I re-read a consulting report from May 2021 – Nature and Net Zero – which was commissioned by the World Economic Forum and prepared by a management consulting company. One of those consulting companies that exemplifies the neoliberal era where everything and anything is classified in terms of its financial value or corporate value and the company’s grand visions for nations amount to little more than transferring massive amounts of public money into their coffers for blueprints about privatising public wealth and skating over local citizens’ rights in their haste to financialise the world. The report is no different really and represents everything that is wrong with the way the elites in the world are taking over the ‘green transition’ agenda and reconfiguring it to suit their own ends – profits and control.
The ‘Nature and Net Zero’ Report is full of words and phrases that are intended to present the agenda in a way that covers the true meaning and impact of what is going.
We start by reading dire warnings of the world facing “converging environmental crises that are inextricably linked and compounding: the accelerating destruction of nature and climate change”.
But don’t worry – we have “Natural climate solutions (NCS)” which “offer an opportunity to address both and generate significant additional environmental, social and economic benefits.”
Win-win-win it seems.
They tell us that with the “net-zero” goal being increasing adopted by private companies:
NCS are gaining attention and carbon markets are growing fast. Corporate strategies that aim to use NCS to help deliver a net-zero pathway are on the verge of becoming mainstream.
Corporations are trying to take control of the ‘green transition’ agenda as fast as they can because then they can control to pursue their own ends, which is to make mega profit, and if that requires they financialise the natural environment then they are as green as can be.
What are NCS?
We read that they are:
… typically low-cost sources of carbon abatement. In most cases, costs are between $10 and $40 per ton of CO2 with variations between geographies and project types.
That means they are projects that “generate private capital flows to countries that offer the highest potential for NCS projects, typically forest-rich countries in the Global South.”
Are you still unsure about what is going on here?
The consulting report says that efforts are full-speed ahead and that the “Market architecture, infrastructure and financing need to be developed to support the growth of NCS producing tradable credits”.
They note, almost as an aside, the “Continuing public concerns” about NCS.
This is all part of the ‘net-zero’ ruse, where companies are “expected to reduce their emissions where possible, and neutralize by retiring an equivalent amount of carbon credits or investing directly in carbon removals.”
What is happening is that the elites in the world and their consulting company mates are hunting around the globe for regions where they can create projects which are then offset against their on-going environmentally destructive activities elsewhere.
The consulting company has appraised regions in terms of the cost involved to launch these NCS projects.
They attempt to “draw … boundaries lands that are practical or not” and claim that the demarcation depends on the “agricultural rent” that the land commands – which is the “economic return from agricultural land” (as defined in the “academic literature” written by mainstream economists and the like).
The ‘Nature and Net-Zero’ report is full of analysis of these rents and calculations about “abatement potential” and classifications of “low-cost NCS potential” regions with a nice map – where the highest potential are in the poorest regions (typically of the world).
They briefly mention the “sustainable development opportunities for local communities” which is code for helping export-led farming practices, which have already devastated localaties.
This article (January 25, 2022) – Green gaslighting: Another face of climate denialism – says that the ‘low-cost NCS potential regions’ are in the eyes of “small-scale farmers, pastoralists and Indigenous communities”:
… ancestral lands that often have significant cultural, religious and communal value.
No consideration in these exercises is given to those ‘values’.
There is a long evidence trail of first-world companies moving into indigenous areas to create new abatement projects (reafforestation etc), which displace local citizens and worsen the food shortage that poorer regions face.
The shift to export-led agriculture has been prominent in that regard – destroying sustainable land practices and food security.
The point about NCS as the consulting report makes clear is that the object is to create ‘carbon credits’ that can be sold to polluting companies as an accounting exercise in their ‘net-zero’ goals.
Derivative NCS financial products will emerge.
Speculation will be rife.
And the goals of alleviating climate change will fall by the wayside in the pursuit of profit.
Our natural system just becomes another commodity.
The ‘net-zero’ ruse means that:
All of a sudden, proposed new real estate, airport, roadway, and shipping developments that increase the anthropogenic impacts on climate and ecological breakdown – are being spun as “green” investments – or climate “impact investments”.
Destroy one habitat for a golf course for the rich and offset it with a local regional project in a ‘low cost NCS’ region, which displaces local activities and walks all over culturally sensitive areas.
And what about the non-NCS methods that the consulting company claims will be part of the solution?
Last week, we learned that Shell’s carbon capture solution is a dud.
Shell’s fossil hydrogen plant in Canada found to be emitting more climate-wrecking gases than it is capturing.
The report says that “Shell have boasted about the project as an example of how it is tackling global heating, claiming that the project demonstrates that carbon capture systems are ‘safe and effective’ and is a ‘thriving example’ of how this technology can significantly reduce carbon emissions.”
The evidence is that:
Despite having captured 5 million tonnes of carbon across a five-year period, it has emitted a further 7.5 million tonnes of climate polluting gases during the same time.
And back to the ‘Nature and Net-Zero’ report.
The same company that prepared the report for the World Economic Forum has become a big player in the Gulf countries and was involved in the part privatisation of the Saudi oil company Aramco. This article documents their involvement and the local tensions it has created – When Consultants Reign (September 5, 2016).
Aramco is one of the largest oil companies and has the “largest carbon footprint in the world” and “is not trying to diversify at the rate of Shell or BP. In 2021, it “announced an investment to increase crude capacity from 12m barrels a day to 13m barrels by 2027 (Source).
The consulting company in question seems to make millions by telling polluters how to do their business better and make more money out of it.
Many of its “grand plans” for the Gulf countries (Bahrain, Eqypt, Libya, Yemen) have crumbled and been “convulsed by demonstrations, often animated by economic grievances”.
But it seems the company has “continued to secure lucrative contracts in the region”.
The ‘grand plans’ amount to little more than growing the economy away from “oil dependency … by transforming it into a financial, logistical, and tourist hub.”
Tourism is a heavy carbon-using industry.
The ‘grand plans’ are always:
… to success is always through the private sector.
The Saudi Aramco privatisation was followed by announcements from the princes that they were going to “privatize public infrastructure, education, and even health care.”
All strategies that allow the consulting company to rake millions off the top of the sell-offs.
The evidence is that the state-owned companies in the Gulf countries “tend to be more dynamic, productive and technologically savvy … have (relatively) better labor relations and hire more local workers” than their private sector counterparts in oil, logistics, travel etc
These ‘grand plans’ rarely involve the “participation by citizens” – they are cooked up between the consultants and the autocrats.
They see $ signs on everything and:
… seem to believe that selling this national asset in order to gamble in the global financial markets is a more effective strategy for economic prosperity.
In this blog post – The financial markets should be kept away from the climate crisis solution (November 10, 2021) – I outlined why the financial markets should be kept out of the green transition process.
I won’t repeat the argument but it is relevant to the talk of NCS.
In general, I do not support ‘market-based’ solutions to the climate change challenge.
There is no ‘safe’ price that can be placed on the pace of environmental destruction that anyone can accurately estimate.
The point is that natural systems, when pushed beyond limits, die!
The idea that there can be a trade-off between pollution and environmental destruction and economic activity, which is the mainstream economics position, and the optimal trade-off will be mediated through the market is a fiction.
We need to adopt rules-based approaches to this challenge, which means, in part, we just legislate bad practice out of existence.
The ruse that a corporation can continue destructive practices in one nation, while creating abatement projects elsewhere, so they can record a net-zero should never be part of the solution.
My Helsinki Lectures series 2022
I am currently presenting my annual set of lectures on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and the global economy at the University of Helsinki.
We are already up to Lecture 3 in the 6 part series.
The teaching program will be:
- Tuesday January 25, 2022 – Streamed public lecture (YouTube) starting 10:15 Helsinki time.
- Wednesday, January 26 – first Zoom lecture with class – 08:15-09:45 Helsinki time.
- Thursday, January 27 – second Zoom lecture – 10:15-11:45 Helsinki time.
- Tuesday, February 1 – third Zoom lecture – 10:15-11:45 Helsinki time.
- Wednesday, February 2 – fourth Zoom lecture – 08:15-09:45 Helsinki time.
- Thursday, February 3 – final Zoom lecture – 10:15-11:45 Helsinki time.
The Zoom link for the lectures is:
Meeting ID: 535 417 4274
This is an MMTed initiative.
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2022 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.