The prospect of oil reaching $300 a barrel could be the only sure way to change our travel behaviour, argues NCE editor Antony Oliver
Radical behaviour change is, after all, going to be absolutely vital if we are to start to stem the tide of global greenhouse gas emissions and avert environmental catastrophe.
That means radical change in the way we live, the way we work and in when and how we travel. It will mean us all rethinking the way we value aspects of our lives which today may be considered as cheap necessities but tomorrow become expensive luxuries.
Experience to date suggests that without such serious financial motivations, the vital radical change is impossible. Individuals and nations will wring hands but then prefer to simply grin and bear the climate change consequences as the only “realistic” option.
It is a point made by former prime minster Tony Blair this week in his newly launched report “Breaking the Climate Change Deadlock” which, he hopes, will help to guide world leaders towards a low carbon future.
“If we are not radical enough in altering the nature of our economic growth, we will not avoid potential catastrophe to the climate,” says Blair.
Of course even Blair would accept that as UK prime minister he wasn’t able to bridge the “yawning chasm”, as he puts it, between scientists’ demands for action and resistance of political leaders fearing economic damage.
Yet breaking through this deadlock is, he now points out, the real challenge - and an achievable challenge once leaders accept the dilemma is not “whether” but “how” radical change is brought about.
Could the very real prospect of $300 a barrel be the long awaited tipping point? Could we at last have a real fiscal driver that will kick-start the long awaited and much needed drive towards a low carbon future?
On a small scale, faced with the reality of high petrol prices we have already started to see individuals changing their travel habits to use car sharing and tele-working.
On a bigger scale we see government putting support behind rail network expansion, public transport in Manchester and now this week moving forward with the development of carbon capture technology trials.
This on the back of the Gordon Brown’s most recent £100bn commitment to renewable energy. As he put it “the most dramatic change in energy policy since the advent of nuclear power” - offering financial incentives to boost energy efficiency and take the UK’s renewable energy generation to 15% by 2020.
Suddenly, it seems radical could be possible. It needs to be. This moment in global economic history must be seized for the good of the planet.