Tag Archives: UN Climate talks

Corporate takeover of UN Climate Conference

Note: The following cross-post is from the March 2012 newsletter, published in London, England  from our friends at the Environmental Network for Central America (ENCA).  I have known ENCA contacts and activists Nick Rau and Sheila Amoo-gottried for over a decade now and they have graciously put me up in their homes a few times in London.  Martin Mowforth, from the School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences at Plymouth University has been sending me the ENCA newsletter for more years than I can remember.  I always am grateful to see it arrive.

I received this edition last evening, opened it immediately and was quite surprised to see the following piece written by ENCA’s Barney Thompson.  I smiled when I read the paragraph that begins, “With a similar outlook to ENCA, GJEP highlights the intertwined root causes of social injustice, ecological destruction and economic domination…”  We’re very honored to be considered in the same vein as ENCA, and appreciate the coverage we receive in the following post.

Thanks to ENCA for all of their amazing work in Central America and the service they provide by supporting the people who live in that region and for getting the word out to the rest of the world.

¡La lucha sigue!

-Orin Langelle for the GJEP Team

This short article is a summary of the Global Justice Ecology Project Press Release (13 December 2011) ‘GJEP Direct Action and Climate Justice at the UN Climate Talks’, GJEP, Hinesburg, USA.

Summary by ENCA member Barney Thompson

Frustrated by the lack of any significant progress at the recent UN Climate Conference in South Africa, the US based NGO Global Justice Ecology Project (GJEP) took direct action alongside hundreds of African youth activists and civil society representatives. On the final day of the conference they staged a sit-in in the convention centre halls which resulted in arrest, ‘debadging’ and ejection from the event. They were one of the very few organisations there to take any such direct action in protest at the corporate takeover and the dominance of empty rhetoric over binding action that has now become the norm at the UN climate talks.

GJEP is removed by UN security during sit-in occupation Photo: Ben Powless

With a similar outlook to ENCA, GJEP highlights the intertwined root causes of social injustice, ecological destruction and economic domination. They work to build bridges between social and environmental justice groups (including those in Central America) to strengthen their collective efforts. In Durban, GJEP raised awareness of the messages of such climate justice experts and front line community representatives by connecting them with major international media outlets for interviews as well as delivering press releases and conferences. Included in the speakers was Friends of the Earth El Salvador’s Ricardo Navarro, also a friend of ENCA. They also participated in a march for climate justice attended by tens of thousands of people before then deciding in frustration to take more direct action.

GJEP’s Executive Director Anne Petermann was one of those arrested and she released the following statement:

“I took this action today because I believe this process is corrupt, this process is bankrupt, and this process is controlled by the One percent. If meaningful action on climate change is to happen, it will need to happen from the bottom up. The action I took today was to remind us all of the power of taking action into our own hands. With the failure of states to provide human leadership, and the corporate capture of the United Nations process, direct action by the ninety-nine percent is the only avenue we have left.”

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, UNFCCC

Assaulted photographer accuses UN of cover-up

Note: Global Justice Ecology Project board chair and photojournalist Orin Langelle is continuing his pursual of justice and accountability from the UN regarding the irresponsible actions of their security guards during the climate convention in Durban, South Africa.  UN security have been reacting to journalists and civil society observers in increasingly hostile ways, and Langelle is intent on holding them accountable so that the UN repression of the truth will not continue.

For more background please see Orin Langelle’s Formal Complaint Against UN Security and the response Langelle received from John Hay, UN Media Relations Officer UN denies security used undue force when smashing camera into photographer’s face] -The GJEP Team

7 February 2012

John Hay, Media Relations Officer

c/o Elke Hoekstra [email protected], Staff Assistant, Communications & Knowledge Management

United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change

Martin-Luther-King-Strasse 8-53175 Bonn-Germany

Cc: [email protected]

Dear Mr. Hay,

By now you have received an official statement from Kevin Buckland, a witness to the scene I described in my official complaint on 16 December 2011.  As you can see from Mr. Buckland’s letter, he confirms that undue force was used on me during the incident in which an unidentified UN security guard smashed my camera into my face without a warning.  He is not the only witness.

I received an email last night from another witness to the event who said,  “I followed Kevin [Buckland] and the security guard with a flip-cam, videoing from behind and to the side, then moving to about a ‘3 oclock’ position to them to get a better face shot.  At this point the security guard saw me, made a 90 degree turn, strode over and literally had to yank it out of my hand, because I said ‘you’ve given me no warning’ and held tight to the camera.  After grabbing it and beginning to walk away, I pointed out that other folks were also photographing and videoing- so why the random application of this rule?  … said guard immediately stopped, scanned around, then bee-lined for [another witness], grabbed his camera, and then turned back towards the security/UN station/room…Yes, they erased the video of the incident, and I believe erased [the other person’s] as well.”

I will continue to pursue this matter as your response on 2 February 2012 to my official complaint is unacceptable and is devoid of the facts despite your investigation. How did you conduct the investigation? How did you come to the conclusion that undue force was not used on me?  Who provided the information to you regarding the incident in question?

Facts are facts and it is my duty as a journalist to report the truth.  What is occurring now is a concealment of those facts by either yourself or the investigators of the incident, or is false testimony by UN security.

Whoever is responsible, it is clear that the United Nations is officially and explicitly engaged in a cover-up.

I formally request further action on this matter.

Furthermore, how do I file official charges of the assault by a member of the UN security that could have resulted in great bodily harm to me?

This is a very serious matter that concerns not only me, but all journalists and people who believe in the right to document and report the truth.

I find your response an insult to me and to all that seek justice.

Sincerely,

Orin Langelle

International Federation of Journalists                          Card Nr.  U S 1198

National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)  ID#83303

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Filed under Climate Change, Independent Media, Media

Another witness of UN security violence to photographer during Durban Climate Convention

Note:  This official statement below, from Kevin Buckland, was sent to the UN today regarding Orin Langelle’s Formal Complaint Against UN Security and the response Langelle received from the UN’s John Hay, UN Media Relations Officer.  [See the response from the UN that Climate Connections posted last Friday: UN denies security used undue force when smashing camera into photographer’s face]  Langelle was on assignment for Z Magazine and he is also the board chair for Global Justice Ecology Project. We will continue to keep you posted as things develop.-The GJEP Team

To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing to submit an official statement regarding an act of violence that occurred inside the ICC on December 8th, 2011 in Durban, South Africa by a member of the UNFCCC  Security. As mentioned in the official complaint filed by Orin Langelle, I was being escorted by security after giving an interview wearing a traditional clown costume (at this moment, I will not raise question as to the legitimacy of this expulsion). Upon descending a staircase, a reporter, Orin Langelle, began to loudly question the security officer asking (I do not recall the exact wording): “Is this man being expelled from the conference? What rules have been broken? Are you arresting him?” At which point the security officer very quickly approached Mr. Langelle and grabbed the front of the lens of his camera covering it so he could not photograph. The officer did not attempt to remove the camera from Mr. Langelle, but instead decided to very aggressively physically pushed the camera into his face. Mr. Langelle was notably distraught after such an unwarranted act of violence. In the next 30 meters, from the bottom of the stairs to the security office, the same officer aggressively but nonviolently confiscated two more cameras of two other conference attendants who began to photograph the incident. The officer did give a warning to one of the photographers who was photographing immediately before taking his camera, but no warning was given to Mr. Langelle or the other photographer. The officer arrived to the security office with no less than 3 cameras he had confiscated (these were shortly returned).

As I was being informed of my expulsion from the conference. I commented to UNFCCC official Warren Waetford on the surprisingly aggressive attitude of the officer – considering there was absolutely no aggression besides his own. (I had been walking calmly behind him as I am sure he will acknowledge.) I recommended to Mr. Waetford that this unprovoked act of aggression be addressed, and would like to reiterate that recommendation now to the UNFCCC secretariat, and formally.

I also asked why any security officer had the right to confiscate cameras at will, and was informed that UNFCCC Security Officers have the right not to be photographed, but are required to ask photographers to stop photographing, and only if the photographer refused could the officer confiscate their cameras. In the case of Mr. Langelle and another unnamed photographer, no warning was given.

Finally, I would like to comment on the official response issued by the UN regarding this incident. It stated: “Our investigations indicate that it was necessary to clear a passage within the conference center that was being obstructed, in the interest of the safety of all participants and in the interest of the smooth operation of the conference.  At no time was undue force applied in the exercise.” I would like to attest, as a witness to the incident, that this official statement is not true. If this statement derives from testaments by the arresting officer, then he has then both committed an act of violence and lied. No passage was blocked. It was the Security Guard who first approached Mr. Langelle because of his loud questioning, straying from the most direct path to the security office, and without any verbal warnings violently and aggressively took his camera. Undue force was very clearly applied.

I believe this incident should call into question the UNFCCC’s prohibition on documentation of its own security forces. As this case demonstrates – a clear violation both of the policy of giving warnings before confiscation of cameras, as well as an unwarranted act of violence, occurred. If we are denied even the freedom of press to protect ourselves against violence by armed officials inside a space under the jurisdiction of the United Nations, then the UN itself is complicit in the tyranny it was founded to confront.

Sincerely,

Kevin Buckland

Barcelona, Spain

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Filed under Climate Change, Independent Media, Political Repression, UNFCCC

UN denies security used undue force when smashing camera into photographer’s face

Admit clown involved in incident

Official UN response below

Note:  The controversy regarding the incident of an unidentified UN security officer assaulting accredited photographer Orin Langelle with his own camera continues.  As you will see in the official response from UN Media Relations Officer John Hay below, the UN is engaging in the same sort of coverup we have seen from the city of Oakland and elsewhere, where security forces have reacted violently to nonviolent protesters or journalists.

It reflects what we at GJEP have asserted in the past and continue to.  The UN is controlled by the corporate elite–the 1%–and do not want unruly protesters or independent journalists interfering in their attempt to snow the global public into thinking they are addressing the climate crisis.  They are not.  The are laying the groundwork for enhanced corporate profit at the expense of the rest of the planet.

This particular battle with the UN is not over.  We refuse to allow the UN’s repression of journalists to go unchallenged–especially when the UN insists that they “are keen to facilitate media reporting …[and]… to treat all participants with respect.”

Walking up to a photographer, grabbing his camera and shoving it into his face is an odd way to demonstrate “respect.”

-Anne Petermann for the GJEP Team

For a description of the incident and the UN’s “facilitation of media reporting,” go to: Addendum: Formal Complaint Filed Against UN Security Actions in Durban

Official Response from the UN Climate Change Secretariat

Date: 2 February, 2012

Dear Mr. Langelle,

Apologies for the late reply.  We take any allegations of undue use of force on the part of UN security staff seriously.  After undertaking a thorough investigation, we are unable to confirm that there was at any time undue use of force by UN security personnel directed against members of the media in Durban.

We have been made aware of an incident involving a participant dressed up as a clown; an incident which you have also mentioned.  Our investigations indicate that it was necessary to clear a passage within the conference center that was being obstructed, in the interest of the safety of all participants and in the interest of the smooth operation of the conference.  At no time was undue force applied in the exercise.

It is not the policy of the UN Climate Change Secretariat to obstruct the reporting of journalists in any way.  On the contrary, the secretariat is keen to facilitate media reporting in the designated public spaces, as long as safety concerns are respected.  And it is the policy UN security to treat all participants with respect and not to apply undue force in the dischare of their functions.

We continue to take any such allegations seriously, and thank you for your letter.

Yours sincerely,

John Hay

Media Relations Officer

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, Political Repression, UNFCCC

UN Climate Conference: The Durban Disaster

By Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle

Cross-Posted from Z Magazine, February 2012

During the march against the Conference of Polluters. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

This year’s UN Climate Conference of the Parties (COP-17) inDurban, South Africa, nicknamed “The Durban Disaster,” took the dismalt track record of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to new lows. At one point, it appeared that the talks might actually collapse, but a small cabal of 20-30 countries held exclusive closed-door talks over the final days to create the Durban Platform, which carbon analyst Matteo Mazzoni described as “an agreement between parties to arrange another agreement.”

The details of the platform will not be completed until 2015 and will not be implemented until 2020, leading many to charge that the 2010s will be the lost decade in the fight to stop climate catastrophe. Pablo Solón, the former Ambassador to the UN for the Plurinational state of Bolivia, summed up the negotiations this way: “The Climate Change Conference ended two days later than expected, adopting a set of decisions that were known only a few hours before their adoption. Some decisions were not even complete at the moment of their consideration. Paragraphs were missing and some delegations didn’t even have copies of these drafts. The package of decisions was released by the South African presidency with the ultimatum, ‘Take it or leave it’.”

Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International, similarly condemned the outcomes: “An increase in global temperatures of four degrees Celsius permitted under this plan is a death sentence forAfrica, small island states, and the poor and vulnerable worldwide. This summit has amplified climate apartheid whereby the richest 1 percent of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%percent.”

Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the North America-based Indigenous Environmental Network, went even further, calling the outcome, “climate racism, ecocide, and genocide of an unprecedented scale.”

The UN, on the other hand, trumpeted the success of the conference at “saving tomorrow, today.” One of the great achievements touted by Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, was the renewed commitment to the Kyoto Protocol (KP):  “…countries, citizens, and businesses who have been behind the rising global wave of climate action can now push ahead confidently, knowing that Durban has lit up a broader highway to a low-emission, climate resilient future.”

To read the entire article, please visit the Z Magazine website

To view Orin Langelle’s Photo essays from Durban, go to:

Photo Essay: Global Day of Action Against UN Conference of Polluters (COP) in Durban

Photo Essay: UN Climate COP: Corporate Exhibitionism (parting shots)

To read the associated blog post by Anne Petermann, go to:  Showdown at the Durban Disaster, Challenging the Big Green Patriarchy

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, Posts from Anne Petermann, REDD, UNFCCC

Second Attempt: Formal Complaint Filed Against UN Security Actions in Durban

Hand of the unidentified UN security guard smashing my camera into my face because I took a photograph of him escorting a UN accredited delegate dressed as a clown out of the UN compound after the clown spoke at a press conference and was being interviewed by media. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Note: On 16 December 2011 I filed a Formal Complaint Filed Against UN Security Actions in Durban, South Africa during the UN climate talks held there; specifically about an incident regarding  an unidentified uniformed officer. The officer shoved my camera into my face to prevent me from documenting the detention and expulsion of a UN-accredited delegate that occurred on 8 December 2011.  I was covering the UN climate talks and was officially accredited by the UN as media on assignment for Z Magazine.On 20 December 2011 I received an email from Elke Hoekstra, UN Communications and Knowledge Management, stating that my complaint was received and “We will look into this matter and come back to you in due course.” Today I contacted Ms Hoekstra via an email below.  Orin Langelle

Dear Ms Hoekstra,

On 16 December 2011 I lodged a formal complaint against the UNFCCC for the treatment I received from one unidentified uniformed officer just after noon on 8 December 2011 during COP 17 in Durban, South Africa.  I was officially accredited by the UNFCCC during COP 17 as media.  I was on assignment for Z Magazine.

On 20 December 2011 you replied to that complaint, “We will look into this matter and come back to you in due course.”

It has now been over a month since I filed my complaint and I feel that the UNFCCC has not responded to me in “due course.”

Please take notice, that I am contacting my attorney in regards to filing a legal charge of assault against the unidentified uniformed officer.

I would hope that the UNFCCC takes this matter seriously now and responds immediately to my complaint.

Sincerely,

Orin Langelle

Langelle Photo

P.O. Box  412  Hinesburg, VT  05461  U.S.  GMT -5:00

Member of the National Writers Union and the International Federation of Journalists

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, UNFCCC

KPFK Sojourner Truth Show Special One Hour Reportback from Durban Climate Talks Thursday (19 Jan.)

Tune in to KPFK Los Angeles’ Sojourner Truth show Thursday morning (19 January) at 7am Pacific US, 10am Eastern US and GMT-8 to listen to a special hour-long reportback from the UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa plus the latest on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Also, what is the state of the environmental movement and what is the way forward. 

Guests on the show will include:

• Pablo Solón, former Ambassador to the UN for the Plurinational State of Bolivia

• Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network

• Teresa Almaguer, Youth Program Director, PODER!, a member of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

• Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

The host of the Sojourner Truth show is Margaret Prescod.

To listen to the show live, go to: http://www.kpfk.org/listen-live.html

To listen to the archived show after the broadcast is over, go to: http://archive.kpfk.org/ and click on the “Sojourner Truth show” from Thursday, 19 January.

Global Justice Ecology Project and the Sojourner Truth show partner each week for an Earth Minute every Tuesday and an Environmental Segment every Thursday.

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Filed under Carbon Trading, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Tar Sands, UNFCCC

Tracking the World Bank at COP17

Note: GEAR (Global Economic Accountability Research) is a fiscally sponsored project of Global Justice Ecology Project and Keith Brunner, author of the piece below, is once of our Research Associates.  Keith was also the person, along with GJEP ED Anne Petermann, who got hauled out by UN security from the UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa last month for occupying the hallway outside of the main plenary and refusing to leave.

–The GJEP Team

By Keith Brunner

Cross-Posted from GEAR

In addition to following the ongoing development of the Green Climate Fund in Durban, I also took the time to attend a number of World Bank organized side events focused on climate finance and investment.  As well as funding massive fossil fuel intensive projects- such as last year’s three and a half billion dollar loan to build one of the planet’s largest coal-fired power plant complexes in South Africa (ironic, no?)- the World Bank has been ramping up its portfolio of “Climate Investment Funds” and is jockeying for leadership roles in most of the aspects of the UN climate change proceedings.

So: is the World Bank really turning over a new clean, green leaf, ready to help the world’s poor contend with the climate chaos caused by the same fossil fuel-intensive development patterns which the Bank has championed?  Hardly.  Instead, under the leadership of President Robert Zoellick, a former head honcho at Goldman Sachs, the Bank is moving at full speed towards laying the groundwork for a colossal new financial services sector based in environmental products, while using the UN process as a legitimizing cover.  This brilliant scheme (note that all the environmental market initiatives are called “schemes”) will simultaneously provide a new investment frontier for the pools of stagnant capital controlled by the 1% in this slumping world-economy, as well as provide an offsets-based shell game which allows the planet’s biggest polluters to continue with business-as-usual, while giving the appearance that they’re “going green.”

Potentially the most interesting part of tracking the Bank was observing how it functioned in partnership with the US negotiators, and in fact seemed to be generating the policy language which Todd Stern and Jonathan Pershing (the US reps) would later echo impeccably.  Repeat after me: “Private sector engagement…public sector finance as guarantor of private sector loans…catalyzing investment…markets, markets, markets.”  It was essentially like watching a game of telephone, as other government delegations would parrot the US/World Bank line, with mainstream NGO’s such as World Wildlife Foundation following suit like puppies eager to please.

Climate Investment Fun with the World Bank

The first event I attended at COP17 was the launching of a new Climate Investment Fund (CIF).  As of 2011, the World Bank’s Carbon Finance Unit hosts 15 of these funds, which taken together are capitalized to the tune of $2.3 billion USD1.

The Carbon Initiative for Development, or the “Ci-Dev Fund”, was launched in Durban with the goal of helping “the least-developed countries access financing for low-carbon investments and enable them to tap into carbon markets after 2012… [t]he Bank wants to ensure that its suite of financial instruments, including private sources of capital via carbon markets, is accessible to all country clients so they can invest in their sustainable development2.”

The key words here are “financial instruments” and “private sources of capital via carbon markets.”  The Ci-Dev fund exists to fast-track the generation of carbon offset credits from projects as cook stoves in Africa, and household biogas systems in Nepal.  These offset credits will then be sold on international carbon markets, and can be purchased by polluting firms eager to meet emissions targets without actually changing their high-polluting behavior.

So the claim that Ci-Dev finance will aid in “sustainable development” is a wee bit of a misnomer- for how can development be ‘sustainable’ if it is de facto allowing for the continued frying of the planet, with the poorest and most marginalized regions to be hit the hardest?

Let’s say it: Se-ques-tra-tion

Another set of World Bank side events which I had the pleasure of attending at COP17 dealt with what the Bank calls ‘Climate Smart Agriculture.’  As with forest carbon initiatives such as the controversial Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) UN program, ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’ is just a recognition that good agro-ecological practices can actually sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and store it semi-permanently in the soil.  This is precisely what the global federation of peasant farmers La Via Campesina has been saying for years, with their slogan “Small farmers (Campesinos) cool the planet.”

However, while Via Campesina sees in this another reason to protect the land, food, and other rights of peasant farmers worldwide, the World Bank sees an immense new investment frontier, through the creation of agriculture-based carbon offsets which can be bought and sold on global markets.

The Bank led an all-out push to get agriculture included under the UNFCCC’s carbon mitigation proceedings, building momentum for the decision by hosting agriculture-focused panels which featured UN dignitaries, finance and agricultural ministers, and of course, the ubiquitous private sector representatives.  Thanks partly to heavy organizing and a letter signed by over 100 civil society organizations from Africa and around the world calling for the UN to reject efforts to consider agricultural soils within carbon markets, it didn’t happen.  At least, not yet.  In the Durban Platform outcome from COP17, agriculture is found not under markets-focused mitigation, but under the Scientific and Technical body, a relative backwater.  We’ll see if this moves forward at COP18

The delay is good news, considering how the inclusion of soil carbon into offset markets has played out so far.  During the question and answer session at the launch of the Bank’s third ‘tranche’ of its BioCarbon Fund (which finances soil and forest-based initiatives), a young woman spoke up who had worked for a Bank-funded soil carbon project in Kenya.  She explained that the mostly women farmers who were a part of this project are set to make between 1$ and $5 per year, with the rest of the money going to project developers and consultants.  A representative from CARE International working in Africa piped up and said that they are facing soil carbon projects where the financial break-even point for the farmers won’t be reached for 10 years.

One Big Happy Family

Celebrating one year in operation for its Partnership for Market Readiness, the World Bank hosted a panel discussion which included finance ministers from Mexico, Brazil, Denmark, and South Africa.  Connie Hedegaard, the European Union’s Commissioner for Climate Action, opened the panel:

“[The Partnership for Market Readiness] brings together developed and developing countries with a shared interest to further the development of the next generation of multilateral carbon market mechanisms…We need to succeed in developing functioning new market mechanisms at the multilateral level.  The alternative will be a world of fragmented crediting mechanisms and a multitude of carbon currencies that would move us away from a seamless international carbon market with a single carbon price.”

After reflecting on the new market initiatives announced in the past year by California, China, Denmark, and Australia, Hedegaard concluded “So, the good news is the carbon market family is definitely growing.”

Here’s where the interesting part comes in- the carbon price, in actuality, has collapsed.   So is it good news that more countries are headed down this policy cul de sac?

Over the past year, the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)- the largest carbon market on the planet- has seen its carbon price lose over half its value, currently trading at about 7 Euros per tonne of CO2.  The carbon price in the UNFCCC’s Clean Development Mechanism, which generates carbon offset credits that are accepted in the EU ETS, has fallen to under 4 Euros/tonne.  Economically speaking, at this price, there is zero incentive for polluting firms to invest in low-carbon technologies.  At this price the market is useless- a playground for speculators.

In fact, this June Andrew Steer, the World Bank’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, was quoted in the Guardian saying: “The [carbon] market is failing us.  It has done very good things in the past but is not delivering what we feel is necessary.”  And in August (when the price was even higher than it is now!), Reuters proclaimed carbon to be the “world’s worst performing commodity.”

This was the elephant in the room at all of these World Bank events.  The panelists danced around it, making references to the “too-low carbon price” (Hedegaard) and fluctuating markets, yadda yadda.  But when confronted with the basic reality that the planet’s future is being handed over to jumpy Wall Street traders and unstable and untested financial schemes, the room would get silent.

“I’ve been waiting for someone to ask that question,” was the measured response Rachel Kyte, VP of Sustainable Development at the World Bank, gave to a query about the carbon price and long-term viability of carbon markets.  Responding to my question about when the Bank saw the “carbon market bubble bursting,” the Mexican undersecretary at the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources chuckled and leaned forward to speak into the mic: “It already popped.”

Forging ahead, armed with ideology…and nothing much more

I spent my afternoon one Wednesday at a presentation which reviewed the recent World Bank publication, prepared at the request of G20 Finance Ministers, entitled “Mobilizing Sources of Climate Finance.”  Featuring an all-star cast of representatives from the French Finance ministry, the US Treasury Department, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, panelists discussed different methods of finance generation and emissions pricing instruments.

In the Question and Answer segment, I raised the point that the documents we’d been handed by the IMF, as well as the majority of the comments made by the presenters, claimed that there was no real difference between a carbon tax or emissions trading.  As I pointed out, experience shows otherwise.  Each of the presentations had acknowledged the major difficulties faced by emissions trading schemes, but then went on to advocate for the expansion of these complex schemes, equating them with a simple tax levied on carbon dioxide emissions.

The IMF rep took my question, and proceeded to lay out three detailed arguments of why a carbon tax is far more simple to implement, and more effective in bringing about structural changes than an emissions trading scheme.  He was nonchalant, and it was clear that this was his personal opinion, having been engaged in policy-making and having studied the matter.  But this contrasted with the “official line” we’d been fed only ten minutes earlier.  What gives?

What was clearly left out was mention that a carbon tax goes against the ‘official religion’ of the IMF or the World Bank, and increasingly, the United Nations environmental agencies.  Favoring the deregulation of business and financial activity, the opening up of borders to international trade, and the removal of ‘market-distorting’ subsidies (for housing, agriculture, or food, for example), neo-liberal economic policy and corporate globalization has been the dominant policy package of capitalism for over two decades, enforced through supra-national  entities like the World Trade Organization, the IMF, and the World Bank.  Through this lens of ‘market fundamentalism,’ any kind of tax is immediately seen as creating ‘market distortions,’ which will presumably cause the ghosts of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman to rise from the dead, not to mention those of Ronald Reagan and Margaret “There Is No Alternative” Thatcher, who were essential in implementing neoliberal policies in the 80′s in their home countries and abroad.

So, Question: How does the neoliberal economic religion approach the climate crisis, which has been dubbed “the greatest market failure the world has seen” by one prominent economist?

The answer, of course, is to create more markets.  From the Emissions Trading Scheme, or “Cap and Trade” approach, which dices up our common atmosphere into a patchwork of invisible property rights (‘rights to pollute’), then hands them over for bargain deals- although most of the time, for free- to the biggest polluters on the planet, to the nascent markets in financial securities backed by ‘ecosystem services,’ the priests of the neoliberal religion are spinning out increasingly desperate ways to maintain business as usual, while building the facade that they’re ‘solving the climate crisis.’  It would be humorous if it wasn’t all so depressing.

So, by now, one can see what some of the implications of a World Bank-controlled Green Climate Fund could be.  I’ve only touched on one aspect of the ‘green’ investment schemes getting underway, which run the gamut from new and improved GMO trees and organisms, to geoengineering, agrofuels and nanotechnology, all the way to money for more good-old massive dams, mega wind farms, and super-sized solar arrays.  And, of course, we’ll be sending Haliburton to rebuild infrastructure after that next super-typhoon, financed though the GCF’s Private Sector Facility using ‘adaptation’ finance.

Luckily, there’s a growing movement against the Bank’s involvement in global ecological finance and policy, information around which can be found here: www.worldbankoutofclimate.org.  As we move towards Rio+20, this issue will certainly gain more traction and energy.  Occupy the World Bank?

1.  www.carbonfinance.org

2.http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:23062384~pagePK:64257043~piPK:437376~theSitePK:4607,00.html

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, REDD, UNFCCC, World Bank