That’s the goal that the European Union set for itself yesterday. It falls short of the Stern report’s recommendation of 30% by 2020 and 60% by 2050, but it’s still a good, ambitious and achievable target. It’s also miles above Canada’s reduction targets, which, well….
Any successful business or undertaking understands that targets are important because, without them, you have no measure of success. They also need to be SMART, which means in part that they have to serve some greater strategy (namely, preventing the planet from shaking us off like a wet dog). That’s why it’s important to set the aggressive targets that our scientists tell us are necessary, instead of lax targets that derive from political laziness. This is one of those “do it right or don’t do it at all” kind of things.
Another good reason to set aggressive targets is that we’ll be far better off if we over-shoot on carbon emissions reductions than if we underestimate what’s necessary. Consider Elizabeth May’s recent response to someone who still questions the science of climate change:
Obviously, I am in conversation all the time with people who don’t buy the science. The question is this: on the chance that I’m wrong that action needs to be taken on climate change, what are the consequences for society? Then apply it the other way. What if the people who say — we don’t have to do anything, we can keep burning fossil fuels — what if they are wrong? If they are wrong, the consequence is that every coastal city on the planet is flooded, life becomes unbearable, civilization and social structures crumble within the next 20 to 50 years.
If I am wrong– which would be lovely news — and we did all the things on the Green party’s agenda, for instance if we met the Kyoto targets, we’d have a society that was more competitive, had less air pollution, and which would be embracing the low-carbon technologies of the future. Just based on the price of oil and our over-dependence on petroleum products, we’d be better off no matter what.
Finally, we need to set some targets so that we can get on with achieving them. The question of what kind of action to take is the only real debate left. The good news is, there are no shortage of great ideas. Toby Heaps over at Corporate Knights has done a great job of outlining a plan. The Toronto-Dominion Bank has also released their plan. (Both of which, by the way, are largely consistent with what the Green Party has been saying for years.)
And yet, at this rate, in 2020 we’ll still be going in circles. Let’s not let that happen.