What about level up, level down?

The Government’s Levelling Up Agenda has gained a lot of attention. However, Peter Nalder ponders on the need to look to Levelling Down on the issue of climate change.

What do I mean by that? Actually ‘levelling up’ is not just politician’s ’speak’. And actually ‘levelling down’ is about getting reductions in the Carbon Count (CC) - though CC also means ‘Climate Catastrophe’. Some things I have read recently have led me to poke about in stuff I know little about, so anything I write here may be hogwash. There may be bits of sense in it but if so, then others - not I - will have to tell you and me what actually might be done.

I’ll start with the CC levelling down. Here are some up-to-date numbers from yesterday’s newspaper:

What neat numbers those are! Those in the end column that is. Easy to remember and work with. To get from NOW to SAFE we have to move from 6 to 5. That’s subtract 1. Or reduce by 1/6. And 1/6 is just over 16%.  [ 1/6 and 16%    Two more similar and easy-to-remember numbers! ]

If every man-jack and every woman-jill of us suddenly reduced our carbon footprint by 16%, the future would be rosy rather than red-hot. The stupid word in that sentence is ‘suddenly’. I bet none of us could do that from one day to the next. It would take time because we would have to ‘take the trouble’. The other stupid thing about it is that the same 16% reduction would have to be achieved by every business, every council and every organisation as well. And governments too. I account each government, and perhaps each council as well, as a ‘disorganisation’ not an organisation! What are the chances?

That thing about ‘taking time’ is already talked about when governments set targets. They say things like, “We’ll do such-and-such by two thousand and 30, or 40, or 50, and then, by the way, consistently ignore or miss targets or do nothing much about achieving them. I’d better justify saying that just in case you don’t believe it. But if you believe it, you could skip reading this next bit and continue reading at the big X below.


  • Recent newspaper headline: ‘Rainforest destruction continues despite pledges made at Cop26’.
  • The British Government published this past January ‘Climate Change Risk Assessment’. It was based on the ‘Climate-change Assessment of UK Climate Risk’ (June 2021) which identified 61 risks. This January’s publication addressed 4 of those 61 risks. (source: British Wildlife magazine for Feb 2022)
  • “Friends of the Earth are taking the government to court over its ‘net zero’ strategy, arguing that its failure to set credible policies to tackle climate change is unlawful.” (source: British Wildlife magazine for Feb 2022)
  • Below I’ll include some examples that show what some other countries are doing. To compare with this country.

X     Taking Time  

By way of introduction let me offer a picture to your mind’s eye. You’re going for a walk. You see a post-and-rail fence going straight across your path. Such fences have equal distances between posts. There are some other walkers looking at the fence as well but they are looking at it from an oblique angle so they see it stretching away into the distance. Their brains may tell them the posts are all at equal distances but their eyes tell them the successive distances ‘get smaller’ the further away they are.

Back to how we are to move from NOW to SAFE and a question to consider. Do we do it by equal amounts each year (Your picture of the fence) or by successively less amounts each year (The other walkers’ picture of the fence)?

Here’s another ‘parable’. You want to win at Wimbledon some time in the future but at the moment you are not much of a tennis-player. So, of course, you embark upon training. After 1 year you can beat half your opponents; after 2 years, half of the remaining opponents; and so on. Do you agree that it’ll be getting harder and harder as the years pass to make progress towards your target? Surely beating the last few opponents is going to be much harder than beating the ‘half’ at the end of the first year? It’s what is sometimes called ‘The Law of Diminishing Returns’. All attempts to reach perfection in any and all endeavours get harder and harder like that. The goal of perfection in reaching SAFE is almost certainly like that too. Progress to perfection is likely to get harder and harder. It would be good if we could get about half-way in THIS year.

Even Harder

What if we don’t make a good start? Actually, what if we even do get started? Those numbers we started with included ‘Actual level now 6’ and that is what we NOW have to reduce from. But next year it might not be 6. It might be 7. Or more! It’s worth repeating: We’d better get started!


…to the Climate Catastrophe are always likely to be partial, not complete solutions. And they’re hard to find. Or are they? Let’s consider a few ideas from those other countries I mentioned above.

First, compare the British and New Zealand governments. We’ve seen above that 4 out of 61 risks were considered in the UK. I urge you, please, to go to the Guardian website and read the item ‘New Zealand reveals plans to prepare for the climate crisis’. It was written by Tess McClure in Auckland and appeared on 28th April 2022. It’s instructive to compare the two. One of them is at least forward-thinking. Were governments susceptible to shame there could be a partial solution to find here.

Second, consider https://tinyurl.com/mr34a254 which states that “On 29 February 2020, Luxembourg became the first country in the world to make all public transport in the country (buses, trams, and trains) free to use”. Is that an example of a partial solution to CC reduction? Probably.

Third is something that lies well outside my expertise and, I suspect, beyond my understanding. Referencing what has happened already in Chile, there’s an article in The Guardian (5th May 2022) to read:

https://tinyurl.com/yckjp6kk. The salient phrases in it are ‘Green Bonds’ and ‘hold the government to account’.

The difficulty in my head is that the words ‘Green’ and ‘Bonds’ re-call that other word ‘Greenwash’. This sort of thing: Get a volunteer to plant a tree and it’s OK to still dig peat. But thinking about it led me to consider the possibility of a link between levelling DOWN (the CC) and levelling UP (citizens’ well-being).

Is this idea just bonkers: What about if we measure the amount (eg the percentage) by which our Carbon Count goes down each year in comparison with the previous year? Suppose the answer came to 5%. Then 5% is the maximum the government is then allowed to use as the tax rate in that second year. That basic idea can be refined by adding ‘for those individuals, companies and organisations’ whose income is less than the median amount for each of those three categories’. I offer no proposals for above-the-median incomes.

A further refinement. If the CC rate went up instead of down, the tax-rate for the poorer half of the people would have to be negative! They’d be given what is usually taken! Then any pigs that might be flying would have to avoid the pies also up in the sky. But surely something like these ideas would be no more absurd than only looking at 4 out of 61 risks? What marks would you give this ‘new absurdity’ out of ten? And what marks out of 10 for the government’s absurd lack of achievements? Answers on a re-cycled postcard.