Environment: It Needs Oxygen!

 

th[3]Are politicians deaf to the cry of the wild that they would rather subsidise fossil fuel than promote a green environment?

A reminder: Government should benefit the people not those in power. Wang Fuzhi

Should we believe politicians and the faceless bureaucrats that the world will be saved by the buying and selling of carbon emissions? I dealt with some aspects of selling pollution in my previous post: Environment: It’s Dying. What is really interesting is the number of developing countries who are taking part in this market oriented money making enterprise. There are several projects initiated by UN-REDD Programme aimed at preventing further deforestation and degradation of forests in developing countries.

Madagascar is one such country which has allocated 705,588 carbon credits for a project in the Makira Forest. The Makira Forest of 400,000 hectares (1,500 sq. miles) is a sizable area. A number of projects are underway to convince the local communities that there is an alternative to deforestation. However these prevention techniques are small in scale e.g. one will take 30 years to offset 32 million tonnes of CO2. A second will avoid 1.6 million metric tonnes over a 25 year period. http://phys.org/news/2013-09-massive-carbon-credit-sale-madagascar.html

 

  1. The world emits 32 gigatonnes annually.

Other projects in Africa include Tanzania which has sold some credits for $US 200,000 in forest conservation. A further hope is to encourage eco-tourism. Trains and boats and planes go jollying by, burning fossil fuel but it’s ok because they’ll pay. An earlier project received $US 1.9 million over a four year period 2010 – 2013. Tanzania Daily News

Why the focus on Developing Nations?

Madagascar is losing an approximate 100,000 hectares (386 sq. miles) each year to burning for agriculture. Zambia is losing between 250,000 – 300,000 hectares annually, predominately in the making of charcoal for heating in business and the home.

thFTLUIBEWIn South America the situation is even worse. Peru, Brazil and Ecuador etc. the region is losing an estimated 13 million hectares year on year. In December 2014 the UN held climate talks in Peru, which has some of the worse deforestation in the region. Brazil attended but continues with accelerated deforestation under their president Rouseff, a former head of an oil company. The conclusion of the meeting was to replant 20 million hectares of trees. However, in the period 2001 – 2012 some 36 million was lost to agricultural expansion. The guardian2014/12/09

There is little sign of abatement as, theguarian2015/01/28 reports. Roads run deep into the Amazon where oil and gas blocks are now much bigger than those of Texas e.g. 730,000 sq.km. The setting up of National Parks has prevented some incursions but deforestation continues apace. Ecuador, who signed an agreement in 2007 to prevent further road building changed tact under economic pressure. So much for contracts! Bolivia too is open for business.

They’re killing us but the profit is excellent!

The talks in the capital Lima had been an initiative of Germany in 2011 and thus termed the Bonn Challenge. As we can see – they are doing the mad dog thing – chasing their tail. Not very successful based on the amount of forest lost. Scientists believe that around 17% of CO2 emissions – more than what America produces each year – is caused by deforestation especially in tropical areas. www.phys.org as above

The economic rationale of the region fits well with the self-interest theory as examined by Dani Rodrik p249 the Harvard economist, “In the case of global warming, self-interest pushes nations to ignore the risks of climate change”. This would appear to be the case in South America. But if we keep in mind the carbon emissions of deforestation (more than America) can we justify allowing these countries to simply cut and burn at will irrespective of the consequences to climate change. The Globalization Paradox

Dani Rodrik p277 gives an emphatic yes in principle to developing countries finding their own way. “The right approach would be to have China, and indeed all emerging nations, free to pursue their own growth policies”. As we travel down Rodrik Road and allow carte blanche development for ‘emerging’ nations, he argues that it would be ‘reasonable to expect’ that these nations would not pursue policies that would lead to huge trade balances. An alternative might be, “Every nation has responsibility”, Ottimar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research; quoted: www.blogs.reuters.com   2015/04/13

Rodrik’s prime concern is the sanctity of the market, not the environment. Large trade balances in favour of China or India could swing the pendulum of power, and, power is the name of the game. Why with the economic power at their behest would China / India not seize the opportunity to dictate world policy just as others have done, past and present?

It was and is ‘reasonable to expect’ America to pursue policies that aid the world economy and environment. At present US oil is $10 a barrel cheaper than the world average but is not for sale abroad. America has used its might in agriculture and pharmaceuticals to run roughshod over the globe. Because it has held the economic power America has the political power and has used it to their benefit. Why would China / India be any different? www.economist.com/news/united/2015/04/02

Moreover, it was the market that has brought us to this jammed road intersection and, still pursues a profit before people mentality. The market is about satisfying the demands of the 1%. The poor, the world over, still get scraps from the table.

Furthermore, the notion that developing countries need to push forward with industrialization to counter poverty is such balderdash. Recent demonstrations in Brazil and Venezuela and many parts of Europe prove categorically that the poor do not share in the wealth of the nation. Both China and India have horrific records when it comes to alleviating poverty. Or giving due consideration to the environment.

According to Reuters.com 2015/04/13 China will overtake America as number-one in carbon emissions and will do so this year. India is expected to leapfrog Russia into fourth (4th) place in the deadly table. Both countries, assuming present trends will surpass America and the EU together.

China has recently been accused of dumping chemical waste in Inner Mongolia. In a report for france24_en Observers, when the villagers protested they were met with rubber bullets and tear gas. Farmers from Doquintala village have reported that their crop is reduced by 33% and, the fruit trees have died. The ground water has been contaminated and instances of cancer and thrombosis have sharply increased over the last decade. For me Rodrik’s argument that we can ‘reasonably expect’ does not stack up. Check my post on Rodrik and India: No ‘Cover’ for Child Labour

It is a bazaar situation, this whole concept of carbon credits. The West gives the credits to developing countries and then buys them back. Some may suggest that its charity but it is not; there is profit to be made on both sides of the transaction. Bet you can’t guess who takes the larger slice of the cake.

thXJDRNI6QWhat is happening is that we are walking our way through an ocean of sludge because we don’t know any better. We are tied into the neoliberal economic school of thought; within which the market is enshrined in a golden casket that cannot be tampered with for fear that a world calamity will unfold.

Sadly it is a belief shared by many of our leaders and by powerful international bodies: UN, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. As far as they are concerned the market is the prime motivator for change. These are people with clout; they are in effect the Praetorian Guard of the 1%. The super rich, the big boys!

However, it is not just the developing nations that are screwing up our planet. Australia has made a hash of the coral reef and every nation has contributed to the shrinking of Antarctica. Where are our defenders, the peoples’ army? My next post will look at these and other contributing issues.

Do some good…….join Robin Hood

 

 

Environment: It’s Dying!

th[3]Governments must accept responsibility and therefore must lead in defending the environment. Voters must make politicians fully aware that their vote is dependent on a credible environmental programme. The media too have a critical part to play in keeping the public informed. Investigative journalists need to prize-open the dark chest that hides the secrets of ‘hidden subsidies’ that governments presently give to business. Only then can the electorate use their vote rationally.

Progressive media are the vanguard, the elite force of the people. It is to them that we must look to unearth / expose every crevice where government and the big boys try to hide their devious dealings. We need individuals who have the expertise and whistle-blowers to make sure we are kept in the loop. Of this elite group the investigative journalist is a member of the Sherwood Forest brigade.

To emphasise the point, two pieces of evidence from Reuters, 2015/01/29 + 2015/02/5 respectively. Based on Pew Research Center USA, 87% of scientists polled believe people cause climate change but only 50% of the public agree. Secondly, 70% of democrats think that human activity is causing global warming whereas, only 27% of republicans do. However, the UN is 95% certain that ‘we’ do cause global warming. Although the evidence is US based the public are no better informed elsewhere.

Ha-Joon Chang (p268) is unequivocal in his assessment, “There is no doubt that CAZe0jAWgAANZ5_[1]climate change, mainly caused by our material production and consumption activities, threatens human existence”. This is a stark and somewhat dramatic statement but it is in keeping with the scientific view. Economics: The User’s Guide

Concerned?

  • Scientific consensus states that carbon emissions must be reduced by 80% by 2050 to avoid a temperature rise of more than 2%. www.carbonneutral.com
  • Emissions from burning of coal, oil and gas are rising to record levels and are not yet falling. UN Panel on Climate Change November 2014.
  • “…policy makers must realise that their instincts to completely use the fossil fuel within their countries are wholly incompatible with their commitments to the 2C goal”. Dr Christophe McGlade UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, quoted in www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30709211
  • International Conference to be held in Paris December 2015; the talks are to seek a limit on the increase of CO2 in order to put off a rise of 2C (3.6 F) as this could spark off dangerous climate change. www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31872460
  • In a recent interview on France24 news, 2015/04/02 Janos Pasztor a UN representative commented that ‘ours should be the last generation to make decisive change’. To wait any longer will be more expensive and more difficult. While acknowledging he was hopeful he thought it unlikely that agreement would be reached at the UN Inter-Governmental Conference on climate change, in Paris.

It’s Good News Week

The International Energy Agency has reported that CO2 emissions have remained stable in 2014 for the first time in 40 years. One main reason is thought to have been the reduction in coal burning by China. It is good news because it shows what can be done and how it can be done. Governments must now invest heavily on research into credible alternative energy supplies. This can be funded in part by a carbon tax on the main polluting industries.

thRDY1YUN6STOP burning coal: China – USA – Russia

Unfortunately the experiment with wind power has failed. Wind power needs the back-up of a power station in the event that the wind doesn’t blow or blows too strongly. Nuclear power has a nasty offshoot condemning our offspring to generations of worry. What a legacy!

A tax scheme has been put forward by professor William Nordhaus of Yale University. In this way everyone is made aware of the true cost of the product’s carbon footprint.

Oh hell, the downside!

Bp the oil giant has recently published its Energy Outlook up to 2035. It predicts that CO2 emissions will exceed levels scientists say pose a threat to climate change. The report accepts that the burning of fossil fuels is unsustainable and that concerted action is necessary.

  • CO2 will increase 1% per year to 2035
  • Oil use will increase by 0.8% per annum – 2035
  • China will become the biggest consumer of petroleum
  • Global demand for energy will increase by 37%
  • Use of natural gas will grow fastest.
  • Use of coal will continue to increase but at a lower rate.
  • Asia Pacific will outstrip Europe for gas imports.

Is this a catalogue of doom?

Carbon emissions are expected to rise by 25% by 2035; significantly above recommendations. Wow! The Telegraph 2015/02/22

They’re killing us but the profits are excellent!!!

What Can Be Done?

Sadly, we cannot trust business to have our best interest in mind. There are too many instances of bad business for them to be trusted by anyone. I have written recently about the effects of diesel vehicles. Diesel: The Killer in our Midst. Read the post.

Writing about the market in the early 1990s author Charles Handy (p19) made his view clear, “The market left to itself, would not work”. What a portent of the 2008 crisis; when unrestricted the market imploded. Handy (p31) goes on to caution us that, “It is only a tool, and tools are not for worshipping”. The Hungry Spirit

Support for Handy’s view comes from Ha-Joon Chang (p456) who does not mince his words, “The economy is much bigger than the market. We will not be able to build a good economy – or a good society – unless we look at the vast expanse beyond the market”. Chang and others are thinking of government and of the jobs and business it generates. J E Stiglitz (pxlv111) is far more damning of the market when he poses a question of what capitalism has brought us, “… inequality, pollution, unemployment, and, most important of all, the degradation of values to the point where everything is acceptable and no one is accountable”. The Price of Inequality

The business class and the market have not won any rosettes over the years; recent thNAOKWJPUexamples include:

  • The selling of derivatives which was a major cause of the crisis which engulfed the world in 2008.
  • The rigging of the Libor and foreign exchange rates to maximise profit at everyone else’s expense.
  • Tax avoidance on a massive scale. Nearly every MNC multi- national company.
  • Not paying corporate tax in the country where they do business.

There are a thousand + other cases; just too many to mention. A major downside of the market was identified by Charles Handy (p23) “Anything that is unpriced is ignored by the market…” As the environment has no profit margin it is not given any consideration. This has been recognised by world leaders who have put a price on pollution, as Chang (p395) points out, “Today we buy and sell the rights to pollute (carbon trading)”.

Since 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was first agreed it has developed into a major trading sector. The world is divided into CO2 blocks whereby countries and industries are given a target of CO2 emissions. Their emissions are measured by the number of ‘credits’ issued. If a country / industry does not use all of its credits it can sell the remaining ones to another business. A company which is likely to overshoot its target, (cap) can buy the unused credits and continue to pollute.

Read an original report on Kyoto: www.oocities.org/yosemite/rapids/Rapids/

The Price of Credits

In 2009 ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia paid $8000 for the carbon already trapped in the trees of a local forest. The deal would offset three (3) years of the company’s carbon footprint. Thus as long as the trees are not cut down and the carbon released the company can continue with its present carbon policy. The company wants the scheme to run for the next hundred years. www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/

The BBC interviewed a company selling carbon credits for £5.50 per tonne. The BBC questioned this and sought clarification from an oversight body, Climate Care and were told that ‘credits’ should be sold at £1.00 per tonne. However, later the BBC found that Climate Care was selling ‘credits’ at £7.50 per tonne on their website. Can business be trusted? www.redd-monitor.org/2013/01/22/

Another interesting deal is one between the American states of Louisiana and California. In this instance Louisiana could earn in the region of $550 million & $1.6bn by selling the carbon captured by their cypress and tupelo trees. California must reduce its carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and can achieve this by paying Louisiana not to chop down their trees. www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2015/03/

A further example which clearly illustrates how the market in pollution is growing comes from Byron Shire Council in Australia. Here, the council initiated a new Landfill gas flare project for which they won government approval. The scheme brought them 6,616 carbon credits. The council sold these credits to a Queensland State energy provider @ $22.60 per credit and profited to the tune of $149, 521.60 This programme is named the Carbon Farming Initiative. www.byron.nsw.gov.au/media-releases/2014/03/31 For me the word farming conjures up thoughts of the growing of food, our very sustenance and certainly not the dealing in CO2 which is slowly killing us.

There are a host of other examples which will be dealt with in the follow up to this post. Suffice to say that the pollution market is big and about to become vast. Unfortunately wherever profit is involved rationale goes out the window. Some individuals have bought ‘credits’ from dealers thinking that they have made an investment only to discover that there is a time limit on the ‘credits’ and they quickly become useless. Look out for fraudsters!

thKF8B2C69Nonetheless, the market is growing, “Carbon will be the world’s biggest commodity market, and could become the world’s biggest market”. Louis Redshaw, Barclays Capital. Whoopee!!!! www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_credit

They’re killing us but the profits are excellent!

Do some good … join Robin Hood