Tuesday, April 23, 2019

A Global Green New Deal?

It is as logical as it is implausible - a global Green New Deal to harness the community of nations; big and small, rich and poor; to a plan to collectively tackle climate change.

It's logical. Climate change is a global problem, an existential threat to all.

It's implausible. A global Green New Deal might require the rich, developed world to do a lot of the heavy lifting.

The idea of a global Green New Deal is being floated by Greek economist, Yanis Varoufakis, co-founder of DiEM25, the Democracy in Europe 2025 movement, and DiEM25 co-ordinator and writer, David Adler.
In times of crisis and catastrophe, children are often forced to grow up quickly. We are now witnessing this premature call to action on a planetary scale. As the adults in government accelerate their consumption of fossil fuels, children are leading the campaign against our species’ looming extinction. Our survival now depends on the prospects for a global movement to follow their lead and demand an International Green New Deal.
Several countries have proposed their own versions of a Green New Deal. ...But these campaigns have largely remained siloed. Their advisers may exchange notes and ideas, but no strategy has emerged to coordinate these campaigns in a broader, global framework.

Unfortunately, climate change knows no borders. The US may be the second-largest polluter in the world, but it makes up less than 15% of global greenhouse emissions. Leading by example is simply not enough. 
Instead, we need an International Green New Deal: a pragmatic plan to raise $8tn – 5% of global GDP – each year, coordinate its investment in the transition to renewable energy and commit to providing climate protections on the basis of countries’ needs, rather than their means.
That does have that ring of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" mantra once hyped by those Commies. Wish there'd been another way to phrase that, one that wouldn't get blood boiling on Capitol Hill.

Their case is built on three principles. The first recognizes that every country, big or small, north or south, has ample sources of renewable energy. For some it may be predominantly wind power. For others it's solar.

The second principle is that a collective effort has a far greater chance of succeeding over ad hoc efforts.
Confronting the climate crisis will require more than keeping fossil fuels in the ground. We will also need major scientific breakthroughs to develop renewable sources of energy, adapt existing infrastructure, detoxify our oceans and decarbonize the atmosphere. No country alone can fund the research and development necessary to meet these challenges. The OEEC would pool the brainpower of the global scientific community: a Green Manhattan Project.
The third and final point will be the most contentious - reparations. This is where the affluent, developed nations would dig deep to help out the poorest and most vulnerable.
For centuries, countries such as the US and the UK have plundered natural resources from around the world and polluted them back out. Less developed nations have been doubly dispossessed: first, of their resource wealth, and second, of their right to a sustainable life – and in the case of many small island developing states, of their very right to exist. An International Green New Deal would redistribute resources to rehabilitate overexploited regions, protect against rising sea levels, and guarantee a decent standard of living to all climate refugees.

The UN climate change conferences will not save us from extinction – the demise of the Paris agreement should be evidence enough. These frameworks lock us into prisoners’ dilemmas, in which every country has an incentive to defect on their climate commitments, even if cooperation between them would yield a greater collective good. As long as climate cooperation is framed around sacrifice, it is vulnerable to strongmen like Donald Trump who vow to buck international rules in the name of national interests.
... Just like in the original New Deal, public financing will involve a mix of taxes and bond instruments. On the former, we can introduce a global minimum corporate tax rate that is then redistributed on the basis of their sales. On the latter, public investment banks – including the European Investment Bank, the World Bank and the KfW, Germany’s state-owned development bank – can coordinate the issue of green bonds that the major central banks agree collectively to support in the secondary markets. 
Suddenly, countries with large trade surpluses will realize they are better able to invest their excess capital if green investments in deficit countries are coordinated under the auspices of an international plan. The positive-sum dynamic will prevail. 
In this sense, the stakes of the International Green New Deal are not merely environmental. By uniting countries in the project of bottom-up economic transformation – and coercing multinationals to fund their fair share of it – it will also stem the tide of bigotry and xenophobia engulfing the world. 
“Advanced” capitalist countries today are literally falling apart. In the US, net public investment has fallen below half of one per cent of GDP. Across the eurozone, net public investment has remained below zero for nearly a decade. It is little wonder that political monsters are rising again: just as in the 1930s, the grapes of wrath are ripening and “growing heavy for the vintage”.
To revive the liberal democratic project, some pundits have suggested making China into a bogeyman. But the real bogeyman is of our creation: a climate crisis wrought by decades of inaction and underinvestment. To address the true existential threat that we face today, we must reverse the economic policies that brought us to this brink. Austerity means extinction.
Sadly, we don't live in the world Varoufakis and Adler would need to pull this off. Neoliberal capitalism is corporatist and not apt to embrace the idea of siphoning off five per cent of GDP to help the little brown people. Trump has already convinced the Gullibillies that many of America's problems stem from its foolish generosity to other, lesser nations. Besides, many of the proposed "donor class" of countries are, like Canada, petro-states determined to preserve foreign markets for our high-carbon fuels.

What I find most discouraging is that this idea makes sense. Whether the existential threat is climate change or overpopulation or excess consumption of dwindling resources, there are many ideas that make eminently good sense. Yet those ideas, those solutions, are not compatible with the neoliberal order that we continue to embrace and show no interest in moving beyond.

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