COP26: The Paralysis from Above

In a replay of INET Live’s webinar, following the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last December, Richard Kozul-Wright of UNCTAD, Patrick Bond of the University of Johannesburg, and author Maude Barlow discuss the disproportionate impact climate change has on the developing world and the ways to best address it.

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Rob Johnson:

Hi, this is Rob Johnson. I’m the president of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, and thank you for joining us here for INET Live. Today, we’re here to talk about what we call the paralysis from above; the COP26 meetings and beyond, and particularly with a focus on the future of the developing countries. I’m very concerned myself as I read about COP26, where several hundred energy lobbyists are allowed to attend, and some of the ministers from the Global South were not allowed. I’m very concerned though I have faith that the science and technology is there, that we will not be able to realize that unless we have a new vision of the common good and the systems of governance that are there to, which you might call, facilitate it.

I did a podcast with a Republican from the Bush Administration the other day, named Glenn Hubbard. He’s writing a new book, it’s called Walls and Bridges, and how if we continue to allow this plutocratic overwhelming of governance, and if we stifle international collaboration that’s necessary, in his view things will degenerate. And the question metaphorically is, how do we build that bridge over troubled waters that Simon and Garfunkel once spoke of?

Today I have with me three people who are extraordinarily aware and attentive. I’ve had the good fortune of making a podcast with each of them before. Richard Kozul-Wright, who is the director of UNCTAD’s Globalization and Development Strategies. He’s an economist, PhD in economics from University of Cambridge. And has I believe attended some of the COP26 meetings in Glasgow is my understanding. Maude Barlow, if you were an economist you would call her a liquid asset. She’s a water warrior, author, political activists, a dynamo. She’s written wonderful books about what’s not happened or what needs to happen with respect to water, but she’s working on, how would I say? Ways to let us see that the sun is rising rather than heading over the horizon. Patrick Bond, who I recently made a podcast with. He’s from the University of Johannesburg, Department of Sociology, and he’s done all kinds of work. He’s based in South Africa. He’s done all kinds of work on the fossil fuel industry, stranded assets, north south issues, the political economy of, which you might call obstacles to the kind of transformation that our global society will need to survive.

I want to thank you all for being here. I guess I’ll give you a couple of bullet point questions to frame things. What is causing the paralysis? How do we get green energy financed in the developing countries? How do we develop the Global South without the use of fossil fuels? And a number of other questions. How does climate change endanger the clean water that Maude you have been advocating or warning us is at risk? And how can economics and how can society respond?

We’ll begin the process today, I guess, with some speeches or some opening statements, I should say, of eight to 10 minutes beginning with Richard, then Patrick and Maude. And then we’ll have time for a discussion with Q and A of… or first a discussion among the panelists and then Q and A with the audience. I would alert those in the audience that we do have a Q and A panel. You can submit your questions on the chat, and then we will address them there in the last phase. But I want to thank all the panelists for joining me. I also was very inspired by George Monbiot’s recent writing at The Guardian, and I want to pay tribute to him, to Naomi Klein and her brother, Seth, and other people that I continue to learn from.

Anyway, Richard, why don’t you begin and let us know what you think happened, what you think didn’t happen, what you think needs to happen.

Richard Kozul-Wright:

Yeah. Thanks a lot, Rob, for that. I mean, I was at the COP the second week of the COP. I have to say it was the first time I had been to a COP, so this was a novel experience for me, even though I followed it from a distance. I’m still trying to weigh up the details of what happened. That may be a fools game, I think in a way. It seems to me that much like Kurosawa’s film Rashomon, different people have very different interpretations depending on how they were looking at the process. I mean, I guess there was a loose consensus that between the breakdown of Copenhagen and the euphoria of Paris, people seemed to think this was the best possible outcome under the circumstances. But the problem is that the circumstances are not very good and they’ve become significantly worse over the last decade as climate scientists have become much more attuned to the kinds of problems that we face from pumping more and more carbon into the atmosphere and more alarmist about the lack of action in response to what they have known.

And I guess the IPCC report that came out over the summer before the conference, many people hoped it would be a real wake up call, and I guess it wasn’t really from my point of view. I mean, I was surprised about the lack of progress that was made during the conference. I mean, there’s certain context, I think for that that goes beyond the climate crisis itself. And you got to put that into some sort of context. And one of those of course is the failure to make a significant policy correction after the global financial crisis. We all expected to see some significant changes in terms of policy and politics after the global financial crisis, and it didn’t really happen.

And partly as a consequence of that, we’ve had a decade in which political and economic divisions have been growing and trust in governments and governmental processes has been diminishing significantly. And I think the COVID crisis, which has opened up some important new avenues of thinking has added a layer of ambiguity. We don’t really know where we’re going as a consequence of the COVID crisis and the reaction of governments to that. Some of which has been very positive, some of which have been quite alarming in terms of the response. Against that backdrop, framing the meeting in Glasgow as the last best hope for the planet was setting up the conference, I think, which is how it was described by the host, I think, who was setting up the conference for a certain amount of failure.

And in practice, as far as with my interpretation is that most of the outcome was essentially kicking the can down the road to Egypt next year. And there are two big issues that make me worried about what will happen in Egypt next year from the kind of perspective that we have here in UNCTAD. And the first issue that shocked me to a little bit is just how little the climate challenge is understood as a development challenge, and the development challenge understood as a transformative problem, not a technocratic problem. And I just find it quite shocking that the development dimension of the climate challenge is largely absent. And I think the other big issue that again, has been apparent to us for some time is the erosion of multiculturalism is the kind of framing of the collective action in the context of the interdependent world that we currently live in.

And I think while advanced economies were desperate to find villains in the story in China and run Russia and India. When you pose it in the context of these two big issues, it’s the advanced economies that I think we need to turn the spotlight on in understanding the current situation, their attitudes and their actions as the countries that are most responsible for the climate problem itself. And I think there were three things that struck me and I leave it here, that kind of shocked me in a way in terms of the nature of the discussion in Glasgow that follow from turning the spotlight on the advanced economies. The first one is the way in which they’re desperately trying to dilute the notion of common but differentiated responsibility, which is the way in which the collective response of the climate challenge should be framed. They want to talk about shared responsibility, not common but differentiate responsibilities.

The second issue I think there is their unwillingness to take regulatory action against corporate interests, which are both the principle actors behind carbon emissions and of course the principle beneficiaries from that carbon led growth regime. And a consequence, I think, of those two things, a third point is this resort to magical thinking that we hear. A neoliberal variant of magical thinking in which getting prices right, discovering the new technology that will remove carbon from the atmosphere and putting our faith in big finance is the way in which we think about now meeting this challenge. And we got a sense of that in the day on financing the climate challenge when as you know Rob, large asset managers and banks said they’ve got 130 trillion in store to deal with the problem. Of course, politicians were delighted with that kind of talk because it seemed to let them off the hook around the big issue that developing countries in particular worry about, which is mobilizing the resources to deal with the climate challenge. And of course, there isn’t 130 trillion in these institutions to somehow magically deal with the climate crisis.

I mean, I was looking out from my perspective, a more development perspective. I was not encouraged by the way in which the discourse was framed or ultimately the outcomes that were achieved.

Rob Johnson:

Well, thank you, Richard. A dear friend of mine who works in the public relations realm said to me that when he finished this… He was in Glasgow, and he said, “I just sing this old rhythm and blue song; Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get.” “And this is 26 cops,” he said, “It wasn’t 26 cops, it was cops and robbers.” And he was very, very frustrated that we weren’t going to where we had to go. And I know a number of writers have said, why are we not talking about leaving fossil fuels in the ground? Why are we even flirting with compensating or subsidizing these stranded assets. Patrick you know a great deal about-

Richard Kozul-Wright:

I think [crosstalk 00:14:07] we should be much more worried about state capture than we are about carbon capture when it comes to addressing this problem. Because in a world where many of the advanced economy states are captured, it’s very different to get a constructive form of multilateralism to deal with these kinds of problems. It’s a mercantilist world that emerges out of that, and we’re not going to solve the climate crisis in a mercantilist world. That’s quite clear to me.

Rob Johnson:

That’s right. Patrick, you’re very sensitive to all of these realms. You’ve shared with me all kinds of different perspectives. I don’t want to get in the way. What are you thinking?

Patrick Bond:

Well, I’m going to just pick up where Richard left off. I’ve known Richard a little bit, and the best of multilateralism I think is in his UNCTAD unit that for example, put the arguments for a global green deal together. And the despair that I hear in Richard and the way you framed it, Rob, and the paralysis from above does suggest that Greta Thunberg was not exaggerating in saying, this is blah, blah, blah. And her objective is to fire up the base to get the youth ready because it’s future generations on and on that have to intensify these battles. But let me take just a step back to say, about six levels I think this above, if I’m allowed to just drill down from where Richard has left off, really does compel us at the base. And especially I’m in Johannesburg, the most unequal city in the world with the most extreme contradictions in excessive use.

And we got a special $8.5 billion climate financing. Under more scrutiny really it does fall apart because instead of decarbonization and moving from coal, the head of the agency getting that is intending to move from coal to methane, which will amplify many of these problems and lock in a great deal of unburnable and stranded assets. We’re having a big fight at the moment here over Shell trying to floor for methane offshore. The six points, the failure to cut emissions sufficiently and fairly and to do so, for example, bringing in… The number one polluter in the world is the Pentagon bringing in military, bringing maritime, bringing in air. Now these are problems with Paris. And I think we’re at 2.7 in these pledges, but these pledges are voluntary without binding systems accountability mechanisms, punishments if a Donald Trump walks out.

Second, to transition gracefully to make sure that the working class, poor and working people in communities and the workers in carbon intensive industries; that’s energy, it’s transport, it’s agriculture, construction and urbanization processes, it’s production systems, it’s consumption and disposal. All of these areas that we have to radically transform have workers in communities that will be hurt. And we haven’t yet heard from the elites any real indication of ways to deal with it, which then prevents us from having a good coalition of forces to solve the problem.

Third, to bring in all of the other sites where injustices of climate are explicit for racial justice, north south justice. The indigenous people who’ve been such inspiring leaders on so many fronts, youth communities, and to get formal rights for nature, a modest guru of this, for climate migrants and refugees, for future generations to really install core values in a global multilateral system of power that can enforce those rights.

And then fourth, to get the technology into global public good form. As with this week in the WTO, which was meant to look at the, let me call it a apartheid vaccine system in which intellectual property held by big pharma corps massively subsidized by Global North has prevented us from, in most of this continent, getting above about 7% vaccination rates hence the conditions for an Omicron variant with all the mutations. These are the sorts of things that really reflect on the utter failure, the moral failure, the political failure of these elites. And the same is true for transferring technology that would be very important for climate, for solar, for wind power and all manner of other technologies. And instead as Richard was hinting out, the fantasy world includes the false solutions of all sorts of, let me call them biotech and artificial intelligence, and the genetic modified approaches to trying to sequester in ways that are entirely unproven and very difficult, or to add nuclear back in. And also when we have green economies to address the extractivist economy.

A fifth point is to leave the fossil fuels underground, really declare these unburnable assets, make the financial managers, the lenders, the investors take that haircut as well. Rob, I’m going to defer to you because that’s where weakening that extraordinary arrogance of a Mark Carney, for example, saying, “I’ve got 130 trillion.” They just want profits and they’re not ready to take this kind of hit when they shouldn’t have been making these investments in the first place. And finally, six to be most important probably for our discussion, what would be the fairer financing? We know that the, let me call it privatization of the air, the selling of the right to pollute through carbon markets, originally from Los Angeles in sulfur markets in the early nineties under George H. W. Bush, these haven’t worked.

I mean, we’ve now seen the EU push up the carbon price in a manner that looks impressive. It’s at the about a $90 per ton price. You can go and buy the right to pollute there. But actually most of the world that’s under about 22% carbon pricing is way low. In this country, 42 cents per ton. What should it be? Well, Donald Trump said $1 per ton. Joe Biden says $51. The IMF when it calculates the implicit subsidies, the 5.9 trillion, they’re a little better, $60 a ton. Europe about 90. But the new research says really the damage being done, the planetary threat puts this carbon price, the social cost of carbon at $3,000 a ton, which in turn means these markets aren’t working and they’re financial speculative in character. They always crash when the financial bubbles crash. But it means a carbon overload and overdose by many of us, me and the Global North in Johannesburg. But we need to acknowledge a climate debt, exactly what Richard said, that the special responsibilities the polluter pays principle, a very simple principle that helps to correct neoliberal economics to internalize externalities.

To me, that’s where the better inside negotiators were trying to put loss and damage back. Of course, it’s loss and damage because of the massive hits especially that the Global South has, because it’s not insured; about 4% insured compared to the north 60%. But as the last point, we need to bring in climate debt in other ways. And really it’s going to be not just the loss in damage, paying for what the north has done, but also it’s going to be the adaptation costs and making these sites, African rural areas or cities more resilient. So that is going to be very heavy infrastructure, but job creating infrastructure. But it’s also the compensation for the unused carbon space that our ability to be able to industrialize in Africa, limited now by the excesses and compensating there. So compensating Africa to leave fossil fuels underground is one step in that direction.

If you don’t trust African governments, which most of our civil society activists would say, “Yeah, we don’t trust even the South African government to distribute the funds for a climate debt payment properly.” Well, we need basic income grants. We need to find ways to basically incentivize countries. Ecuador started this with the Yasuni project, but we have plenty of examples here. And even that climate finance project was part of this story. Incentivize countries to leave fossil fuels underground. Give them some concessions so that the revenue streams, hopefully they do get down to the people. If not, we can set up basic income grant mechanisms. There’s a good one in Namibia.

To me, these are the six ways I would judge. There has been a bit more rhetoric in the COP about indigenous people, gender, youth, but really the money is where we can really tell whether the global elites are serious. They put 10 trillion into quantitative easing techniques last year. They can’t find a hundred billion a year. Oxfam says we’re only getting 18 billion a year in grant equivalent from that promise.

So I would sum up and say, look, this is really a conference of polluters. And when Greta Thunberg says, blah, blah, blah. When our African groups, Panafrican Climate Justice Alliance and many of our lead intellectuals and activists that say the conference of polluters when it comes to Egypt will follow exactly Boris Johnson’s exclusionary strategy because it’s a dictatorship, the LCC regime. And what we really need to do now is redouble our efforts to leave our fossil fuels under ground to have a Blockadia, Naomi Klein puts it, and really to make sure that if things like climate sanctions come up with a carbon border adjustment mechanism, then we begin to really put pressure to make sure there’s justice in that. Those would be some of the ways I would conclude with Richard, that this was a terrible failure and further delegitimizes a multilateralism led by neoliberals and the fossil fuel industry and big corporates.

Thank you, Patrick. We’ll come back to you in a few minutes when we have the panel interaction. But I’d like to let Maude speak. Maude, I think there are many dimensions. One, you’re an observer of the political economy and the common good. Your focus has been on water. Water may be at greater risk in light of the issues related to fossil fuels. I just want to give you the whiteboard and ask you, what do you see and what worries you and what would you like to see?

Maude Barlow:

All right. Well, first of all, Rob, thank you very much for inviting me on this panel to be with my dear old friend, Patrick. It’s just a lovely to see you. Why did we leave all those years? And to meet my new friend, Richard, this is just terrific. I come to you from the unseated territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe here in Ottawa, Canada. Water was not on the table officially at COP26. It never is. There is usually a UNESCO event that happens that talks about it. I spoke at the one in Paris. And someone who works with me was in the audience and as I spoke, she heard people hearing saying, socialist. It was quite funny. But water is generally seen as a subset. When people talk about climate, they’re talking about carbon emissions, and then they see water as being impacted by that, which of course is true with melting glaciers and with the warming of the atmospheres, the warming of the waters, which means they evaporate more quickly, thirsty forest, thirsty farms need more water. We know that.

But as much as that is true, the way we are polluting, diverting, damning, mismanaging the world’s water is one of the major causes of the climate crisis, and watershed protection and restoration is one of the major solutions to it. And so this has been a longstanding position of mine. You simply can’t disconnect them. Water is very much impacted by something that’s coming out of both COP, not officially so far, but out of the many discussions around biodiversity, and it’s called nature based solutions. At blush, it’s very exciting and lots of people are talking about it in a very positive way. It’s the recognition that while we are dealing with the carbon crisis and getting those greenhouse gas emissions down to zero, we have to protect and restore those other areas of nature that are going to help us with both carbon sinks and just the local hydrologic cycles.

So protection restoration of watersheds, wetlands, forests, and soil, and the whole move to regenerative farming and how much that is understood to be part of the solution. And the whole concept of 30 by 30 by 2030, that 30% of the world will have biodiversity absolutely protected and the oceans off the coast of countries will be protected. And this is key to fighting climate change, the climate crisis. However, I fear that the nature based solutions has been absconded with, as often happens, by corporate interests and moved away, because we’re not talking about the concept of capitalism, we’re not talking about the structure of economic globalization with its free trade agreements and with its privatization and its deregulation and a continued faith and insistence that the market makes the decisions.

I mean, I will remind us that of the hundred largest economies in the world, 69 are still transnational corporations and 31 are countries. So we are still very much boxed into of that. And if I have a critique of some of the young climate activists, and I love them and work with them, it is that a lot of them just don’t… they don’t know that part of it because they weren’t there for the struggles against economic globalization and the market deciding everything. And biodiversity is being reinvented basically as a market model. In other words, nature is now called natural asset, ecosystems are ecosystem services. So you can actually put a dollar figure on what that lake is giving to the economy or what that forest is. Of course, the huge clear problem with that is if something comes along and can make more money from cutting down that forest. Well, if you brought it into the market economy, that’s where it’s going to have to compete.

The whole concept of biodiversity offsets. We know about carbon offsets, and as Patrick said, how wrong headed and dangerous they are. But nevertheless, we’re now talking about Wall Street has diversity offsets and biodiversity funding. I don’t know if you know about the Dasgupta report. He’s the senior economist in Great Britain and he tabled a report that was highly touted. Prince Charles was there and Attenborough was there and everybody was there. And basically Attenborough said, “Well, it shows that it’s going to be economist, not ecologist who save us because…” And he meant that in a good way. What Dasgupta and others are saying is, don’t touch the market economy. It’s untouchable. So what we have to do is find a way to protect water and nature within that economy. And if you want to see a very good critique of the Dasgupta report, I’d send you to Green Finance Observatory. It’s a fine institute in Europe that’s doing really important work.

Now at COP26, of course as we know, and both Patrick and Richard have alluded to. There was the Glasgow Financial Alliance, which is banks, asset managers, pension, insurance funds, and so on. And as been mentioned, they pledged 130 trillion towards nature based solutions basically. However, they’re very clear that they want the IMF and the World Bank to back them up. They’re not putting money into anything that’s going to lose money. And of course, they’ll do this until carbon and reforestation offset start to make money. Because as Patrick has said, they’re clearly not in here for any other reason.

Indigenous groups are understandably deeply concern to about big conservation organizations like Nature Conservancy, which by the way is clearly promoting water markets as the solution to the global climate crisis or the water crisis. I mean, in Australia, they separated the water from the land and allow farmers and others to sell their license. They own it and sell it for profit. And of course, it just set off this crazy situation where the price of water just skyrocketed because of course the big farm, the big ag businesses moved in on the small farmers, then the international investors and so on, and the government totally lost control. But this is something that is being promoted in the name of nature based solutions, this market economy. And in the name of conservation, indigenous peoples, local peoples, people whose people have been there for centuries but maybe don’t have title to this land because it’s traditional land are being moved off in the name of biodiversity and nature based solutions. And we’re seeing it in the whole issue of the latest on water futures.

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange several months ago has opened up bidding water futures in California, basically bidding on drought. So you’re no longer buying the actual water, you’re buying the water asset and you’re betting on the fact that the drought is going to continue to get worse, which I can assure you in California it is. And you just hold onto those assets until a such time, you can make some more profit from them. And they have the nerve to put this language out and they’re going to help conserve water. This is how they’re going to do this. So it’s deeply concerning and water gets connected and committed into this new system. Nature based solutions was so… this is a good thing, was so controversial at COP that they left the language out at the end and put in the language of biodiversity restoration.

So I want us to be very clear. I think when we’re talking about other aspects of the climate crisis and how as Patrick has said so repeatedly, we have to challenge the fundamental premises of capitalism or we’re not going to get out of this. I would want to leave you with some hope, because I just wrote a book on hope that’s coming out in March called Still Hopeful; Lessons From a Lifetime of Activism. And the signs of hope that I see is that there is some real recognition, there’s a real fight back happening around the profound underlying realities that we’re dealing with. And I was really pleased to see Green Peace International play a very strong role at COP26 on naming this biodiversity sale, the marketization of nature, and really beginning to see within even the big environmental movements, a reality that we can’t fight for one thing without fighting for the other.

And I just end by saying that we started a project in Canada about 12 years ago called Blue Communities. We had a right wing government that was saying to municipalities, if you want to upgrade your water infrastructure, if you want federal funding, you have to have a public private partnership. We won’t give you money… This is exactly what the World Bank did with countries in the Global South. You won’t get funding from us unless you move to a private corporation. And we’ve been fighting those all over the world. Well, we set this up in Canada. We launched Blue Communities Project where a municipality to become a Blue Community had to pledge to protect and promote water as a human right, to keep it as a public trust, so no privatization. And where there’s clean water coming out of the tap to phase out bottled water and to promote clean public water with their public, which just took off like wildfire in Canada.

And we were getting municipalities basically saying to the Harper Government, we’re taking a stand here. It was a positive thing. Then it started to spread to Europe and now other cities, and hopefully we’re hoping it’s going to start to move in a different way in the Global South. But we now have Paris and Berlin, Los Angeles, Montreal, Vancouver, and number of major cities have declared that they’re never going to privatize water again. In some cases Paris and Berlin having both privatized their water. And the good news from all of this is there are about 25 million people now living in Blue Community cities and municipalities that understand that to protect water you have to keep it in public hands. That doesn’t mean they do a good job. Obviously we know governments often don’t, but the worst combination is bad government and big corporations coming in to run this stuff for bad governments.

We have the right to good government. We have the right to demand access and understanding and democratic oversight of these water sources. Who’s getting access to them? What are they doing? This must be limited. There must be public accountability. And you’re not going to be able to deal with the water part of the crisis or any part of the crisis unless you have true democratic and community control. And just to say as a really positive thing, because I wrote a book on hope so I’m filled with hope that there are now 337 towns and cities in the world, it’s being followed by Transnational Institute that tried privatization of their water services, realized it was a terrible mistake and have brought it back under public management. So this is a live fight. I call it a mighty contest around a planet that is literally running out of clean water.

When we see the stats, it’s like the demand is going straight up and the supply is going straight down. We absolutely have to see this as its own crisis within the climate crisis. And we have to keep it in public hands. And I would say it’s ongoing. You’ve got the water trading, you’ve got bottled water, you still got public private partnerships, you’ve now got this water speculation. But we have a powerful movement that is saying no to all of this and has really, really manifested itself. I mean, here are Canadian municipalities turning down good money from the federal government because they were going to hold onto a public water system because their citizens said so. So I want us to be hopeful that we’re going to see this thing in its entirety and understand that we can’t deal with the climate crisis just by dealing with the carbon issue. It has to be the economy moving to a Doughnut economy, understanding the danger of the unlimited growth and what it’s done to our planet and to increase the inequality of our people.

Rob Johnson:

Well, thank you. I recall when you were telling me about out your book, Still Hope, forthcoming book that I was very encouraged. And it reminded me that the word courage comes from the roots, your heart and telling your story of your age. And to encourage is what you seem to be doing while being fierce in diagnosis. So I’m grateful for not just what you see, but the way you’re teaching us to evolve.

Richard, you’re a new friend. There’s two old friends. I’d like to see all of you… how would I say, ask each other questions as you’re exploring. But let me just add, I’m seeing something that’s hopeful, which is that people can see that this is a problem that’s not going away. So the urgency is being recognized. The evasiveness, the refractory nature of a plutocratic political economy, the complications of globalization and perhaps for the people who were earnest but believed in the market, the pervasiveness of externalities now. Meaning this climate is not something that’s a commodity. It’s something that anybody’s action affects us all.

So I look at all of this and it made me feel a little bit like Nina Simone singing I Ain’t Got No, it’s the fear, the despair rises. If there isn’t progress, it’s going to facilitate authoritarian rule ultimately. But excuse me, Nina Simone comes back in the last verse of that song. And the name of the song is I Ain’t Got No, I Got Life. I got my arms, I got my hands, I got my fingers, I got my legs, I got my feet, I got my toes, I got my liver, I got my blood, I got life, I got my life. And so you bring life and illumination to this. All these resistances are there. What are the next steps? Let’s have a free all here for 15 minutes where you talk to each other and I’ll be quiet. Patrick, why don’t you start?

Patrick Bond:

May I start? I have questions for both my dear friends. Richard, you watch global power politics as well as anyone and your assessment of the way your arguments move in through UNCTAD reports. But the lobbying you do, the alliances you make, is it going anywhere? Now that the United States is back in the game, ironically perhaps that corporate neoliberal influence from US State Department, the people like, was it Todd Stern who said, “Yeah, we put the carbon up there, but as for recognizing our duty for climate reparations, I just categorically reject that.” So I’m asking you for a balance of forces of where specifically your ability to make great arguments, is it catching? And then Maude, you really worked, I think better than anyone I’ve ever met on global movement building, the Water Warriors. You were here in Johannesburg helping to have a revolt against Suez and you were remarkable, and you were in Bolivia and you’re really all over.

This book, I can’t wait to see. I hope it documents all this. But for Water Warriors, maybe for Via Campesina, the world Peasants’ Movement, excellent global linkages and not just networks but movements were built. Why haven’t we done that so well with climate? We’ve had a climate action, a climate justice, two different ways of seeing things. But within climate justice, we haven’t really brought in labor yet. We’ve had all kinds of minor disputes and distinctions, funders not really being particularly helpful. Can we do something better now that we desperately need more unity? What do you think? Maude from below and maybe Richard from above.

Maude Barlow:

You go first, Richard.

Richard Kozul-Wright:

Sure. I’ll start from above. I mean, following up from Rob’s musical direction, I think some famous band said, “We can’t always get what we want, but if we try sometimes we just might find we get what we need.” I guess what we need, at least from our point of view, Patrick, is we need a huge investment push into both… We can’t solve either the adaptation or the mitigation problem simply by putting a million people on the street. I mean, this is where I have a certain adverse reaction to the blah, blah, blah rhetoric. Because transforming the energy system is a huge investment challenge. It’s a huge investment challenge and there are huge vested interests behind the current energy system which is the source of the problem.

And we need states. I think the state is the one institution we have. For all its faults and for all the problems that I talked about at the beginning, we have to make sure that public action, public investment is captured by a progressive agenda again, to be able to make these kind of transformative changes. And that’s true, I think at the national level and certainly true at the multilateral level, because investments on this scale also need to be coordinated across countries. If we’ve learned anything from the COVID-19 shock, we’ve learned that developing countries are developing countries still, despite all the talk that somehow they’ve all graduated into some higher status, because the constraints on their policy, the constraints on their fiscal space, the constraints on their technological upgrading remain profound and highly skewed because of the structure of the international division of labor and the governance of international markets by increasingly large multilateral corporations.

Concentration has been a feature of the hyper globalized world. And this is where the frustration I understand comes from, but I think building a positive narrative around the mobilization of public resources for the kind of productive investments in adaptation and mitigation, I think is the way in which we have to go in terms of account and narrative and mobilizing the resources, political and economic to put that narrative into practice.

And I do get slightly frustrated at times by the activist community. I mean, we appreciate the energy because in the rest of the COP it’s hard being an exciting place. And the real energy and the real determination is there, but we need that narrative and we need an appreciation of the vehicles that can make these kinds of changes if we’re going to make progress. And that’s the focus, I think, around our work on the Global Green New Deal, but it’s a challenge. It’s a real challenge, I think.

Maude Barlow:

Well, Patrick, I’d like to send those questions back to you too, because I think you’d have really interesting answers to both of them and I think we all three want to speak to this. On the building a climate justice movement, I think everything’s been harder to build on the progressive front since 9/11. I don’t know if you remember that we were on such a roll. I mean, I’ve got a section in the book called chasing the WTO, and I was… All the places that we were at, we were really building an international movement around economic globalization that could easily have been gifted to the climate movement. And all of a sudden the security forces that came down on the world were so intense.

I was in Doha, Qatar for the ministerial there just months after 9/11 and the security was unbelievable. And there were only like a handful of us NGOs, protestors, whatever allowed in. Maybe a hundred of us from all over the world. And they assigned us to the dumpiest, most disgusted hotels that don’t deserve the name. And everybody had to pay the same amount. But of course, the pubas stayed at the 10 star and whatever. And I remember being told by one of the security officials that we did really careful things. They just put tape over our mouths. We were careful. And he said, “If you did this and it wasn’t a WTO here, we’d put you down, we’d put you in… You’d be down in a prison somewhere.”

From then on, the connection between potential terrorism and our movements got conflated. And it’s been very, very difficult for us to… There was a World Bank protesting planned just before 9/11 in Washington. I was going to be there for it, the international formal globalization was going to be there for it. We had a teaching set up. We had hundreds of thousands of people going to be on the street. It’s hard to do that in the same way now.

And to Richard’s point, I think it’s very important for us to understand how difficult it’s going to be. The reality and I agree with you around the blah, blah, blah. She said that on day two and I thought, there’s still two weeks. And I think the world of Greta Thunberg and what she’s done. But we also have to understand the complications.

You’ve been to India and I’m sure all of you have, or other places that were laggards, as Richard said. Not that you said, but that people were charging that. And I thought that’s just patently unfair. And in fact, I thought the head of the Chinese delegation gave a brilliant statements, that you don’t even read the stuff we put up. You don’t know what we’re doing back home. And we’re not doing it for you, we’re doing it for our people to [inaudible 00:48:01] whatever we’re able to do. But when you go into communities and there’s no money, and coal is what you have there, it’s going to take a longer time than we all want. And we have to understand that if we… I really think we have to think about, we’ve got a certain lifestyle in mind, and we want to exchange fossil fuels for something else.

Well, how many solar panels in the desert probably made in China with coal? How many windmills, how many wind farms? It’s mind boggling what you have to do if we’re really going to maintain our current level of life. We’re in what William Reese calls overshoot. And if we don’t deal with the overshoot issue, if we don’t deal with a system and an economy that’s just built on unlimited growth and competition, we’re going to replace one bad thing with another. We here in Canada are really worried that the United States is just going to assume that all of our mighty rivers are to be dams so that we can have them. And they’re already talking about a North American electricity grid. Biden’s talking about American jobs, save American jobs. But when they want to talk about electricity, it’s a North American electrical grid. And that really makes me nervous because I worry about that.

So I really think we have to have that deeper conversation. And I would just end and I want to hear from, well, everybody, but from my friend that I visited a 99 year old friend just before she died, Vie Morgan. And she was married to a man, Dr. Griffith Morgan. And he gave a speech when he was 89 at a anti Walmart. They kept Walmart out of their town in Guelph, Ontario for years. And he was on this panel and he gave his passionate speech and dropped dead right in front of everybody. We gave her some boots on sort of things. And the next day the newspaper had a picture of me and Vie and Griff on the front page in a quote from the mayor, “Now heaven is say from Walmart,” which is really quite sweet.

But anyway, when I visited her, she said to me, she held my hand and she said, “Have you got a quiet mind?” And I said, “Not particularly. I’m looking for one.” And she said, “You’ll have a quiet mind when you have faith that there are others that are doing things you don’t even know about, you can’t even imagine.” Or as Rebecca Solnit says; progress isn’t an army marching forward. It’s a crab scuttling sideways.” We don’t know how we’re going to get there, but we have to have some faith that there’s a human commitment. And that has to be fueled by wise hope, not false hope, not optimism so I don’t have to do anything. But truly saying to yourself, I’m overwhelmed. When I’m overwhelmed, I have to ask myself, what’s the next appropriate step to take and you take it.

Patrick Bond:

I mean, because I think of you as leading our army, you’re our vanguard. Maude, you’re a heat seeking missile and you never stray. You always find the spot. So I’m a disappointed now we have to have this kind of retreat because actually it’s the tree shakers like you who help the jam makers like Richard. And I guess my question is really, and I ponder it because we never get it right. What’s the division of labor so that these fruits that are being shaken by climate justice movement, by the youth and hopefully now by labor, trying to figure out what would a just transition require. So what kind of coordination inside, outside, what kind of division of labor, Richard, do we need between Maude and the tree shakers? I hope there are jam makers, but actually you didn’t tell me if there were any. And that’s why actually I like Greta Thunberg. Her blah, blah, blah, reminds the elites that they’re not jam makers, or they’re just not interested and they need delegitimization. We actually need to clear them out. I’m very much into the blah, blah, blah, Richard. I apologize. Present company accepted.

Richard Kozul-Wright:

I mean, it is what we think about a lot, including in UNCTAD. I mean, our moment of triumph was of course the efforts to establish a new international economic order in the 1970s. The UNCTAD was the substantive backing for that. And developing countries were very much politically motivated to move that in that direction. And there was a level of solidarity amongst developing countries at that point that in fact moved things in a direction where there was a lot of hope, I think more to that point amongst developing countries, and economic circumstances were in the favor. The advanced economies were in a certain amount of disarray coming out of the weakening of the golden age. And distribution struggles within the advanced economies empowered to some extent development.

And we know what happened. I mean, we know that that Alliance within the south eventually collapsed in the face of pressures from the advanced economies. And we’re a long way. We don’t have that kind of solidarity in the developing world right now. I wish it was true, but from an institution that was set up on the back of that, it doesn’t exist at the moment. And I think the challenge then is to find what combination of a countervailing forces can be put together in a progressive direction. And clearly one of the things that we need to do as we look at it from a country perspective is to bring in the role of organized labor.

And to some extent, even though labor is much weaker today than it was in the seventies, there are parts of the labor movement that have clearly embraced the notion of a just transition and the possibilities that that does to marrying the issues around economic injustice with repairing the planet. I think there are real positives to be taken from that. The role of civil societies as you embrace it, Patrick is part of the energizing alliance that we need. Of that, there’s no doubt.

It is very much Gramsci’s pessimism of the mind optimism of the will, I think, but there are signs, I think, and our work on the Global Green New Deal certainly suggest that, that there are elements of the necessary alliance there, the jam makers, if you like, in your language, Patrick, that we just need to find ways of scaling up. And one of the ways to do that is to provide a very strong counter narrative to the neoliberal agenda, which remains incredibly powerful. And so strengthening that narrative, emphasizing the importance of public investment, public services, public goods as the basis for an alternative agenda I think is the way, at least that we have some element of hope in terms of moving forward.

Patrick Bond:

And we did have, just the last point, a very great victory. Even Maude, when you were in that sleazy hotel in Doha, the tree shakers had forced the jam makers to put an exemption on intellectual property for AIDS medicines. That meant instead of costing a 100,000 or $10,000 a year, they’re free. And 7 million of my compatriots get it. And we’ve actually raised life expectancy from 52 in 2005 to 65 just before COVID. Richard, that’s the merit good, the public good strategy. And there was that alliance of really robust activists on the streets act up in the US and Treatment Action Campaign and Médecins Sans Frontière, Oxfam. And maybe Rob, that’s why we’re so grateful that INET is helping a Polanyian… not this [grumpshine 00:56:14], but a Polanyian double movement by working against the logic above, the movement of neoliberalism in the market. And now with all of your great work and Rob, thanks so much for putting this together and all the things you do, moving the anti neoliberal project. Where are we going with that, Rob? You should have the last word.

Rob Johnson:

All right. Well, I’ll fuse this with a question that appeared on the board. A gentleman said; I would love the elaboration of Rob’s statement, if there’s no progress, it could facilitate more authoritarianism. Prior to seeing that, I was preparing to share with you what I think is very important medicine. And I will read you four quotes. The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce that arises from the merchant class, therefore ought always to be listened to with great precaution. Second quote, civil governments so far as it is instituted for the security of property is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor or of those who have some property against those who have none at all. Third, avarice and injustice are always shortsighted. And finally, the government and an exclusive company merchants is perhaps the worst of all governments for any country whatever. Excuse me, not whatsoever.

Now, where did those four quotes come from? They came from this Scottish man that people who believe in markets talk about named Adam Smith from the book called the Wealth of Nations. It’s hiding in plain sight. Now, the person raising the question about authoritarian rule, we are taught that capitalism receives its moral groundedness from being embedded in a democracy. When we commodify social design and enforcement, when the scrutiny in the media is driven by the imperatives of advertisers, when universities become dependent on money and can’t teach people other than what you might call credentials, we’re in a very dangerous zone. There’s a wonderful old book by a man, I think his named Gerald Jampolsky called Love Is Letting Go of Fear. I think this question that’s asked about authoritarianism is that if you can’t feel the legitimacy of governance, if you are despairing for perhaps the end of life for your descendants, when you get that afraid you resort to alternatives that are not healthy, but you don’t see any place at the end of the road.

What Adam Smith showed is now at a time where, as Marvin Gaye used to sing, what’s going on? Well, we can see what’s going on. And what Marvin Gaye’s third verse says is we got to find a way to bring some understanding here today. That’s what INET’s trying to do. That’s why I asked the three of view to join me. I thought you brought some understanding here today. I think you bring some understanding to all kinds of dimensions in life. And how do I say? There’s another song, when you going to wake up and strengthen the things that remain. We’re getting our wake up call right now; whether it’s the pandemic, whether it’s climate, and you people are rising to the challenge. Thank you for joining me. And somebody’s one other question, I was thinking about COP27 in Egypt, which is going to make it very hard for civil society to express itself on-site. Are you concerned about that as well? Each of you, final thoughts.

Maude Barlow:

Well, I’ll just start with not answering that, but just correcting myself, because I think the world of Greta Thunberg. So I just want to make sure that I’m not in any way suggesting that the movement, particularly the movement of young people isn’t fabulous, and must stay and must grow. I think my concern is that we hold on to a vision, a particular lifestyle, and think that we can… If there’s a criticism of the Youth Climate Movement from me, it’s that I find it very centered on carbon, and somehow the replacements are there and it’s just the lack of will. And I think it’s really complicated. And it’s that place between complication… And I was encouraged at COP26, because I heard people up on the podium who were in power, who said things I’ve never heard them say before. And I just want to say, I don’t think the world has ever, ever, ever been more ready to take action. With the information we have, with the scientific knowledge we have, with the communication we have, we have to move forward. And that’s awesome, and it includes powerful youth movements.

Richard Kozul-Wright:

Just on Egypt very quick. I mean, developing countries are phenomenally frustrated with the way in which the multilateral system operates. And they’ve been frustrated for some time. But they’re moving from frustration and a fairly reactive politics to trying to fashion a more positive agenda, I think across a number of issues of which the waiver that Patrick talked about, I think is one indication of that movement from a reactive to a more constructive agenda. And I think actually Egypt, the fact that it’s being hosted in a developing country may well be a catalyst for that kind of thinking, because I’m hoping that developing countries will be empowered by the fact that it is in a developing country and that in a sense, this is their terrain. And they know the problems better than anybody else, because they’re on the front line of these problems.

Rob Johnson:

Yeah, they are. Patrick?

Patrick Bond:

Well, I dispute a little bit that we should pay that much attention to the COP27, it’s going to be actually in Sharm El-Sheik, a ridiculous resort. And indeed, I know because Panafrican Climate Justice Alliance is figuring out how it’s members in Egypt and we have a meeting there in a couple of weeks, how we actually prepare for this 11 months rolling out of pressure to… if there is anybody inside to help fight the imperialists, well, we’re there with them. But I think because that’s very unlikely, because Sisi is a dictator, and he is very much in league with the west. What we will see is a thousand Sharm El-Sheikhs all over the world, and they’ll be more and more tough. And hopefully they go to embassies and consulates and really show who the climate criminals are. But they’re also engaged in Blockadia, and I think that’s why I’ll just teach you those last two words. I’m sure Maude remembers them, because we say power to the people Amandla Awethu. And I think that’s the only way forward. Amandla Awethu. Thanks.

Rob Johnson:

Well, I guess to finish the day, maybe Mick Jagger’s grinning because he heard his song, You Can’t Always Get What You Want. But I went to Philadelphia and I up a song called Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now. We’re on the move, we got to groove, and it’s people like you that create it. Thank you all. I look forward to following your work, and the light you shed on everything, so that we can’t be stopped. Meet again soon.

Richard Kozul-Wright:

Thanks, Rob. Thank you.

Rob Johnson:

Keep safe [crosstalk 01:04:42].

Richard Kozul-Wright:

Thanks Maude.

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