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Thousands of ‘climate campers’ will today descend on the City of London against a backdrop of media interest and speculation. Yet frustratingly it is likely that yet again the event will again slam emissions trading as a climate villain, rather than recognising it as a potentially powerful climate change solution. In attacking one of the only existing policies which has a measure of political consensus worldwide, we believe the organisers could be firing at the wrong target.

At Sandbag we’re well aware of the problems emissions trading faces both within the EU’s existing scheme, and proposed ones in the US and Australia. Our recent report EU ETS: S.O.S highlighted the evident flaws in the EU scheme and called for action to address them. But the main reason the policies are failing is because there has been insufficient engagement from civil society in calling for tighter caps. These and other improvements could very efficiently deliver the carbon cuts the world needs. The alternative of developing and implementing different policies would likely take many more years, years when we cannot wait. Global emissions need to peak before 2020 to stand a chance of keeping global temperatures from rising 2 degrees.

There’s no doubt that the mass mobilisation that climate camp achieves is hugely impressive, and it acts as a powerful reminder that more people now care about this topic. The protesters are a visible sign of the passion this topic now evokes and the coverage generated will help to raise public interest in the issue. But there is a danger that without positive and clear messages about how to actually tackle climate change, rather than negative messages focused on dismantling existing efforts, climate camp could become more about the spectacle it creates than the solutions it inspires. The question is, once the tents are dismantled, what will be the lasting legacy.

We will be doing our best to convert the pressure they generate into positive policy change and we hope some of the people present will join forces with us too. Certainly if everyone at climate camp called on the EU to toughen up carbon trading rather than scrapping it, the message might get through.