity' that has ranged at the UNFCCC for the last twenty years.

The epistemological point is that C&C is not a belief system. C&C is a rational and unfalsifiable calculating procedure rooted in the work of IPCC WG1. Pragmatically it is a negotiating-tool for negotiators at the UNFCCC seeking agreement to settle their differences, quantify, arrange and achieve UNFCCC-compliance.

The reasons put forward by Tom Burke, John Ashton and others for feigning not to see this is simple: they say they don't believe an agreement is possible or perhaps even necessary. Their approach is the belief that an uncountable - and unaccountable - process of capital and technology with a window-dressing of wise words that talks up and aspires to UNCCC-compliance [whatever that may turn out to be] is sufficient and beyond the need for scrutiny.

Sadly this is not the case. This 'belief system' absolutely does require scrutiny as it is recipe to ensure that we do too little too late.

However, like many contrarians, those who practice C&C-denial may not want to be seen in this light, but they will be. They don't really want an agreement, let alone one that is inclusive, transparent and sufficient in the way that the C&C basis illuminates and makes possible. They don't want C&C because it puts a framework around their guesswork and shines a political light on the futility of its casino economics.

So they have created a C&C straw man. In this, C&C is not a rational proposition at all, it is simply a moral proposal. Therefore - take it or leave it - C&C is an ideological 'belief system' with at its core what Ashton inaccurately calls 'a contestable ideological choice' that doesn't work in what's left of [what they choose to call] 'the real world.'

Like the Spanish Inquisition, this straw-man burning is absolutist. It demands a blind-faith in the quite chaotic 'belief system' of the solution-dniers. It means that we will all have to continue to take them on trust as on all our behalf they try and guess our way through the UNFCCC negotiations, unguided by any accounting rationale linked to UNFCCC-compliance whatseover.

Given the rates of failure to achieve this now after 17 years, this is no less of a 'crime against humanity' than that with which climate denier-deceivers are now charged by Jim Hansen.

Lurking at the heart of this chaotic approach is the non-explicit right of its proponents to insist that we must go on being irrational, no matter what the outcome.

This is quietly accompanied by the right to blame the 'other side' for the failure they co-generate and that we all now face for proceeding this way. From COP-17 onwards we now all inevitably face this failure as we refuse to progress beyond their 'not-me-guv' belief system. Failure is inevitable unless we adjust in favour of global emission-account reconciliation that adoption of the rational C&C negotiating-tool that makes success with UNFCCC-compliance possible.

Tom Burke absolutely refused to believe let-alone discuss that the Chinese Government had argued for accelerated convergence before COP-15, in other words the arguments laid out here. Rio Tinto Zinc [for whom Tom, Burke also works] actually co-funded the report!

However, after yet another acrimonious public row, Tom Burke finally wrote this to Mayer Hillman partially climbing down and seeking to de-fuse the row.

It doesn't. Simply begging for agreement to disagree still ducks Mayer's question to Mr Burke, "what is your alternative?"

Here's Tom Burke's letter


In my view contraction and convergence is an elegant theoretical concept with whose moral thrust I am in complete sympathy.

However, it is not, in my judgement, a viable avenue down which to pursue a global political agreement on climate change.

I am aware that there are many people who do not share this judgement. I respect their right to do so and to seek to persuade others of their point of view, just as I expect, in return, to be respected for coming to a different judgement.

These are matters of great complexity on which it is very likely that people of good will, acting in good faith, will sometimes come to different judgements.

We clearly have arrived at that point.

With best wishes,

Tom Burke



Commentary from the time that Mr Burke's letter was originally sent to Mayer Hillman.

Its 'no-surprise there' then. However, the question still remains, "what is this 'different judgement'?" Moreover, there must be a reason for Tom Burke's refusal to answer Mayer's question at all, let-alone coherently. Is it really to try and arrange that the 'blame' for the inevitable failure we now face at UNFCCC is transferred to 'the other side' . . . ? He persistently refuses point blank to answer Mayer Hillman's question, in other words to explain if he doesn't support C&C, what it is that he does support.

For information John Ashton co-directs E3G with Tom Burke. John Ashton's recent article in the Guardian showing this is here - it's a classic piece of 'I-dunno.guv' and fits nicely with the 'no deals till 2020' announced by HMG 21 November 2011.

It is also worth noting that, apart from being a 'founder director of E3G', John Ashton is also the HMG Foreign Office's special representative for climate change. In other words what John writes is effectively HMG 'government-policy' on international climate change negotiations.

One can wonder therefore, why on Earth is the Guardian simply publishing the Government's propaganda for failure?

However, writing for the PEW Centre's assessment of Climate Change policy options, back in 2003 John Ashton wrote this:

"The entitlements approach circumvents these complexities by choosing a different starting point. Rather than responsibility, it assigns rights, in the form of equal entitlements to the atmosphere. If everyone has an equal right to account for emissions, the next stage of the climate regime should bring per capita emissions closer together. So countries with high per capita emissions should reduce them; but those with low ones should have headroom within which to increase them. This is the basis of the proposal known as 'Contraction and Convergence.' Such an approach has intuitive appeal. Indeed it is hard to see how any successful response to climate change could follow a radically different path to the one it maps out. But as a practical framework for the next stage of the international negotiations, it faces serious obstacles, not least in addressing concerns about the scale of resource transfers and domestic dislocation it might require of high emitters; (see box in PS below where he states: But on closer inspection, there is no fundamental reason why the right to emit should be equally shared when access to other public goods is not: at the heart of the proposal lurks a contestable ideological choice to that effect)."

Had DECC, HMG et al had made progress since 2003 in the right direction at UNFCCC, we might well not have been having these increasingly desperate discussions and negotiations now. But sadly the progress has been in the wrong direction. We continue to cause the problem faster than we evolve the solution, and this ratio of the rate-of-the problem to the-rate-of-the-solution is even worse now than it was in 2003-1997-1992 etc. and international discord increases with every COP. So the need to see that the chips are down is there, even more greatly than before.

It is fundamental to see that 'choosing C&C' has nothing to do with 'ideology'. C&C is not a belief system; it is a rational negotiating tool.

John Ashton, Tom Burke, DECC [the list goes on] have conveniently conjured up this 'straw-man' of 'ideological-C&C' and then set out to burn it. But in twenty years this effort has not succeeded because C&C is not 'ideological', it is just 'logical' - i.e. rational and has a lot of support

By choosing the C&C rationale as a principle, requires us all - subject to the limit in the UNFCCC-objective - to agree to negotiate, and not just prescribe, the rate of convergence [with India China Africa etc al] as we tried and failed at doing at COP-15. [See Ed Miliband comments here]. China was very clear before COP-15: - they start from the position of immediate convergence to equality of entitlements. It is crass to just pretend that the Chinese Government didn't do this [especially as we are in Beijing right now begging them to re-finance our Eurozone Crisis!]. At base-level C&C is a response to the question, 'what alternative is there for getting agreement?' As said above, Tom Burke's employer Rio Tinto Zinc actually funded the publication - see

Clearly the Ashton/Burke/HMG/DECC etc-etc/whoever/whatever 'alternative' has been to generate more [not less] international 'disagreement' and discord and this is all as time runs out. None of that removes the inevitable requirements that we will have to negotiate [and not prescribe] the rate-of-convergence. As someone once said, there is no alternative.

But, in a phrase from 'yes-minister', though the chips are going down, DECC/HMGs civil servants seem still hell-bent on trying to ensure that the chips are staying up.

Sadly this colonial attitude is why emissions/concentrations/temperature are up too and FWIW the Chinese Government wrote to GCI saying effectively they will not accept blame for going over two degrees. The Indian Government wrote to GCI saying that they have no intention of being told what to do by the West.


Commentary now [20 March 2012] Is Tom Burke suddenly now calling for 'cultural revolution'?

Now we get this, the next incarnation of Tom Burke, this solution-denier writing in the BMJ.
'Insurgency?' - perhaps he thinks he's in the Oxford Union.

While Dr Robin Stott publishes a clear pro-C&C article in the BMJ saying he speaks largely for the medical profession
Mr Tom Burke [not a known or registered medical professional] repositions himself with this in same edition of the BMJ.

He is still opposed to C&C. However he points out that technology & capital are freely available. Although [remember his admonition to Mayer Hillman; "these are matters of great complexity"], according to Tom Burke all we lack is 'political will' [and an attack by under 40's on over 40's]. One BMJ author described it as 'vacuous waffle'. Its certainly not 'Limits to Growth'.

"To deal with the problem of climate change we need a much deeper political analysis than we have had to date. This analysis needs to address the tension between markets and planning and the tension between entitlements and investment. So far, we have not begun to do that.

My own very strong feeling is that what it’s really going to take politically to solve this problem is an insurgency of those under 40 against those over 40. We need to shift the axis of politics from a battle between the left and the right to a battle between those who care about the future and those who want to stay in the past."

Has this now perhaps become Chairman Burke's 'Cultural Revolution' - just side with and incite the children? His 'very strong feeling' appears now to be asking the 'under-40's' to attack the 'over-40s. But does he seriously believe that they will be recruited to push 'investment not entitlement' in 'markets with no planning' for a present that many under-40's already know has been destroyed for them by these very 'investment-markets', let-alone a future that these same 'investment-markets' have as good as destroyed for everybody. These under-40s are hardly ready recruits for this '$-numeraire-casino'. That said, the battle split between the left and the right isn't the issue here. The split is still between the North and the South.

But never mind this and 'real people', now the 'real world' has ceased to be relevant to Chairman Burke as well. It is no accident that in addition to working for RTZ, Mr Burke now sits on the External Review Committee of Shell & the Sustainability Advisory Board of Unilever. Will Chairman Burke now be leading his cultural revolution from the board-rooms of these 'forbidden citadels' that know only 'greed and growth at any cost' do you suppose?


Contraction & Convergence [John Ashton]

"The 'Contraction and Convergence' proposal, developed by Aubrey Meyer, assigns every human being an equal entitlement to GHG emissions. All countries should thus move towards the same per capita emissions. Total emissions should contract over time, and per capita emissions should converge on a single figure. The actual convergence value, the path towards convergence, and the time when it is to be reached would all be negotiable. The proposal allows for the trading of emissions entitlements using mechanisms of the kind permitted under the Kyoto Protocol. At one level, this is compelling. It offers a long-term architecture for an international emissions regime, potentially robust across several of the equity dimensions identified in this paper. It would not require developing countries to shift their immediate focus away from their basic needs: their emissions constraints would bite gradually as per capita emissions increased. And by emphasizing entitlements as well as commitments, it could help address the sense of inequity that arises from the unrequited 'carbon debt' of past emissions by industrialized countries.

But on closer inspection, there is no fundamental reason why the right to emit should be equally shared when access to other public goods is not: at the heart of the proposal lurks a contestable ideological choice to that effect.

Moreover, perhaps it is not GHG emissions that should be equally distributed, but the welfare costs to which emissions give rise. Should not those living in cold countries (with high heating needs) or large countries with dispersed populations (high transport needs) be allowed higher per capita emissions? The large resource transfers from currently high per capita countries to low ones implied by the scheme may be equitable; but it is probably unrealistic to expect such commitments at this stage.

Ultimately, almost any conceivable long-term solution to the climate problem will embody, at least in crude form, a high degree of contraction and convergence. Atmospheric concentrations of GHGs cannot stabilize unless total emissions contract; and emissions cannot contract unless per capita emissions converge. The practical question is not whether this is a reasonable scheme, but whether the quickest way to realize it is to base the next stage of the negotiations explicitly on it.

Nevertheless, the contraction and convergence proposal plays an important role in the climate process. It focuses attention on the ethical questions at the heart of the climate problem, which no long-term solution can afford to ignore. If supported by a critical mass of countries, it would become an important force in the negotiation. The ideas behind the proposal will remain relevant to any discussion of climate and equity for as long as the search continues for a global response to climate change."

As with the 'Berlin Wall', the 'Climate-Firewall' can yet come down. 'Climate-detente' possible at COP-17 with negotiated rates of C&C.
Why not

Why not