There are ambitious new goals in the US and UK. But governments also need to decarbonise the economy and rethink how it’s planned
Last week was a critical time in the global response to the climate emergency: the US vowed to cut its emissions by at least 50% by 2030, while the UK government committed to reducing emissions by 78% by 2035, relative to a 1990 baseline. Both announcements were important steps that reflected the significance of one particular tool in climate governance: the target. From the legally binding targets in the UK’s Climate Change Act (2008) to those of the 2015 Paris agreement, targets define a sense of direction and signpost of ambition. Alone, however, targets are not enough. We need more than just targets to transition to a post-carbon future. We need planning.
Despite what free-market economists may suggest, markets are not “free”, nor do they emerge spontaneously. They are created and sustained by governments, laws and political institutions, which plan how they operate and whose interests they serve. What’s more, the global economy, far from being organised by the anarchy of competition, is itself structured by institutions with vast planning power. Targets may dominate the headlines, but it’s these institutions of planning that are central to the climate struggle.