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The World Bank likes to talk a good game on climate change. But when it comes to taking action, its approach can be “too narrowly focused, small scale and uncoordinated,” admits Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Worse still, it often backs entirely the wrong strategies, like carbon markets, while continuing to invest billions every year in new fossil fuel infrastructure.
VIEW NEW WEBSITE HERE: www.climatemarkets.org.
Since taking the helm, Jim Kim has made repeated promises that addressing climate change – and the devastating impacts it has on development – will be at the center of the Bank’s agenda. Key to this is a new Presidential Task Force on Climate Change, which will examine fossil fuel subsidies, carbon markets, “climate smart” agriculture, and partnerships to build cleaner cities. At the same time, the Bank’s low-income focused International Development Association (IDA), and its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), have both identified climate financing as a priority area.
The World Bank-IMF spring meetings convening in Washington DC provide an opportunity for the Bank to flesh out a new approach. The early signs are not promising, though. Carbon markets remain a central pole of the bank’s strategy, with $110 million pledged to a “Partnership for Market Readiness” that is encouraging the creation of new markets modeled on a European scheme that has already virtually collapsed.
There are indications, too, that much of the Bank’s “bold” new thinking is based on reaching out to the financial sector, using some of the same Wall Street tricks that proved so devastating for the United States and global economy in the 2008 crash. The Bank isn’t alone in this approach: the Green Climate Fund, and many of the other international financial institutions, are looking to encourage (“leverage”) private sector finance to plug the massive holes in climate financing left by industrialized countries failing to meet their obligations.
Dusting down the same old financial approaches isn’t going to work. In climate circles, it's already possible to hear the familiar refrain that rich-country austerity means that “There Is No Alternative” to courting the private sector. To which we’d respond: the United States is not broke, and neither are the other industrialized (“Annex I”) countries that should be making far larger public financial contributions and developing ambitious domestic plans to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. On the financial side, these could be supplemented by a range of genuinely “innovative” approaches, including financial transaction taxes, or a "Robin Hood tax."
We’ve set up a new website on Climate Finance and Markets (climatemarkets.org) to explore these new approaches, and to monitor how the World Bank, the Green Climate Fund and others are courting the financial sector.
The site, put together by IPS with the support of the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America, offers a range of materials that could help climate activists and advocates understand the new financial tools that are emerging, the role of key private sector actors (from banks to private equity funds), attempts to “leverage” private investment, and alternatives to this Wall Street-driven approach. Bank staff, public officials and journalists attending the World Bank-IMF spring meetings could even learn a thing or too as well.
April 17, 2013 · By Emily Schwartz Greco
This week in OtherWords, Donald Kaul skewers the "progress" Congress is making on gun control, Chris Schillig weighs in on the Boston Marathon attack from a runner's perspective, and Jim Hightower marvels at the Army's green ambitions.
Here's a clickable summary of our latest commentaries and a link to our new cartoon. If you haven't already subscribed to our weekly newsletter, please do.
- Under-Regulating the Regulators / Michael Smallberg
The career moves of the latest SEC chiefs underscore the agency's revolving door problem.
- Let’s Lace Up and Keep Running / Chris Schillig
We can't close down the world and huddle in our houses after the Boston Marathon attack.
- Cutting Your Benefits Isn’t the ‘Middle’ Way / Peter Hart
The rest of us are being left out of the "entitlement reform" story.
- ExxonMobil’s Mayflower Mess / Michael Brune
Tar sands crude is both more toxic and much harder to clean than ordinary oil.
- No Progress on Gun Control to Report / Donald Kaul
Gun lobbies have our legislature of cowardly lions in their teeth.
- The Art of Inequality / Sam Pizzigati
Monumental gifts to museums are coinciding with the erosion of arts programs at the nation's public schools.
- How to Send Less Trash to the Landfill / Jill Richardson
Make a down payment on your own soil's fertility by composting.
- The Army Goes Off the Grid / Jim Hightower
Fort Bliss, a base near El Paso, is a hotbed of solar power and other green energy initiatives.
- Where the Money Is / William A. Collins
America's banks have always been shady.
- Sacrificing Social Security / Khalil Bendib cartoon
April 17, 2013 · By Robin Broad and John Cavanagh
Paying taxes, as tens of millions of us in the United States do every April, evokes many emotions—from gratitude for government programs that feed the hungry to disgust over paying for fossil fuel subsidies and unjust wars. But among a growing number of people, it is also evoking anger over an unequal tax system that favors the 1 percent over the 99 percent. More and more of us are saying that corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy should pay their fair share.
The good news is that rising numbers of organizations and people are involved in struggles for a more just tax system. Below we share the contours of three such campaigns, all of them winnable before the next U.S. president is elected.
Corporations: Daily newspaper headlines remind us that corporations are making record profits while their workers’ paychecks have been frozen for decades. These same corporations complain that the corporate tax rate, pegged at a mere 35 percent, is one of the highest in the world. And, corporations are lobbying furiously to cut that rate.
April 16, 2013 · By Miriam Pemberton
Obama administration’s budget included a promissory note. It will take them a few more weeks to tell us what they plan to spend next year on the Afghan War. Their intention to bring that war to an end, though, is clear.
Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and his Harvard colleague Linda Bilmes are predicting that this will produce “little in the way of a peace dividend for the U.S. economy once the fighting stops.” They base this bleak assessment on the kinds of meticulous calculations that anchored their 2008 book The Three Trillion Dollar War: on the huge sums we will and must be spending to care for wounded veterans, for example, and the money squandered when war support functions were massively and unnecessarily shifted to private contractors.
They are surely and unfortunately right that what we will save by ending these wars has already been “spent” on the future, baked-in costs of misguided decisions made during those wars. But that doesn’t mean that the prospect of a “peace dividend” is gone.
That’s because the ending of the wars is coinciding with a broader defense downsizing, propelled by the battle over the budget deficit. And the effects of automatic budget cuts known as “sequestration” on the Pentagon budget will actually produce a smaller downsizing than any of the previous postwar periods: smaller than after the Cold War, or the Vietnam War, or the Korean War.
There is more downsizing to do, therefore, on a military budget that, adjusted for inflation, climbed higher during the post-9-11 period than any budget since World War II. During this period the idea of making choices among military priorities was simply shelved. And this budget grew on top of the separate budget that has funded the post-9-11 wars. With an economy starved from lack of public investment, we need that peace dividend. Will we get one? You wouldn’t think so, from the looks of the administration’s Pentagon budget request this year, which fails even to stay within the limits set by sequestration.
But there’s better news in what the new Defense secretary has been saying. Chuck Hagel’s first major speech April 3 at the National Defense University referred to the “inevitable downturn in defense budgets.” He criticized past weapons spending programs that produced “systems that are vastly more expensive and technologically risky than what was promised or budgeted for.” Hagel has committed to a serious reexamination of his Department’s spending practices, a “Strategic Choices and Management Review,” that will actually tie our national security strategy to the budget available to pay for it.
It will identify actual priorities from among the long list of missions the Pentagon has claimed for itself in recent years. The last major Pentagon reorganization, he noted, came during the height of the Cold War, when “[c]ost and efficiency were not major considerations.” He promises that the new review will take seriously the proposition that “DoD is incentivized to ask for more and do more,” and work to change this budget-busting combination.
Will he succeed? No telling, as yet. The first Obama administration (and last Bush administration) Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, had some of the same intentions, most of them unrealized. But the post-sequester world is different. In this world we know it really is possible to shrink the Pentagon’s budget, despite the best efforts of the defense industry, its congressional allies, and much of the Pentagon staff itself to keep it climbing ever higher.
To get to a Pentagon budget that is sized for our new postwar world, the downsizing momentum needs to keep going. While the war budget declines, we need to make sure that the “regular” Pentagon budget comes down with it. This is where a peace dividend can be found. We can’t give up on that goal so easily.
Pemberton is a research fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author, with Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress, of the Unified Security Budget for the United States.
IPS joined other members of the U.S. Robin Hood Tax campaign in Washington DC, where officials from the finance and climate ministries of select developed countries met to discuss how to mobilize private sector investment in developing countries to address climate change. Chanting, "Human need, not corporate greed! Robin Hood Tax now!" protesters dressed as polar bears, farmers, and bankers engaged with officials entering the meeting to urge them to support a Robin Hood Tax.
This demonstration drew attention to the fact that trillions of dollars of public money have been spent to bail out Wall Street while government officials pay short shrift to untapped and extremely promising innovative sources of public money like a Robin Hood Tax. In doing so, officials risk putting corporate profits over the needs of climate-impacted people.
Both the financial crisis and the recession have left a massive hole in public finances, threatening job creation, community services, and the ability to address climate change. While Wall Street has already bounced back, ordinary people are still trying to recover from problems caused by corporate abuse in the financial sector. The Robin Hood Tax calls for the institution of a small tax of less than half of one percent on Wall Street transactions in order to generate many billions of dollars each year toward crucial public goods and services, like healthcare, education, and helping the world’s poor confront the climate crisis.
VIEW RECENT ARTICLE ON CLIMATE FINANCE BY JANET REDMAN: http://www.fpif.org/articles/wall_streets_climate_finance_bonanza