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

Tom Burke told the BMA 'Medics and the Military' conference last year: -

“Contraction and convergence is wonderfully elegant but I don’t think it works in the real world.”

He was subsequently pressed about this view in widely circulated letters by Dr Mayer Hillman.

Here is Tom Burke's 'final response': -

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

He then somewhat paternalistically and to the agitation of some doctors agitated in the British Medical Journal for insurgency by 'the young against the old'.



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 itâs 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."