Ethical Consumer Climate Gap reports: Correspondence
This web page shows the email correspondence between Carbon Independent and Ethical Consumer Between March 2023 and July 2023.
The correspondence relates to Ethical Consumer's 2022 Climate Gap report, and the assessment by Carbon Independent that the report contradicts the IPCC regarding the urgency of climate action, and so should be withdrawn.
- Carbon Independent wrote to Ethical Consumer with concerns that the Climate Gap report was not consistent with the scientific consensus, and the fundamental problem was that it endorsed the UK Government's grossly inadequate timescale of emission cuts.
- Ethical Consumer replied with several points including that the Climate Gap report was based on the report of the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC).
- Carbon Independent replied with a critique of the points mentioned.
- Ethical Consumer replied with an acknowledgement that doubts about the CCC timescale should have been given more prominence, and that this would be done in future.
This web page shows the correspondence between Carbon Independent and Ethical Consumer since March 2023.
The correspondence relates to Ethical Consumer's 2022 Climate Gap report , and the assessment  by Carbon Independent that the Climate Gap report contradicts the IPCC regarding the urgency of climate action, and so should be withdrawn.
The correspondence is shown in reverse date order.
Email to Ethical Consumer from Carbon Independent (15 Jul 2023)Dear [Ethical Consumer],
Thank you very much.
I've added your response to the web page of correspondence at https://www.carbonindependent.org/161.html.
I've also annotated the assessment at https://www.carbonindependent.org/158.html that it has been discussed with Ethical Consumer Magazine, and, as a result, changes will be made to the 2023 Climate Gap report - and I've similarly annotated the summary at https://www.carbonindependent.org/154.html.
Email from Ethical Consumer to Carbon Independent (3 Jul 2023)Hello again,
We've just had a meeting about starting up the research for this year's Climate Gap report due to be published in October, so I am able to update you on our response to your criticisms.
We are grateful for your push to improve the way we present information on this crucial topic.
Although we did list problems with the CCC scenario in the 2021 Climate Gap report, and state in our web article introducing the 2022 report that "it does not cut fast enough", we should have repeated the detail in the 2022 report rather than just referring people back to the 2021 report. We will include more detail in the 2023 report.
The opening sentence of the web article introducing the 2022 report was that 'We are not on track to meet international emissions reduction targets'. However, in 2023 we would also like to amend the key findings and scorecards in the report so that this message is much clearer,
and show how the UK government's targets compare to other interpretations of what the UK needs to do. As well as adding detail in writing we will explore showing this visually in the scorecards.
We also want to bring in more discussion of deeper transformations to society that many are saying are needed, questioning green growth and the ideology of growth itself.
Email from Ethical Consumer to Carbon Independent (2 May 2023)Hi Ian,
Rob is aware of your email, but we are quite stretched here so not able to always provide quick responses. We get a lot of enquiry emails on top of our many internal projects and core work so apologies.
We are interested in your criticisms and will be taking them into account while working on the next report later this year.
Email to Ethical Consumer from Carbon Independent (2 May 2023)Dear Rob,
I sent the email below to you on 30 March, but I have not received a reply.
If you have sent a reply, it must have gone astray, so please could you resend it.
If you have not replied, please could you tell me if you are intending to reply, and if so, when that is likely to be.
Email to Ethical Consumer from Carbon Independent (30 March 2023)Thank you Rob for your email.
I'm replying to your points and queries.
Re: We are well aware of the problems with the CCCs scenario and discussed them at length in the original 2021 report.
Yes, there was some discussion in the 2021 report, but it was inconclusive and the 2022 report makes no mention of any problems with the CCC timescale. In fact the 2022 report states that the CCC "has a plan for reductions across the whole UK economy in line with international agreements" — but the CCC plan is not in line with international agreements. In particular, it is not in line with the Paris Agreement.
Re: the extracts from Ethical Consumer's original 2021 Climate Gap report
Thank you for sending the extracts from the 2021 Ethical Consumer Climate Gap report, and for the invitation to comment. I have annotated the extracts with my comments at https://www.carbonindependent.org/159.html. I think the conclusion from the comments should be that the 2021 report contradicts the IPCC, and is seriously misleading regarding the urgency of climate action, and therefore that the Climate Gap reports should be withdrawn and rewritten. Please let me know about any errors, omissions or misjudgements in my comments or conclusion so that I can correct them.
Re: The simple fact was that there wasn't another decarbonisation plan for the UK economy that dealt with the issues we all know exist.
The lack of any other detailed plan is not a good reason to use the CCC's grossly inadequate plan as the basis of Ethical Consumer's assessment of UK Government action.
The chart shown is taken from the CUSP (University of Surrey) report at https://cusp.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/WP-29-Zero-Carbon-Sooner-update.pdf. The CCC timescale of emission cuts approximates to the linear decline in Option 1 — it can be seen to be grossly inadequate because the UK's per capita share of the CO2 budget for 1.5°C runs out *in 2025*. Instead of the CCC timescale, urgent radical cuts in emissions are needed to comply with our Paris commitments (Option 2). Further information on the calculations and other academic sources is at https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n2391.full?ijkey=Hz5kDxh4kFos8jz&keytype=ref and https://www.carbonindependent.org/33.html.
Re issues we all know exist: I don't know what issues you are referring to — my impression is that there is very little understanding of global and country CO2 budgets, or of the need for urgent radical climate action.
Re 1. Do you believe there is any role for individual action in decarbonising our economies?
Yes, I believe there is a crucial role for individual action, but I would not use the term "decarbonising our economies" since it potentially implies that no change is needed to economies apart from decarbonising them. Instead, I would say that there is an urgent need to radically transform our economies and ways of living to make them independent of fossil fuels, and comply with the UK's international commitments.
Re 2. If so, do you have a better detailed decarbonisation plan for the UK economy on which to measure progress?
No, the CCC's grossly inadequate plan is the only detailed plan available (as I understand it), but rather than endorsing it and using it as a basis for measuring progress, we should all have the courage to say that it is grossly inadequate, and to compare progress against the annual emission cuts of over 20% that the CUSP report (above) and other scientific reports show to be needed.
We also need to face up to why progress has been so poor, and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it is a failure of all of us to engage in an honest discussion of the scientific consensus on the climate and its implications (implicatory denial). Now is a good time for Ethical Consumer to transform its coverage of the climate emergency so that it is in line with the IPCC and with those groups that are already advocating urgent radical cuts in CO2 emissions (e.g. Climate Uncensored and Fridays for Future).
Re The CCC is also improving its own over time.
I'm not aware of any plans for the CCC to change its timescale of emission cuts.
Re 3. The current government is failing to even meet the unchallenging (and inadequate) targets of Parliament's own committee. Is it not a useful exercise to call it out for this failure whist calling for a better plan at the same time?"
Yes it would be a useful exercise to call out the Government's failure and call for a better plan, but that is not what the Climate Gap reports are doing. The 2022 report makes no reference to the CCC timescale of cuts being "controversial" (as suggested in the 2021 Climate Gap report) or "grossly inadequate" (as they should be judged). Instead, the 2022 report states the CCC "has a plan for reductions across the whole UK economy in line with international agreements" (section 1.2). This is a crucial error, which invalidates the whole report. This error means that judgements and recommendations in the Climate Gap reports are wrong. For example, the 2022 report judges the Government actions on transport to be "On target", but the actions are in fact very far from producing the 20% annual emission cuts needed. The Ethical Consumer recommendations on government action on aviation are "Halt airport expansion. Frequent-flyer levy; encourage efficiency gains; Aviation tax reform.", whereas, with the UK's CO2 budget running out in 2 years, leisure flying needs to stop immediately, and Ethical Consumer should have the courage to say so.
We have to remember how many lives are being wrecked by the continuing CO2 emissions, e.g. there are 2 billion people without access to clean water, and the number is increasing steadily with climate change. So it is vital that responsible organisations such as Ethical Consumer give clear and accurate information about the residual CO2 budget and the size and speed of emission cuts needed to meet our obligations.
4. Can you consider adding some of this detail to your webpage?
Yes, I have published the corresponce at https://www.carbonindependent.org/161.html. Please let me know if you are not happy with this.
I look forward to your reply.
Email from Ethical Consumer to Carbon Independent (14 March 2023)Hi Ian,
We are well aware of the problems with the CCCs scenario and discussed them at length in the original 2021 report.
We've attached an extract [see https://carbonindependent.org/files/Climate_Gap_extract.odt] which you can read and comment on if you like.
The simple fact was that there wasn't another decarbonisation plan for the UK economy that dealt with the issues we all know exist.
Can we ask
1. Do you believe their is any role for individual action in decarbonising our economies?
2. If so, do you have a better detailed decarbonisation plan for the UK economy on which to measure progress? We would happily benchmark against such a thing should it exist. At the time, there was talk about Leeds Uni issuing one but, to our knowledge, it has not yet appeared. The CCC is also improving its own over time.
3. The current government is failing to even meet the unchallenging (and inadequate) targets of Parliament's own committee. Is it not a useful exercise to call it out for this failure whist calling for a better plan at the same time?
4. Can you consider adding some of this detail to your webpage?
Email to Ethical Consumer from Carbon Independent (9 March 2023)Thanks ###,
but I note that you are recommending people read the Ethical Consumer Climate Gap report.
I feel that I have to point out that this report is not consistent with the scientific consensus as reported by the IPCC - see my assessment at https://www.carbonindependent.org/158.html. The fundamental problem with the report is that it endorses the UK Government's timescale of emission cuts, but this timescale is not consistent with the Paris Agreement commitment to 1.5degC. This means that the report is saying there is no climate emergency, and that gradual decarbonisation is fine. So the report needs to be withdrawn and rewritten.
Email from Ethical Consumer to subscribers (3 March 2023)Hi [recipient]
Welcome to our weekly email. I hope it finds you well.
We recently asked you to nominate and vote for the worst company of 2022.
It's clear from the vote that the climate is a key concern for readers.
Addressing your individual carbon impact is important but not, on its own, sufficient to make the required changes fast enough.
In our most recent Climate Gap report, we explore different fossil fuel campaigns and different steps you can take to support the transition towards renewable energy.
Read the Climate Gap Report https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/climate-gap-report.
Thank you for reading
|||Climate Gap Report 2022 (Oct 2022) https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/climate-gap-2022-report_0.pdf (accessed 22.2.23)|
|||Ethical Consumer Magazine: Climate denial (2023) https://www.carbonindependent.org/158.html|
First published: 21 Mar 2023
Last updated: 27 Sep 2023