Saturday, December 15, 2018

FRANCE reminds us: No ecological justice without social justice

I just thought: there is a caveat to my post saying that I am in favour of dictatorship with regard to measures against climate change: climate measures should be fair and not hit the poor more than the rich, or rather the reverse: they should hit the rich more than the poor. 

As a friend of mine said: "Macron's huge mistake was approaching the climate problem without any consideration for the social damage that decades of neoliberal austerity have caused to the living standards of the majority. Mitigating the coming climate catastrophe will require sacrifices from all, but they will only be accepatablle in a democracy if it's clear that the rich are sacrificing the most. That means that the funds for conversion to a sustainable economy need to come from wealth taxes that will reduce today's glaring inequalities and a restoration of the welfare guarantees that ordinary people have lost since 1980. If citizens see that happening, they will support the measures necessary to insure a future for their children.

As one of the French Green protesters said last weekend, ecological justice is inseparable from social justice."

More or less the same is said by the group of Piketty who drafted a Manifesto for change of policies in Europe. Its second paragraph states: 

"The new European governance that has consolidated over the past decade in the wake of the financial crisis is not only opaque and unaccountable as epitomized by the Eurogroup; it is also ideologically biased towards economic policies with an almost exclusive focus on financial and budgetary objectives. Unsurprisingly, Europe has proved unable to take up the challenges with which it is confronted: growing inequalities across the continent, the acceleration of global warming, the influx of refugees, structural public under-investment (most notably in universities and research), tax fraud and evasion…"

And the fourth paragraph of the Piketty Manifesto states: 

"To date, European integration has primarily benefited the most powerful and most mobile economic and financial agents: major multinationals, households with high incomes and large assets. Europe will only reconnect with its citizens if it proves it has the ability to bring about genuine European solidarity, by having the main beneficiaries of the globalization process fairly contribute to the financing of the public goods Europe desperately needs."

Friday, December 14, 2018

Climate Change: If climate scientists ruled the world

I just read an interesting article in the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit that tells what climate scientists would do when they ruled the world. I copy below the English version of this article, as published by Die Zeit. [The idea of climate scientist letting rule the world with respect to climate policies is what I proposed in a post on this blog of two years ago: On the environment I support dictatorship]

Climate Change: If climate scientists ruled the world

Abandon cars, reforest woodland, eat more veggies – what must humankind do immediately to stop global warming? This is what nine leading researchers told ZEIT ONLINE.

We can't go on like this. If the Earth warms up by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, the consequences will be serious and irreversible climate changes will be set in motion, as the latest special report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows. From Dec. 3-14, politicians and government representatives will once again discuss at a climate conference how the 1.5-degree target can be achieved.
We asked nine leading climate scientists to imagine if they were the sole ruler of the planet, what they would do to limit global warming if they could make a unilateral decision and didn't have to resort to negotiations, political wrangling or compromises. What immediate action would you take?

"A CO2 Tax Makes Technologies Such As Wind and Solar Power Competitive"

Brigitte Knopf is the secretary-general of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) in Berlin.

Brigitte Knopf, Secretary General of MCC © MCC

I would no longer let countries, companies and citizens emit carbon dioxide (CO2) for free and would instead immediately introduce a price of 50 euros for every ton of CO2 emitted. This would hold everyone responsible for the negative effects of fossil emissions, which include climate change, air pollution and health problems. A CO2 tax would have three effects: First, it punishes the consumption of coal, oil and gas according to their carbon content. Second, it makes CO2-free technologies such as wind or solar power competitive and drives new investments in that direction. Third, it generates revenues for governments, which I would redistribute on a per-capita basis. This would protect poorer households in particular from higher energy prices and ensure a just transition. MCC research shows that even a low price for CO2 could finance universal access to clean water and sanitation in many countries (Nature Climate Change: Jakob et al., 2015). This would make climate policy a success story.

"New Industrial Plants Should Be CO2-Free By 2025"

Niklas Höhne is the director of the New Climate Institute in Berlin and a professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Climate Change: Niklas Höhne is a founding partner of NewClimate Institute.
Niklas Höhne is a founding partner of NewClimate Institute. © Katja Inderka

To keep the climate at safe levels, global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to zero in all sectors and countries. This is why I would prescribe, that everything that is newly built should be emission-free. From now on, for example, only power plants that use renewable energies should be built, not new fossil fuel power plants. From the early 2020s, only electric cars or cars with other CO2-free engines should be sold. And new industrial plants should be carbon dioxide-free by 2025. The clear time horizon as of when only zero emission technology can be sold would drive the necessary innovation. In addition, I would implement a tax on greenhouse gas emissions to collect financial resources to compensate for potential negative social effects of this rapid transition, eg. in regions that are currently dependant on coal mining or use.  

The currently implemented climate policies with the highest impact follow this model even if initially implemented by only a few. For example, the first electric cars suitable for series production were developed because the U.S. state of California introduced a quota for zero-emission cars in the 1990s (CARB ZEV). With minimum quotas for the new registration of electric vehicles, China is also forcing car manufacturers to expand their product range, which will then be sold globally. Another example: Wind power, which was mainly subsidized in Germany, is now being used worldwide – even in countries that previously did not have  an interest in it before, such as China, India and Australia, due to their large coal reserves.

"All Countries Should Take Stock of the Damage"

Friederike Otto is the acting director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University in England.

Climate Change: Friederike Otto
Friederike Otto © Environmental Change Institute

Think of the forest fires in California in November of this year or on a less dramatic level the heatwave in Germany and the EU this summer. The methods available today allow us to attribute such events to human-induced climate change (Annual Review of Environment and Resources: Otto et al., 2017). At present, however, we simply have no idea about the damages and losses caused by climate change to date. It is difficult to solve a problem that is vague and often assumed to be a future problem only. All countries should therefore develop an inventory so that we can effectively see the costs of climate change. 

New Zealand has shown the way: Floods and droughts caused by man-made climate change currently cost around $120 million per decade (New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute and NIWA, 2018, PDF).  

Hermann Lotze-Campen is a professor of sustainable land use and climate change at Berlin's Humboldt University and chair of Research Area II "Climate Impact and Vulnerability" at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Climate Change: Hermann Lotze-Campen studied agriculture sciences.
Hermann Lotze-Campen studied agriculture sciences. © PIK/Karkow

About 25 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to food – especially meat products (Climate Change 2014: Smith et al., 2014). We should therefore all immediately adopt the "10 Guidelines of the German Nutrition Society (DGE) for a Wholesome Diet" – and nourish ourselves with a healthy mix of food that includes a high proportion of fruit and vegetables. This helps to prevent obesity and high blood pressure, it would slow global warming and it would significantly lower the nitrogen pollution in our groundwater. This is because most nitrogen is produced in agriculture to grow feed crops for animals or comes from animal manure (The European Nitrogen Assessment: Sutton et al., 2011). People in rich countries should reduce their meat consumption to 600 grams per week as soon as possible and to 300 grams per week later: For Germans, this would mean first cutting meat consumption in half and then reducing it to two or three small portions a week. At the same time, I would double the research funding for plant-based alternatives to meat.

"We Need Public Transport and Better Teleconferencing"

Gabriele Clarissa Hegerl is a professor of climate system sciences at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Climate Change: Gabriele Clarissa Hegerl
Gabriele Clarissa Hegerl © Privat

I would create reliable, fast and convenient public transport, so that short-haul flights are unnecessary and many more people can commute by public transport. Another very practical measure would be to improve teleconferencing. This could help us to avoid many short-haul journeys and flights, which in turn would significantly reduce our CO2 footprint. Avoiding air travel altogether is one of the most effective measures for significantly reducing an individual's greenhouse gas emissions (Environmental Research Letters: Wynes and Nicholas, 2017).

"Our Biosphere Must Be Protected To Store Carbon"

Yadvinder Malhi is a professor of ecosystem science at Oxford University in England.

Climate Change: Professor of ecosystem science, Yadvinder Malhi
Professor of ecosystem science, Yadvinder Malhi © Privat

We must preserve and restore our ecosystems to store and absorb carbon, to regulate local and regional rainfall, and to maintain a moderate climate. Our forests and soils contain significant amounts of carbon, so deforestation has a direct impact on our climate. Tropical regions, for example, are the engines of atmospheric circulation. The loss of rainforest, which is transformed into cattle farms or oil palm plantations, also affects distant regions such as Europe, Siberia and North America. It also has an indirect effect on rainfall and cloud formation. Clouds, in turn, reflect sunlight and cool our planet. Our actions do not only have local consequences, the scale of our activities is much larger.
We also need to think more about restoring forests and other ecosystems in the heavily transformed landscapes of Europe. We must protect intact areas and change our policy incentives in the north to restore forests on abandoned or marginal farmlands. Nature is not an external cost factor that can be included in or omitted from our economic model. Nature is one of our most important allies in reducing the scale and impact of climate change. 

Angelika Hilbeck is with the Institute for Integrative Biology at ETH Zurich in Switzerland.

Climate Change: Angelika Hilbeck works at ETH Zürich
Angelika Hilbeck works at ETH Zürich © Privat

Most of the food we buy in supermarkets comes from industrial agriculture, especially in developed countries, but increasingly worldwide. This form of intensive farming is based on chemical inputs and practices that are energy-intensive and harmful to the environment. According to the IPCC, it contributes to more than 20 percent of global human-caused greenhouse gas emissions (IPCC, Working Group III: Mitigation, 2014). We must therefore use agro-ecological production systems instead. This means applying ecological and social concepts in food design, changing farming practices and following these principles in our agricultural systems.
Another consequence: With improved agriculture, we preserve biodiversity, the fertility of our soils and contribute to feeding humanity. The UN Human Rights Council reported this in 2010. Our agriculture can thus become part of the solution rather than a problem that contributes to climate change.

"Products Should Be Labeled with CO2"

Per Espen Stoknes is the author of the book "What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action."

Climate Change: Author Per Espen Stoknes
Author Per Espen Stoknes © Moment Studio

All products and services worldwide should be marketed and sold with clear labeling of their CO2 emissions and their environmental footprint. The life cycle of the product should be fully understandable to the consumer. Whether the product has a positive, neutral or negative footprint should be as prominent as the purchase price. And it should be easy to understand where and how the products were made and who made them. This could be possible, for example, with blockchain databases that trace and store the data and path of the product. This would make it easy for customers to choose greener products in all markets and prevent products from being advertised with a sustainable label without clear evidence. Greenwashing would no longer be possible.

"We Need Politicians To Represent Our Interests"

Michael Mann is the director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center in University Park, Pennsylvania.

Climate Change: Climatologist Michael Mann
Climatologist Michael Mann © Patrick Mansell, Penn State

In the United States, we currently provide more subsidies for fossil fuels than for renewable energies. This is the opposite of what is required. We need politicians who represent our interests rather than fossil fuel interests. At the moment, the U.S. federal government is led by the latter. My wish therefore goes to my fellow Americans who believe that we have to act on climate change: Make your voice heard. An effective solution must include both personal action and government policy. But the former can be encouraged by the latter, so we must focus on policy intervention, which includes electing climate-friendly politicians. That’s the single most important thing we can do right now.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The original idea of an International Trade Organisation

Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury published a good article reminding us of the original idea of an international trade organisation as discussed and proposed at the end of the Second World War, mainly by developing countries and among them, mainly the Latin American countries since most of the other developing countries were still European colonies. 
Reading the article, I realised again how much harm the leaders of the rich countries have done to the poor and (almost) powerless in the Third World, and how much the Third World has changed (or remained the same) -- to become the global market place where the rich of both industrialised and developing countries make their fortunes and limit the chances of the less fortunate. 
I also realised again how much harm an international monetary system based on the US dollar has done to the hopes of social democracy. Below is the article by Jomo and Chowdhury as I received it this morning by e-mail.
Havana Charter's Progressive Trade Vision Subverted  
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Anis Chowdhury

KUALA LUMPUR & SYDNEY, Dec 04 (IPS)  - In criticizing the ‘free trade delusion', UNCTAD's 2018 Trade and Development Report proposes an alternative to both reactionary nationalism, recently revived by President Trump, and the corporate cosmopolitanism of neoliberal multilateral discourse in recent decades by revisiting the Havana Charter on its 70th anniversary.

From ITO to WTO
Instead, it urges reconsideration of lessons from the struggle from 1947 for the Havana Charter. Although often depicted as the forerunner of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the Charter was far more ambitious.

Initially agreed to 70 years ago by over 50 countries -- mainly from Latin America, as much of the rest of the developing world remained under European colonial rule -- it was rejected by the US Congress, with GATT emerging as a poor compromise.

As envisaged at Bretton Woods in 1944, over 50 countries began to create the International Trade Organization (ITO) from 1945 to 1947. In 1947, 56 countries started negotiating the ITO charter in Havana following the 1947 United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment in Havana, eventually signed in 1948.

The idea of a multilateral trade organization to regulate trade -- covering areas such as tariff reduction, business cartels, commodity agreements, economic development and foreign direct investment -- was first mooted in the US Congress in 1916 by Representative Cordell Hull, later Roosevelt's first Secretary of State in 1933.

However, the US Congress eventually rejected the Havana Charter, including establishment of the ITO, in 1948 following pressure from corporate lobbies unhappy about concessions to ‘underdeveloped' countries. Thus, the Bretton Woods' and Havana Charter's promise of full employment and domestic industrialization in the post-war international trade order was aborted.

In their place, from 1948 to 1994, the GATT, a provisional compromise, became the main multilateral framework governing international trade, especially in manufactures, the basis for trade rules and regulations for most of the second half of the 20th century.

The Uruguay Round from 1986 to 1994, begun at Punta del Este, was the last round of multilateral trade negotiations under GATT. It ended the postwar trading order governed by GATT, replacing it with the new World Trade Organization (WTO) from 1995.

Developmental fair trade?
The UNCTAD report urges revisiting the Havana Charter in light of new challenges in recent decades such as the digital economy, environmental stress and financial vulnerabilities. So, what lessons can we draw from the Havana Charter in trying to reform the multilateral trading order?    

In light of economic transformations over the last seven decades, it is crucial to consider how the Havana Charter tried to create a more developmental and equitable trading system, in contrast with actual changes in the world economy since.

After all, the Charter recognized that a healthy trading system must be based on economies seeking to ensure full employment while distributional issues have to be addressed at both national and international levels.

Profitable, but damaging business practices -- by large international, multinational or transnational firms, abusing the international trading system -- also need to be addressed.

The Charter recognized the crucial need for industrialization in developing countries as an essential part of a healthy trading system and multilateral world order, and sought to ensure that international trade rules would enable industrial policy.

The GATT compromise exceptionally allowed some such features in post-war trade rules, but even these were largely eliminated by the neoliberal Uruguay Round, as concerns about unemployment, decent work and deindustrialization were ignored.

Paths not taken
The evolution of the international trading system has been largely forgotten. Recent and current tensions in global trade are largely seen as threatening to the post-Second World War (WW2) international economic order first negotiated in the late 1940s and revised ever since.

But the international order of the post-WW2 period ended in the 1970s, as policymakers in the major developed economies embraced the counter-revolutionary neoliberal reforms of Thatcherism and Reaganism against Keynesian and development economics after Nixon unilaterally destroyed the Bretton Woods monetary arrangements.

Besides international trade liberalization as an end in itself, financial liberalization and globalization were facilitated as financial markets were deregulated, not only within national economies, but also across international borders.

Industrial policy, public enterprise and mixed economies were purged by the new neoliberal fundamentalists as the very idea of public intervention for healthy, equitable and balanced development was discredited by the counter-revolution against economic progress for all.

With multilateralism and the Doha Development Round under assault, retrieving relevant lessons from the Havana Charter after seven decades can be crucial in steering the world between the devil of reactionary nationalist ‘sovereigntism' and the deep blue sea of neoliberal corporate cosmopolitanism or ‘globalism'.