Australia update - Melbourne, Trade Unions, climate & sustainability

The picture above is not of some Regency building in Brighton, England. It is in fact the oldest (or so I was told) Trades Union Hall in the world – the Melbourne Trades Hall. Sure is impressive, and with a lovely relaxed, unbureaucratic feel to it….

We were up at the crack of dawn to fly to Melbourne from Adelaide…newspapers full of the crisis inside the Labor government.  Julie Gillard looks to be in deep trouble over the handling of Australia’s policy on refugees. And then found the appalling tale of Babcock and Brown – Australia’s biggest ever corporate collapse –  the Ned Kellys of this age…only Ned Kelly could never have dreamed of looting so much ‘swag’.  And Kelly – whose remains have just been unearthed (see here) – was at least caught by competent Aussie cops at the time, and tried by a competent judge.   As the Sydney Morning Herald noted, the Aussie ‘watchdog’ didn’t even sniff Babcock and Brown….

Went straight from the airport to the fine Melbourne university campus for a meeting with climate and sustainability scientists and university trade union officials – to talk about financing the transformation of the economy away from fossil fuels….Not at my best after a night of fitful sleep…Then, after a nap, a wonderful evening at the above mentioned Trades Hall – it was titled Babbling in the Bar -but was in fact a lively discussion of economic policy, the financial system and the policies that Australian trades unionists should be demanding of their Labour government…..From there to the famous Lygon Street,Melbourne’s ‘Little Italy’ – for dinner at – a Vietnamese….times are a’ changin in Melbourne. And finally, after a ride on a tram and train ….sleep!

My tour of Australia - with the SEARCH Foundation

Read about my speaking tour of Australia below – from the SEARCH Foundation:

The SEARCH Foundation is currently touring eminent British economist and author Ann
Pettifor around Australia and she is visiting our shores with a warning; the GFC inducing credit
crunch is not over and Australia’s banking sector is vulnerable.

Ms Pettifor is visiting Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane for speaking
engagements over the next fortnight.

“Before the Credit Crunch of 2008-2009 Brits and Americans were convinced that the good
times could last forever. Our orthodox economists, central bankers and politicians encouraged
us in that delusion. Today millions of the unemployed, homeless and bankrupt are paying
a heavy price for the failure to understand the role of the private banking system in causing
systemic and widespread economic failure.” Ms Pettifor said.

“Australians would be well advised not to fall into the same trap.

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Financing the Green Transition – why we can afford it

Last month I gave a ‘Green Talk‘ in Bristol, organised by Climate Works.

It was wonderful to be, first of all at such a professionally and well organised event (congrats to Mark Letcher and his team). It was also fantastic to be amongst such an interesting array of speakers including John Gapper ‘the secret gardener’ who has spent the last 35 years propagating wild flowers in Brighton and Hove (watch his talk here) and Alice Ferguson and Amy Rose – two mothers with a simple but brilliant idea to get children playing outside (watch their talk here).

My talk was on how we can afford to finance the Green Transition – watch below:

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Enterprise and the environment - compatible?

I am privileged to be a speaker at the World Forum on Enterprise and the Environment, hosted by Sir David King of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, Oxford. Sir David today has a column in the Guardian in which he calls on Prime Minister David Cameron to exercise leadership on the global stage.   Ah….leadership. A rare thing.

I am here to argue, once again, that ‘we can afford what we can do’ and that UNEP’s calculations of the costs of de-carbonising the economy over the next 50 years are eminently affordable…provided of course, that we get a grip on that great public good: the finance sector. But so long as we fumble about, trying to mobilise and direct pension funds and other ‘savings’ towards these life-saving activities…for so long shall we have a blind spot for the real answer to financing de-carbonisation.

PepsiCo’s Dr. Derek Yach is chairing this morning, and reports that their CEO – Indra Nooyi – asked the company’s chief legal officer to investigate PepsiCo’s legal obligations in relation to the environment. The lawyer concluded that given that companies were granted a license ‘in perpetuity’ – they therefore had obligations to ‘perpetuity’….Interesting.

Rt Hon. Simon Upton (a New Zealander) Director OECD – argues, refreshingly, that there is no such thing as international regulation – only national regulation….Now arguing that the  1st thing we have to do for green growth is get rid of subsidies. Second, scale up finance for biodiversity – graph on current investments including environment-related ODA  – which is stagnant, if not falling.

Now we have Colombia’s Ms Sandra Bessudo, President Juan Manuel Santos’s environmental adviser.  Colombia is doing the right thing, says Ms Bessudo, and the President wants to prioritise job creation and the environment. Colombia wants to belong to the OECD….’we need the international community to help us, and invest….Please visit’ she ends with.

Now Robert Peccoud, Research Director of Agence Française de Développment – since 1995 – is racing through his presentation….very few clear, consistent financial commitments made by countries for biodiversity, he notes. ODA funds for biodiversity, can e.g. go to build a road to boost tourism….

Questions for Ms Bessudo on addressing biodiversity challenges in the midst of armed conflict. Today, we have a much safer country, she says. Within the ministry of defence there is an area working on the defence of biodiversity and ecosystems, she says.

We now move on to ‘the new economy toolbox’ with Pavan Sukhdev, founder and CEO GIST advisory and McCluskey Fellow, 2011, Yale University.  True Cost calculate that externalities of top 3,000 corporations: 2.2 trillion – 1/3 of profits of these companies. (Private Profits, Public Losses).

REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) important that we get that right, he says: REDD mixes social as well as ecological solutions.

Get away from some of our hang-ups, e.g. arguing about ‘fungibility’ ….Political challenge: recognising importance of ecological infrastructure…GIST…we have to look at the ecological infrastructure…targeting social returns on investment….ecosystem restoration is a huge benefit…about spending public money on public wealth…nothing to stop governments from doing this, but one of the biggest stumbling blocks he has come acros….TEEB reports: – a community, funders, UNEP etc…’.Valuations’ vs ‘Marketization’….you don’t have to look at markets…as in classical, supply-driven and liquid markets.

Mr James Griffiths of WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development) 200 global company members…with US$7 trillion sales revenue. $190 billion a year – the benefit of insects in the US….bigger than Walmart’s contribution to the US economy! …What can companies do, etc…

Dr Trista Patterson, Economist….Apologies readers: someone, more likely, something, stole my text….and Dr. Patterson’s contribution was so interesting….Will try and retrieve it.

Financing the Green Economy Transition

Below is a short paper I wrote as part of work with Sir David King and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment:

“We are capable of shutting off the sun and the stars because they do not pay a dividend. London is one of the richest cities in the history of civilization, but it cannot “afford” the highest standards of achievement of which its own living citizens are capable, because they do not “pay.”

If I had the power to-day, I should most deliberately set out to endow our capital cities with all the appurtenances of art and civilization on the highest standards of which the citizens of each were individually capable, convinced that what I could create, I could afford….

John Maynard Keynes. “National Self-Sufficiency,” The Yale Review, Vol. 22, no. 4 (June 1933), pp. 755-769.

UNEP’s latest publication, Towards a Green Economy tackles the vexed question of financing the Green Transition and estimates that


“to halve CO2  emissions by 2050, requires investments of approximately US$ 750 billion per year from 2010 to 2030 and US$1.6 trillion per year from 2030 to 2050. The World Economic Forum and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, on the other hand, calculate that clean energy investment needs to rise to US$ 500 billion per year by 2020 to restrict global warming to less than 2ºC, while HSBC estimates that transition to a low-carbon energy market will require US$ 10 trillion between 2010 and 2020.” (Towards a Green Economy, page 33.)

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Profiting from disaster: shareholders gain $1 billion

Five days after appearing before Congress to testify about its responsibility in one of the worst oil spills in US history, the Swiss company that owned and operated the oil rig that sunk into the Gulf of Mexico announced that it would shell out $1 billion in dividends to shareholders, ‘Raw Story’ reports.

……..To put the distribution in perspective, the amount of profit that Transocean plans to pay out in the next year is half of what Exxon ultimately paid for the Exxon Valdez disaster off the Alaska Coast.

t’s also more than double what BP has said they’ve spent on the cleanup to date.

Read more here:

Green New Deal - 'The Cuts won't work' report is published.

7th December, 2009

This is the press release from the new economics foundation:

“Two days ahead of the pre-budget report, and as the UN climate change talks open in Copenhagen – the second report from the authors of the original Green New Deal argues that the British Chancellor is likely to miss a historic opportunity to tackle public debt, create thousands of new green jobs and kick-start the transformation to a low-carbon economy.

The cuts won’t work, the Green New Deal Group’s second report shows how, contrary to the policy of all the major political parties, cutting public spending now will tip the nation into a deeper recession by increasing unemployment, reducing the tax received and limiting government funding available to kick-start the Green New Deal.

Instead a bold new programme of ‘green quantitative easing,’ rather than simply propping up failing banks, could help reduce the public debt and kick-start the transformation of the UK’s energy supply while creating thousands of new green-collar jobs.

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Green New Deal in the news

15th December, 2008

Last week there were several media pieces that mentioned the Green New Deal, including The Times, The Observer, and The Independent on Sunday.

Also, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has followed his colleagues at UNEP in calling for a Green New Deal.

You can also read nef’s Green New Deal Round-up here.

Beyond the triple crisis: a green new deal

Open Democracy: 27th October 2008

It is a small measure of the dramatic financial meltdown of 2007-08 that leading representatives of western liberal capitalism ransacked the past for reference-points to convey its scale…

Read more here

De-leveraging climate temp. & mortgage debt

11th October, 2008.

I have had an extraordinary day today, at an event in Bristol organised by the Schumacher SocietyFritz Schumacher – of Small is Beautiful fame – died in 1977, and the Society was formed just thirty years ago, in 1978.  Today’s event was hosted by Diana Schumacher and Jonathon Porritt.  I was honoured to share a platform with Bill McKibben the great leader of the Green movement in the United States, and brilliant strategist behind the 350 campaign.

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