In his ground-breaking book, The Ecology of Commerce, US businessman Paul Hawkin describes the head-butting dance between the "no rules get-out-of-my-way" desires of some in business and the "protect the commons" duty of elected governments, charged with the task of taking care of us all. Nowhere is this duty to manage more pressing than when considering the dangerous climate changes caused by man's pollution -- and what to do about it at Kyoto.
Hawkin argues that "protecting the commons" arose as a government function from the earliest days of trading in the common ground used by a community for market activities. Although some might want to gain advantage, say a sheep herder who wanted more grazing, the "government" had to manage the space so that it was available to all who wanted to use it. In this market commons, consumers could easily compare price and quality. This is what is happening in the few electricity markets where consumers are being given the choice to buy green power at a premium. Even in these early days of competitive markets and electricity choice, the message of green pricing to government leaders heading for Kyoto is clear: the people are prepared to pay for a cleaner world, even if big business is not.
The significance of green pricing is the importance of this political signal. It is not a panacea solution to electricity related pollution. Clean energy advocates must continue efforts to "level the playing field." To achieve this, the introduction of market mechanisms to encourage more use of renewable sources of energy and less use of fossil fuels is the probably the best method available. But for that to happen, binding targets for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions must be agreed and recalcitrant countries like Australia must be brought into line. It could still happen at Kyoto, if wind and its allies can keep the focus on the bottom line.