Ratification Of The Paris Agreement Delayed

Michael Gove on a school visit

It’s now nine months since the COP21 climate treaty was agreed in Paris. At the time,I met the agreement with both celebration and condemnation: it marked an important global moment for collective action on climate change but lacked the ambition and detail on how even a 2ºC target could be met. Many observers recognised that the proof of its success would be in the national policy commitments made by governments and ministers in the months and years that followed.

Other Than That Everything's Perfect

Other Than That Everything’s Perfect

Importantly, the Paris agreement will not enter into force until 55 countries representing 55% of total global emissions have ratified it. As it stands, 26 states have completed this, totalling 39.06 % of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Notably, this includes China and the United States, who last week jointly announced their ratification of the Paris Agreement, marking a very important step in the treaty’s journey.

Sadly, the UK has dawdled on Paris ratification and has not yet made any announcement of when it intends to do so. Since December, the stock response of both the Prime Minister and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (and formerly the Department for Energy and Climate Change) has been that the government will do so ‘as soon as possible’.

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In Parliament today, I asked the Prime Minister if she will commit to ratifying the agreement before the follow up negotiations in November of this year. She sidestepped the question and refused to give a firm date. With 2016 set to be the hottest year on record, this casual approach is at odds with ever more serious warnings about the severity of the climate crisis.

At the national level, it has been a terrible year for climate and energy policy. With the ongoing reckless obsession with fracking, the failure to embrace energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority, and the delay in new subsidy announcements for offshore wind, it should come as no surprise that the Committee on Climate Change announced in June that the government lacks half the policies it needs to meet its 2030 emissions targets.

Indeed, it is clear that UK energy and infrastructure policy is going in completely the wrong direction – cutting support for renewables and efficiency, locking in high-carbon gas for decades to come, and squandering taxpayers’ money on new nuclear and runways.

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In a further sign of government neglect, yesterday, the new Minster for Climate Change, announced a probable delay in the publication of the vital Carbon Plan. The plan will detail how the UK will meet its targets under the Climate Change Act. This delay comes at a time when the UK’s attractiveness as a destination for investment in renewable energy has reached an all-time low. The responsibility for this lies solely with chaotic and unpredictable government policy. The dismal failure of the Treasury and the Energy Department to halt the potentially catastrophic Business Rate rises to schools, businesses and community organisations with solar panels on their rooftops is a further example of that.

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Without a global step change in ambition, global temperatures will likely rise by 3.7°C and beyond. The consequences of this kind of change are unimaginable – indeed, we do not know the full implications of breaching planetary boundaries in this way. As a nation with an historic responsibility for carbon emissions, as well as the skills, expertise and resources to help create the solutions, the UK must take responsibility.

Delaying the ratification of the Paris Agreement – never mind dodging the ongoing questions about how we meet our own carbon reduction targets – demonstrates a dangerous and reckless approach to the most important issue of our time.

With much of the real detail of the Paris agreement being discussed at the follow-up COP22 negotiations in Marrakech in November, it would send all the wrong signals for the UK to turn up without having ratified it.

(This is an excerpt from Caroline Lucas MP’s blog)

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Green Subsidies? Sustainable Energy? We don’t need them!

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A cabinet source has said that a “big reset” on subsidies paid by consumers, which push up household energy bills, is coming in the autumn.

“There is a hardening view in the cabinet that we’ve got to deal with green subsidies,” the source added.

Last month, the government announced that new onshore wind farms would be excluded from a subsidy scheme from April next year.

Within a few weeks, the solar power industry is expecting its subsidies will be cut.

The issue of renewable energy subsidies was discussed at the weekly meeting of the government’s most senior ministers on Tuesday.

Subsidies to the renewable energy industry, paid for by consumers, are expected to add up to £4.3bn this year.

‘Best deal’

This week, the think tank Policy Exchange said the average household energy bill has risen by £120 over the last five years due to what they called “ill-thought through energy and climate policies”.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said:

“Reducing energy bills for hard-working British families and businesses is this government’s priority. We’ve already announced reforms to remove subsidies for onshore wind, and that work to make sure bill payers are getting the best possible deal is going to continue.”

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But the renewable energy industry fears a cut now could seriously damage an industry at a crucial point in its development.

“We are getting very anxious about what might be coming,” Leonie Greene, from the Solar Trade Association, told the BBC.

“The British industry is already very significant today. It employs over 30,000 people and turns over billions of pounds. It is quite clear that globally this industry is going to be worth trillions. So it is incredibly important that in terms of the global race that the prime minister talks about, that we make sure we have a strong solar industry in the UK.”

In a speech last month, the Energy Secretary Amber Rudd warned the renewables industry and campaigners that support for the environment has to be weighed against the impact on energy bills.

“All that support costs money,” she said. “We cannot ignore the fact that, obviously, people want subsidies if they are on the receiving end of subsidies, but we have to ensure that we get the good measure of it.”

And there lies the conundrum for the government: attempting to keep bills low, supporting emerging industries and keeping to climate change targets – with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris just a few months away now in December.

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No shortage of money for renewable energy, but there is a denial of that truth

 This is ridiculous beyond madness (and comes from the Guardian this morning with an addendum from the estimable Richard Murphy):

The government is struggling to pay for new clean energy supplies which could result in a rise in household bills or a major cut in investment in renewable technologies.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has already overspent its budget to support renewable energy projects over the next five years by £1.5bn, senior sources said.

Unless ministers increase the budget still further, the UK could struggle to meet legally binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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This is mad for four reasons.

First, it’s mad because we need renewable energy.

Second, it’s mad because renewable energy creates jobs in the UK and potential competitive advantage for UK business outside it.

Third, it’s mad because we could find £375 billion of quantitative easing to bail out banks (which is what it achieved, even if it was not quite what was planned).

Fourth, it’s mad because Green Infrastructure Quantitative Easing could, without a shadow of a doubt fund this programme at almost no net cost to society.

The argument that ‘there is no money’ is just not true. There is always money available to a government with its own central bank and a mechanism for repurchasing its own debt (which is what all QE does). To argue otherwise is to either deny the truth or turn a willing blind eye to it to achieve another political aim. It’ up to you to decide which one is going on here.

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Mark Blyth: Austerity – The History of a Dangerous Idea

Governments today in both Europe and the United States have succeeded in casting government spending as reckless wastefulness that has made the economy worse. In contrast, they have advanced a policy of draconian budget cuts–austerity–to solve the financial crisis. We are told that we have all lived beyond our means and now need to tighten our belts. This view conveniently forgets where all that debt came from. Not from an orgy of government spending, but as the direct result of bailing out, recapitalizing, and adding liquidity to the broken banking system. Through these actions private debt was rechristened as government debt, while those responsible for generating it walked away scot free, placing the blame on the state, and the burden on the taxpayer.

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That burden now takes the form of a global turn to austerity, the policy of reducing domestic wages and prices to restore competitiveness and balance the budget. The problem, according to political economist Mark Blyth, is that austerity is a very dangerous idea.

First of all, it doesn’t work. As the past four years and countless historical examples from the last 100 years show, while it makes sense for any one state to try and cut its way to growth, it simply cannot work when all states try it simultaneously: all we do is shrink the economy.

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In the worst case, austerity policies worsened the Great Depression and created the conditions for seizures of power by the forces responsible for the Second World War: the Nazis and the Japanese military establishment. As Blyth amply demonstrates, the arguments for austerity are tenuous and the evidence thin.

Rather than expanding growth and opportunity, the repeated revival of this dead economic idea has almost always led to low growth along with increases in wealth and income inequality. Austerity demolishes the conventional wisdom, marshaling an army of facts to demand that we recognize austerity for what it is, and what it costs us.

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About the Author: Mark Blyth is a faculty fellow at the Watson Institute, professor of international political economy in Brown’s Political Science Department, and director of the University’s undergraduate programs in development studies and international relations.

He is the author of Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century; editor of The Routledge Handbook of International Political Economy: IPE as a Global Conversation, which surveys different schools of IPE around the globe; and co-editor of a volume on constructivist theory and political economy titled Constructing the International Economy. He is working on a new book that questions the political and economic sustainability of liberal democracies, called The End of the Liberal World?

Corruption

Blyth is a member of the Warwick Commission on International Financial Reform. He is a member of the editorial board of the Review of International Political Economy, and his articles have appeared in journals such as the American Political Science Review, Perspectives on Politics, Comparative Politics, and World Politics.

He has a PhD in political science from Columbia University and taught at Johns Hopkins University from 1997 to 2009.

This talk was hosted by Boris Debic on behalf of Authors@Google in 2013

Danger Will Robinson! Danger! Corruption in Space! (apologies, getting carried away there)….

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Shocking isn’t it? David Cameron is preparing to warn fellow world leaders at the two-day G7 summit that starts in Germany on Sunday, that the Fifa bribery scandal must be a trigger for international action against corruption.The prime minister will criticise what he will call a widespread “taboo” in pointing the finger at corrupt institutions, and will say the Fifa scandal has shown how focusing on an organisation can provide the impetus for cleaning-up operations. I’m so glad our prime minister has decided to speak up about the sharp practices of Fifa, now that the Americans have beaten us to it.

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I hear that Nicky Morgan has even gone so far as to supply him with a ‘Smartboard’ to display his Powerpoint Presentation on, so that as he lectures Europe on ‘transparency’ ‘moral probity’ and ‘business ethics’ he can look every bit as convincing as he sounds (joke!). Seriously though, 

“In the last fortnight we have seen the stark truth about Fifa. The body governing football has faced appalling allegations that suggests it is absolutely riddled with corruption. And Blatter’s resignation this week presents an opportunity to clean up the game we love. It is also an opportunity to learn a broader lesson about tackling corruption,” he (the Prime Minister) will say.

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The stark truth about Fifa? Kind of like the rancid underskirts of the dark truth about HSBC that we were all exposed to so recently? Now, can anybody remember what that particular truth pertained to? Because I assure you the French authorities can, in March of this year they requested that HSBC’s Swiss private bank be sent to criminal trial over a suspected tax-dodging scheme for wealthy customers.The recommendation followed a lengthy investigation by local magistrates into alleged tax fraud involving 3,000 French taxpayers.

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HSBC’s Swiss arm also helped 8,844 wealthy Britons avoid millions of pounds in tax.These allegations of ‘historic’ tax avoidance at the bank related to files leaked by a less than sane whistleblower (he had to be less than sane to have torpedoed his career in this way) dating from 2005 to 2007. France prepped itself to prosecute these fraudsters and our Prime Ministers response was? “The period in question – 2005 to 2007 was not under our watch,the party opposite (Labour) was in Government”.

This ‘truth’ was later proven to have been sort of, kind of a lie. What is more Conservative MPs blocked a parliamentary committee’s attempt to scrutinise the former HSBC boss & (then) trade minister (now, Peer) Lord Stephen Green over the tax scandal at Britain’s largest bank. And what was America’s response to all this patent dishonesty? The US Department of Justice is considering criminal charges against the bank and its clients.

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Well, maybe that case was just a glitch on the corruption front so lets examine another more exemplary example of Prime Minister Cameron’s moral probity. Lets look at, ooh, I don’t know…..tax avoidance, tax havens…..and Tory Party Donors!

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Now…let’s see, on the top ten list (courtesy of political scrapbook) we have…

#1 Michael Farmer (£818,000) — See our story from yesterday. And bring sunscreen.

#2 Michael Davis (£509,000) — “Mick the miner” trousered £75m when his Xstrata mining company was sold this year. While the company’s registered office is in London, it is headquartered in the Swiss tax haven of Zug. The business which bought out Xstrata, Glencore, is not only based in Zug but also faces allegations of using suspect insurance practices to avoid tax.

#4 David Rowland (£438,000) — A former Conservative Party treasurer, David moved from the tax haven of Guernsey to the UK specifically so he could donate to the Tories.

#6 James Lupton (£255,000) — The current Tory co-treasurer works for Greenhill, through which he is a partner in Greenhill & Co. International LLP alongside the company’s vehicle based in the Cayman Islands. Lupton also holds a stake in Vestra Wealth, which offers its clients advice on “tax-planning vehicles”.

#7 Andrew Law (£247,000) — The chairman and CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds, Caxton Associates. One of its main investment vehicles is Caxton International, headquartered in Hamilton, Bermuda.

#8 Stanley Fink (£228,000) — The “godfather of the UK hedge fund industry”, whose Man Group has two principal subsidiaries in Switzerland. The majority of its subsidiaries operate from tax havens.

#9 JCB Research (£187,500) — JCB is owned by digger magnate Anthony Bamford (who had a peerage blocked in 2010 after the taxman raised apparent concerns). This most British of manufacturers is actually controlled by a holding company based in the HagueTransmissions & Engineering Services Netherlands Bv.

#10 Flowidea Ltd (£144,950) — Controlled by Henry Angest, a critic of the UK’s“punitive tax system”, which may have something to do with the fact that its parent companies seem to be based in Jersey and the Bahamas.

All these guys have donated generously to the Tory Party & all of them are registered in tax havens & are therefore avoiding paying their very United Kingdom taxes. If that doesn’t wreak of corruption it should send up a whiff of dishonesty at least.

The Prime Minister’s response? Well, there hasn’t been one, though I suppose that there will eventually be a peerage or two.

PIC SHOWS: Sabina Interpol is searching for two Austrian teenaged girls who they believe have been tricked into going to Syria to fight on the side of Islamic rebels. The teenagers vanished last week. The first their parents knew was when they started getting messages posted on social media networks saying that they had gone to fight the

Meanwhile on his next visit to the world stage (G7 Summit), our esteemed Prime Minister will also be discussing England’s role in the the fight with ISIS in Iraq & Syria. Ever the ‘reluctant interventionist’ David Cameron will (apparently) assure President Obama that England intends to remain fully engaged on the global terror front. ISIS will I’m sure be awaiting his first statesman-like foray onto Iraqi soil (even as I await his eventual admission that England has wound up being pulled into the Syrian conflict) with bated breath…..I can’t wait.

Whisky Is For Drinking, Water Is For Fighting Over

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The author Mark Twain once remarked that “whisky is for drinking; water is for fighting over” and a series of reports from intelligence agencies and research groups indicate the prospect of a water war is becoming increasingly likely. 

In March, a report from the office of the US Director of National Intelligence said the risk of conflict would grow as water demand is set to outstrip sustainable current supplies by 40 per cent by 2030.

“These threats are real and they do raise serious national security concerns,” Hilary Clinton the former US secretary of state, said after the report’s release.

By 2030, 47 per cent of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Environmental Outlook to 2030 report. Some analysts worry that wars of the future will be fought over blue gold, as thirsty people, opportunistic politicians and powerful corporations battle for dwindling resources.  

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Dangerous warnings

Governments and military planners around the world are aware of the impending problem; with the US senate issuing reports with names like Avoiding Water Wars: Water Scarcity and Central Asia’s growing Importance for Stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan

With rapid population growth, and increased industrial demand, water withdrawls have tripled over the last 50 years, according to UN figures.

“Water scarcity is an issue exacerbated by demographic pressures, climate change and pollution,” said Ignacio Saiz, director of Centre for Economic and Social Rights, a social justice group. “The world’s water supplies should guarantee every member of the population to cover their personal and domestic needs.”

“Fundamentally, these are issues of poverty and inequality, man-made problems,” he said.

Of all the water on earth, 97 percent is salt water and the remaining three per cent is fresh, with less than one per cent of the planet’s drinkable water readily accessible for direct human uses. Scarcity is defined as each person in an area having access to less than 1,000 cubic meters of water a year.

The areas where water scarcity is the biggest problem are some of the same places where political conflicts are rife, leading to potentially explosive situations.

As recently as 1989 Senegal and Mauritania fought a war over grazing rights on the River Senegal. And Syria and Iraq have fought minor skirmishes over the Euphrates River. UN studies project that 30 nations will be water scarce in 2025, up from 20 in 1990. Eighteen of them are in the Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt, Israel, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. 

keep-calm-tuesday-is-soylent-green-day-1Contents courtesy of Al-Jazeera

 

Water Scarcity, the long term view courtesy of shrewder, wiser, big businesses

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Currently, one-third of total food production is in areas of high or extremely high water stress, or competition. Five important water risk drivers affect the water security of the food sector: 1) growing competition for water, 2) weak regulation, 3) aging and inadequate water infrastructure, 4) water pollution and 5) climate change. These water risks are already affecting corporate income statements and balance sheets due to: disrupted operations and limits on growth driven by water shortages and loss of social license to operate alongside other factors.

82 percent of food sector respondents to the CDP’s 2014 water information request indicate that water risks could have a substantive impact on business operations and 90 percent of the 31 publicly-traded U.S. companies evaluated in their report cite water as a material risk in their 10-K financial filings. Recent examples of financial impacts include:

Cargill reported a 12 percent drop in 2014 fourth-quarter profits as a four-year drought in the U.S. Southwest damaged pastures used to raise beef.

The Campbell Soup Company saw a 28 percent drop in its California-based carrot division profits in early 2015 due in part to drought followed by intense rains.

The Coca-Cola Company decided not to move forward on the development of an $81 million bottling plant in southern India in April 2015 due to resistance from local farmers who cited concerns about strains on local groundwater supplies.

GrainCorp, Australia’s largest agribusiness, reported a 64 percent drop in 2014 profits due to a prolonged drought that cut grain deliveries by 23 percent and nearly halved grain exports.

J.M. Smucker introduced an eight percent price increase on Folger’s K-Cup coffee packs in early 2015 to offset the worst drought in Brazil in decades.

Unilever estimated that natural disasters linked to a changing climate—in particular, food price increases, water scarcity and reduced productivity in many parts of the agricultural supply chain—cost the company around $400 million annually.

In short, when it comes to growing and producing food, water shortages are a serious & pressing issue, so pressing that Ceres, a nonprofit organization mobilizing business and investor leadership on climate change, produced a report in 2014, from which these facts come. Ceres directs the Investor Network on Climate Change, a network of over 100 institutional investors with collective assets totaling more than $13 trillion

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GLOBAL INVESTOR STATEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE