12 March 2020

Douglas Macdonald (writing about Canada, but with equal applicability in Australia): “To achieve any goal, we set targets and then measure our progress in achieving them. Simply saying, ‘I want to lose some weight’ is much less useful than adopting a specific goal, such as losing four pounds a month for six months. If at the end of the first month I have only lost two pounds, I can make further changes to our diet and so keep on track. … Surely, [governments] can do the same thing. We can set targets, such as those for 2030 and 2050, monitor emissions and then, as necessary, change our reduction programs to be sure the targets are met. … While successive governments may have thought they were using targets as part of a rational planning process, in fact the targets were distracting attention from our failure to make any progress at all in reducing emissions. When governments monitored progress towards emissions targets and found they were going to miss a target, they did not introduce additional reduction programs (change their diet). Instead, they set another target! Should I have this extra piece of chocolate cake? Yes, of course, but first I have to change my target. Next month, I will lose five pounds instead of just four pounds — which means I can have this delicious piece of cake today. … Instead of gazing off to the distant future, [government] needs to look hard at what can be done today.”