A ten percent cut in a year is drastic but if, as the IPCC warn us, global carbon emissions need to peak and be declining well within a decade then 10 percent this year is what we need to do.
The campaign was launched last September with much fanfare from The Guardian
The 10:10 project, which hopes to replicate the grassroots success of the Make Poverty History campaign, is led by Franny Armstrong, director of this year's eco-documentary The Age of Stupid.
Armstrong said: "After every screening of The Age of Stupid people came up to me and asked what they could do. I was saying very generic stuff and I thought we needed a better 'here's what you can do'. Hence 10:10."
As Corporate Watch noted, you could hardly call Make Poverty History either grassroots or successful. However, I think Corporate Watch are wrong in saying
we can all easily reduce our carbon footprints without it having to be a demand on or from government. Thus the campaign does not really add anything new. In fact, 10:10 diverts people from other tactics that are required, such as direct action at Copenhagen, by disseminating a false sense of security
Much of our carbon reduction has to be a demand on government if we are to make the cuts needed. Who is it who decides what new electricity generators get commissioned? Who is it who emits so much on our behalf in public services, and regulates the private sector? Without making our cuts also a call for government action we merely tinker at the edge of the problem.
By banding people's cuts together in a united front, 10:10 does actually add something new. It says a significant portion of society wants cuts to outstrip the government's paltry targets, and we are prepared to do what's needed. In doing this, we not only act for ourselves but we make it clear that making such cuts is not a vote-loser. We give the government license to be more stringent.
Furthermore, by reaching out and involving those outside the green and social justice movements, and even outside all political circles, it adds something else new. It not only normalises action on climate change but begins to make carbon profligacy socially unacceptable. This, in turn, creates a political landscape where direct action on the issue receives a warmer reception and becomes more likely to affect real change.
A couple of weeks ago The Guardian noted
Perhaps the most striking aspect of 10:10's rise has been the breadth of its appeal: Barnet Labour Group alongside the Cambridge University Conservative Association, the London Jewish Film festival alongside Islamic publishers MELS (as well as Quaker, Catholic and Hindu groups); comprehensives alongside the country's most famous public schools; Tottenham Hotspur next to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. As one NGO veteran put it: "10:10 is the first climate campaign to reach beyond the usual suspects."
But how can they all sign up so readily? And do so alongside some blatant climate criminals like Eon and EDF? Simple. Nobody involved really has to cut their emissions. All they do is self-certify.
Worse, corporate 10:10ers reportedly don't even claim a cut in carbon emissions but in carbon intensity, the new linguistic get out of jail free card used by high emitters to make increases sound like cuts.
THE FIRST CUT IS THE EASIEST
The Guardian had a piece on what we can do. Lots of stuff about using your car less, flying less, going vegan a few days a week. It's all low-hanging fruit. Don't know about you, but when the Guardian tells me that 'we buy 20kg or so of new clothes every year', they're not talking about me.
That first ten percent cut that 10:10 calls for is necessary and bold. It is also easy for anyone to do. By the time we get to the third, fourth and fifth batch of ten percent then it's cutting where we really feel it. At this point we start to justify all manner of luxuries simply because we want them. We feel that in making the first cuts we did our bit and now we don't need to do as much.
10:10 has already let signatories off the hook, saying businesses needn't cut anything like 10 percent if they don't want to.
In practice, 10:10 for companies means cutting at least 3% of your carbon emissions in a single year. We hope you will manage to do more but we recognise that many progressive companies that have made significant cuts already will find it hard to achieve further deep cuts
The campaign also does nothing to address another key aspect of perpetual economic growth; the invention of new needs. It refuses to consider whether an activity is entirely superfluous: supplying water is assessed the same as making remote control toilet flushes or being an arms manufacturer. Surely there are some activities that a sustainable society would cut to zero.
The concept of perpetual economic growth is so deeply embedded in our culture that we feel it cannot be challenged. So, even though it is the engine of climate change, 10:10 doesn't even need to be asked before giving it all the loopholes it wants.
There is certainly a need for a concerted, unified public effort on carbon emissions. Necessarily, it must be easy to sign up to, and it must include industrial and institutional cuts as well as individuals. In this, 10:10 has done a remarkable job in creating a groundswell. But, as we saw in Kyoto and Copenhagen, it doesn't matter who's signing up but what they're signing up to. If you bend your actions to be acceptable to the desires of the high-emitters, you won't come out with a meaningful result.
Regarding corporations, the drop from the campaign's headline 10 percent to 3 percent, the use of carbon intensity - a device to mask emission increases - and a total lack of auditing makes the claims of cuts meaningless. Yet we can be sure the thousands of businesses who've signed up will be using it as greenwash PR. Which will lead to greater sales and greater emissions.
This leaves 10:10 as effectively just another exhortation to change our personal consumption patterns. We can hope it has some positive knock-on effects - and there are signs that we'd be right to do so - but as it stands it is so self-enfeebled that, in itself, it is actually aiming to make no real difference.