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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 26th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

nbsp;www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ff86bef0-f8d1-…

reference to: “Capitalism can save the planet” BUT WE SAY CAN STILL SAVE THE PLANET IF THE WEST IS READY TO GET OF THE HIGH HORSES OF THE PAST.

By Philip Stephens in The Financial Times of November 25, 2010, which we use as a base for our own posting here.

THE MAIN POINT IS THAT THE WORLD HAS CHANGED SINCE THE RIO CONFERENCE OF 1992.
TODAY – PRODUCTION HAS MOVED FROM THE USA, EUROPE, JAPAN TO CHINA, INDIA, BRAZIL, AND THE WORLD IS JUST NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE. CANCUN WILL HAVE TO LIVE WITH THE CONCEPT OF A NEW WORLD AND MAKE SURE THAT THE RULES OF DIPLOMATIC ENGAGEMENT ARE CHANGED. THE INDUSTRIAL MIGHT HAS SHIFTED – SO THE DIPLOMATIC LANGUAGE BETTER SHIFT AS WELL.

Pinn illustration

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The author notes: “Not so long ago governments around the world stepped in to rescue capitalism. It’s time for capitalism to repay the favour by turning its mind to saving the planet. Politicians, you see, have just about given up.”

and then follows by noting in regard to the Cancun meeting: “The only vaguely encouraging thing to say about next week’s Cancun climate change gathering is that expectations have been set so low the negotiators will struggle not to exceed them. The UN-led search for a global accord to replace the Kyoto protocol has stalled.”

In short – it is clear to everyone who does not reside in the UN bubble that there is very little to be expected to happen at Cancun this year. The Ban Ki-moon mantra – “SEAL THE DEAL” is dead. Some say that the UN effort is dead as well – and if that is rock solid truth it would be a real loss to the World.

The problem is that nearly all Nations are led now by people that have no intent to endanger their political life by risking doing something that safeguards the future if it takes to go beyond the length of their noses.

During the good times governments were expansive about their stewardship of the planet for future generations. Such high-minded principle has fallen victim to recession. The politicians worry that voters faced with falling incomes and fading job prospects will be less than receptive to the idea of making sacrifices for their grand-children.

As for the world’s rising economies, the recent summit of the Group of 20 leading economies in Soul was a reminder not only of how rapidly power has been flowing east and south, but also of how jealously the new powers guard their national sovereignty.

They are unwilling to go in lockstep with the West.

As with exchange rates as we saw in Seoul, so with moves on climate change: the hoped for G2 new global leadership has been replaced by mutual recriminations  between Washington and Beijing.

But let us remember that there was a glimmer of hope when President Obama went to Beijing before the Copenhagen meeting. That analysis is followed accurately by the Financial Times author when he points out that  capitalism can come in and help.

The top-down, everyone-in, all-or-nothing approach to climate change may have faltered, but things are still happening on the ground.

The effort is being nationalized; and economic incentives are replacing the big stick of international direction. Altruism, never the strongest motivator, is making way for a more powerful self-interest.

You can see this in Asia and Latin America. Even as they disdain the west’s demands that they cap emissions, the rising powers have begun to recognize what they have to lose. One of the many unfairnesses of climate change is that while rich nations have been responsible for putting most of the carbon into the atmosphere, less developed countries will be the first to feel the consequences.

China and India are among those who have recognised their vulnerability to rises in sea levels and glacial melting. The UN climate change panel may have been a couple of hundred of years out in its first prediction of the disappearance of the Himalayan ice cap. But the ice is melting, threatening the ecologies and economies of the world’s two most populous nations.

China’s hope, expressed in its latest five-year plan, is to marry more sustainable growth at home with competitive advantage abroad. Earlier this month, I heard, says Mr. Stephens, a policymaker from Beijing map the thinking behind the plan. One of the messages was that China intends both to clean up its environment and turn a profit in the process.

By 2015 it plans to be producing high-specification engineering equipment every bit as sophisticated as the stuff it now buys from Germany or Japan. In some areas it wants to leap ahead. One of these will be low-carbon technology. It seems only yesterday that western manufacturers were talking about setting the environmental standards for Chinese industry. Now China is actually thinking of doing this instead of the Western economies. They want in effect to develop the cleaner technology and sell it to the West – not buy it from the West as the West envisioned it!

The Indian government likewise is taking a much more sophisticated and self-promoting  tack. Jairam Ramesh, the country’s outspoken environment minister, describes the hang-the-consequences American economic model as a recipe for national and global disaster. The rise of new middle classes is prompting governments in countries like Brazil, India, China leads their governments to think hard about environmental costs. The wealthier you are, the more clean air matters.

A marriage between self-interest and market opportunities is not enough. This clearly requires governments to show that they  intend to put a serious price on carbon. Business requires incentives to recognize the economic opportunities in low-carbon technologies. In the US and in Europe, the case can be made further in terms of reducing dependence on imported oil besides the advocacy of building new green industries.

Stephens concludes with the idea that negotiators in Cancun need not abandon the quest for a global treaty. But, if before it was presented as something right for future generations – now they should rather recognize that there is plenty to be done between now and that future when there will be a global green rule. They should make it for the time being a politics of economic gains – Green politics should not be mired in politics of misery. Better frame the field as about money and jobs.

This calls for NATIONAL RULES THAT ALLOW FOR ECONOMIC GAINS WHEN WORKING TOWARDS THE ATTAINMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL GOALS IN THE FRAME OF INCREASING INCOME AND CREATING NEW JOBS – WITH NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN NEW INDUSTRIES. THIS  IS NOTHING LESS THEN THE REBIRTH OF CAPITALISM WITH GOVERNMENT SETTING RULES THAT ALLOW PRIVATE ENTERPRISE EVOLVING WITH CLEAN GREEN ANSWERS.

SO – BEFORE IT IS POSSIBLE TO FORMULATE THE WANTED GLOBAL ACCORDS, LET CANCUN PROVIDE BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS PLATFORMS AND ALL WHAT GOVERNMENTS WILL THEN BE CALLED TO DO IS TO PUT ON NOTICE EACH-OTHER OF THE INTERNAL RULES THEY PROVIDE TO THEIR OWN NATIONALS WHILE LEAVING THE DOOR OPEN TO OTHERS WHO ARE READY TO PARTICIPATE WITHIN THE NEW NATIONAL FRAME. IF THIS MIGHT CAUSE CHANGES IN INTERNATIONAL DEALINGS – PLAINLY SAID – SO BE IT! WHEN THERE IS NO DEAL – BE HONEST AND SAY SO – AND MOST IMPORTANT – DON’T LET THE NAY-SAYERS SPOIL WHAT CAN BE ACHIEVED WITHOUT THEM.

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