Even the pope gets it – carbon markets won’t fix the climate

Never mind, we’ve paid some Indians to be green on our behalf

Never mind, we’ve paid some Indians to be green on our behalf

Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment has quickly made him one of the world’s most significant figures in the climate debate. His message was notable not just for its acceptance of mainstream climate science but also for its outright rejection of market logic.

Nowhere is this more clear than when he addresses the various emissions trading and carbon offsetting schemes that leave decisions such as whether to phase out coal power in the hands of the market. These “carbon markets”, he said, are a “ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors”.

If only our politicians were able to see this as clearly as Pope Francis. As we approach the 2015 UN climate conference in Paris, carbon markets just won’t go away – even despite the fact market solutions actively hinder our ability to make serious emissions cuts.

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Pope’s climate letter is a radical attack on the logic of the market

Sic transit gloria mundi … and down with neoliberalism.

Sic transit gloria mundi … and down with neoliberalism.

What makes Pope Francis and his 183-page encyclical so radical isn’t just his call to urgently tackle climate change. It’s the fact he openly and unashamedly goes against the grain of dominant social, economic and environment policies.

While the Argentina-born pope is a very humble person whose vision is of a “poor church for the poor”, he seems increasingly determined to play a central role on the world stage. Untainted by the realities of government and the greed of big business, he is perhaps the only major figure who can legitimately confront the world’s economic and political elites in the way he has.

However his radical message potentially puts him on a confrontation course with global powerbrokers and leaders of national governments, international institutions and multinational corporations.

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Shell can’t afford to wait until 2050 to adapt its business to climate change

You Shell not pass.

You Shell not pass.

Shell’s recent AGM was tumultuous. Shareholders voted overwhelmingly for the company to report on whether its activities were compatible with promised government action on climate change. The firm’s board reportedly faced a sometimes-hostile barrage of questions about its approach to the environment.

The key question shareholders are asking is this: what if the majority of Shell’s proven fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground in order to avoid a dangerous global temperature increase of more than 2°C? Shell’s proved reserves are the company’s biggest asset against which it borrows money from banks and attracts investments from shareholders.

Most of the oil and gas majors are struggling to find enough new reserves to keep growing in the future. This is why Shell and all other major players in the industry have to go to more extreme lengths to find the fossil fuels that keep our lights on, cars on the road and their profits growing. Controversial and environmentally very suspect investments into Arctic oil drilling, US shale gas and Canadian tar sands have already tarnished the environmental credentials of Shell.

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São Paulo water crisis shows the failure of public-private partnerships

Welcome to the Cantareira desert.

Welcome to the Cantareira desert.

São Paulo’s ongoing water crisis has left many of the city’s 20m or more residents without tap water for days on end. Brazil’s largest metropolis is into its third month of water rationing, and some citizens have even taken to drilling through their basements to reach groundwater. Most commentators agree that the crisis is to blame on multiple factors, but few have questioned the role of the water company in charge: Sabesp.

The utility, responsible for water and waste in São Paulo and the surrounding state of the same name, has clearly failed its public service remit. Yet, it’s not even clear whether public service is the highest priority for part-privatised Sabesp, whose directors have just awarded themselves bumper bonuses despite millions of their customers going thirsty. São Paulo’s water will go from crisis to crisis so long as Sabesp prioritises profits over long-term investment.

Clearly there are human-induced environmental factors at play: climate change, deforestation of the Amazon, pollution, as well as overconsumption. The pressures we put on nature are likely to increase water shortages worldwide, perhaps leading to conflicts and wars.

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‘Fixing’ the climate crisis: Capital, states and carbon offsetting in India

Abstract: The paper analyzes dynamics of accumulation and displacement in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). It combines the theoretical work of David Harvey and James O’Connor with a case study of the Gujarat Fluorochemicals Limited (GFL) HFC-23 destruction project in Gujarat, India. The framework is used to connect the factors driving opportunities for capital accumulation in the CDM market with the causes of social and ecological dislocation at the local project level. We argue the CDM is a spatial fix to the ecological crisis of climate change which secures conditions of production for fossil fuel industries and promotes new sites of accumulation for other companies. The political economic ‘fix’ is dependent on ‘fixing’ a global socio-spatial divide between developed and developing countries down to ‘fixed’ projects at the local level. This spatial fix facilitates a displacement of the costs of responding to the climate crisis from North to South.

full text available on academia.edu

Free Labour, Social Media, Management: Challenging Marxist Organization Studies

Abstract:

In this paper we explore how so-called ‘social media’ such as Facebook challenge Marxist organization studies. We argue that understanding the role of user activity in web 2.0 business models requires a focus on ‘work’, understood as value productive activity, that takes place beyond waged labour in the firm. A reading of Marx on the socialization of labour highlights the emerging figure of ‘free labour’, which is both unpaid and uncoerced. Marxist work on the production of the ‘audience commodity’ provides one avenue for understanding the production of content and data by users as free labour, but this raises questions concerning the distinction between productive and unproductive labour which is central to Marx’s labour theory of value.

The Marxist literature on ‘the becoming rent of profit’ allows for a partial understanding of how the value produced by free labour is captured, thereby developing the understanding of the economic dimension of ‘free labour’ as unpaid. It overstates, however, the ‘uncontrolled’ side of ‘free labour’, and neglects the ways in which this work is managed so as to ensure that it is productive. We therefore call for a return to Marxist labour process analysis, albeit with an expanded focus on labour and a revised understanding of control associated with digital protocols. On this basis, a Marxist organization studies can contribute to an understanding of the political economy of digital capitalism.

full text available on academia.edu

Osborne’s fossil fuel double whammy

In December 2015, the all-important UN climate change conference (COP21) will take place in Paris.  Governments from around the world will then try to come to a new global agreement on curbing carbon emissions. Many think that this will be our last chance to keep temperature increases to below 2 degrees. One would think and hope that a UK government would do all it can to support policies that reduce our addiction to fossil fuels. Not so.

Osborne’s latest budget has extended the freeze on fuel duty increases again, the fourth year in a row he’s done so. At the same time, he’s offered generous tax cuts and investment stimuli for the North Sea oil and gas industry. This is nothing less than a slap in the face to those who are trying hard to come to an agreement in Paris later this year, not to mention the UK’s home-grown renewable energy industry.

Stimulating demand and supply of fossil fuels at the same time is nothing but a cheap, short-term political gag, and has nothing to do with long-term economic, social and environmental stewardship. The UK’s Climate Change Act requires us to take this long-term view, committing successive governments to the goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% compared to the 1990 baseline. Today, Osborne has made it just this little bit harder to achieve that goal.