Two things I wish existed, and would want to make if had lawyer super powers

A friend of mine, Ed asked me this in a private Whatsapp group before tagging me on twitter with this message:

Two things I wished existed

A “Green Oak” Software License

Anything to discourage the use of open source software and services to support the extraction of fossil fuels would be good.

We’ve seen previously that one of the key things stopping fuel and natural gas so far has been the difficulty in raising finance, or getting insurance on new fossil fuel projects. See this thread for more:

So, I think we should make it riskier and more expensive to use open source software to support fossil fuel extraction.

Maybe a thing like a “Green Oak License” – i.e. along the lines of the Blue Oak Model License, but with explicit language about use in the extraction of fossil fuels being forbidden.

If this exists in a sensible form, then it becomes possible to have a conversation about what people building software are comfortable with it being used for, and ideally, for us, as grown up professionals, take more responsibility in how the things we might make are used.

As tech grows up, so must we, and if we say software is eating the world, then maybe this new world should have a different aesthetic, where it’s just not cool to have anything to do with extracting fossil fuels, when the science if so overwhelming, and when we need investment that is going into fossil fuels to go into things like drawing down carbon, or transitioning our economy away from them.

Model policy language for procurement for purchasing to be in-line with net-zero targets

The second thing would be some model language to use in procurement, to basically say:

“this big purchase we make needs to be inline with net-zero targets”

I don’t know what it might be, but creating an incentive that people either can’t complain about being non-competitive, or that people can use to force a conversation in places where a climate emergency has been declared to give these declarations some teeth would be helpful in my view.

Maybe it’s a specific thing to ask for to show this, like a verifiable commitment, the way the WCAG guidelines forced accessibility to be a thing in public sector. You can see precedents set where NYC public schools forced Amazon kindle to be more accessible, which has now ended up creating norms for private sector too, like in the case where a blind man has successfully sued Domino’s Pizza for building an inaccessible site.

Why I think this would help

I say this because I understand more than 50% of UK councils to have declared a climate emergency now.

But without any mechanism to act upon this declaration, I worry that it’s just a feel good gesture, and any momentum from doing it will be lost.

If there’s some legal basis to back up the science, which we all seem be ignoring, at least it can lead to a conversation along the lines of:

“OK, what does acting as if there was a climate emergency look like?”.

The goal here isn’t to penalise people for declaring a climate emergency, but instead to create the legal mechanism to allow the people pushing for it, to push for action, rather than being fobbed off with a response like “we already declared it, we’re done!”.

The people campaigning for things like emergency declarations shouldn’t need to be policy experts or technocrats, but their reasonable wishes of keeping a world safe for their and their friends children should be respected.

I’ve been working with a friend, James Gardner to sketch out some ideas along the lines of a “ten tonne rule”. I’m hoping these two sentences on how to use will outline the idea behind the ten tonne rule:

If any spend will cause more than 10 tonnes of CO2 emissions, rank bids by CO2 emitted over length of the contract.

Suppliers show the workings for their CO2 figures in bids. Favour the lowest.

James has written some more on his site.