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Natural climate solutions – code for financialisation of nature and profits for capital

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.

Not!

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.

Code!

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.

Ok.

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.

The report from – Global Witness (January 20, 2022) – Hydrogen’s Hidden Emissions – informs us that:

Shell’s fossil hydrogen plant in Canada found to be emitting more climate-wrecking gases than it is capturing.

That’s novel!

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.

Conclusion

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:

https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/5354174274?pwd=OHdTdWJzSHNndHpyVkV2Y0lJUExRZz09

Meeting ID: 535 417 4274
Passcode: ETZhk9

This is an MMTed initiative.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2022 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 12 Comments
    1. In Portugal, we have a populist right-wing political party that, in its programm, wrote that the State comes after corporations.
      So, the common interest of the society has to wait until the corporations get their pockets full of profits.
      We all know that profits are never enough.
      If you are a renter, and you make 10 this month, next month you’ll aim for 20.
      And so, as in a game of monopoly, you’ll end up trying to predate your neighbour’s income.
      In India, corporations are registering, as intellectual property (meaning monopoly), natural seeds of rice, that Indians crop for generations to feed their huge population.
      This means that, for every seed you sow, you have to pay a fee to an american corporation.
      And so, you charge your consumer with some more cents, for every package of rice, that he picks up off the supermarket shelf.
      It’s inflation?
      Doesn´t matter.
      You can blame the left (thanks Derek Henry).
      So, the neoliberal regime tries to comodify everything and, if not stopped, they will commodify YOU.
      We’ll be some sort of uber people.

    2. Morning Bill,

      Watched it happen with my own eyes over the last 2 months.

      Scotland was always sold as a green giant. Or how the SNP always advertised it for independence. For decades they championed it and told many other lies as they challenged New Labour. So what happened after winning power and keeping power for over a decade.

      Read for yourself.

      Scotland gives away its energy future

      http://robinmcalpine.org/scotland-gives-away-its-energy-future/

      What guarantee is there of ScotWind jobs?

      http://robinmcalpine.org/what-guarantee-is-there-of-scotwind-jobs/

      ScotWind makes hypocrites of the indy movement

      http://robinmcalpine.org/scotwind-makes-hypocrites-of-the-indy-movement/

      What is important to remember about all of this is the SNP promised the complete opposite when they were challenging new Labour for the heart and soul of Scotland.

      As soon as the Scottish growth commission dropped on everybody’s door mat. You could work out for yourself using the MMT lens and after reading Eurozone Dystopia by Bill and reclaim the state by Bill and Thomas what was going to happen. I tried my best to warn everybody about it. Told them clearly the SNP were going to ride right over the top of the grass roots Indy movement.

      But independence had become a religion and like any religion never challenge the supernatural the invisible being created by man. Who.pass down the scriptures that must be obeyed and who aren’t even finished with you when you are dead. Or burn you at the stake when you are alive. One short step away from a progrom or a gulag.

      Some say the book 1984 reminds them of the English reformation.

      ” The Inner Party is the holder of a secret book, on which profane eyes may not gaze, and the public language of the dictatorship is a jargon designed to obliterate the very possibility of free thought. Regular rituals of execration denounce the infidel and the Evil One. Over the scene rules an Eternal Father, or rather Big Brother. The struggle of the dissenter is to find a tongue in which to speak: a vernacular that is, as the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England so quaintly yet memorably put it, one “understanded of the people.”

      Anyone who has been bamboozled by the saccharine propaganda of A Man for All Seasons. Should read Mantel’s Wolf Hall rendering of the confrontation between More and his interlocutors about the Act of Succession,

      “Let us be clear. You will not take the oath because your conscience advises you against it?”

      “Yes.”

      “Could you be a little more comprehensive in your answers?”

      “No.”

      “You object but you won’t say why?”

      “Yes.”

      “Is it the matter of the statute you object to, or the form of the oath, or the business of oath-taking in itself?”

      “I would rather not say.”

      By this time, any luckless prisoner of More’s would have been stretched naked on the rack, but his questioners persist courteously enough until he suddenly lashes out as the arrogant theocrat he is:

      “You say you have the majority. I say I have it. You say Parliament is behind you, and I say all the angels and saints are behind me, and all the company of the Christian dead, for as many generations as there have been since the church of Christ was founded, one body, undivided—”

      This casuistry is too much for Cromwell, who loses his composure for the first and only time:

      “Oh, for Christ’s sake!” he says. “A lie is no less a lie because it is a thousand years old. Your undivided church has liked nothing better than persecuting its own members, burning them and hacking them apart when they stood by their own conscience, slashing their bellies open and feeding their guts to dogs. You call history to your aid, but what is history to you? It is a mirror that flatters Thomas More. But I have another mirror, I hold it up and it shows a vain and dangerous man, and when I turn it about it shows a killer, for you will drag down with you God knows how many, who will have only the suffering, and not your martyr’s gratification.”

      For me, you could easily replace the English reformation within 1984 with the EU. Same shit different century. I’m sure Orwell would agree if he watched what The treaty of Rome had morphed into.

      The EU convergence programme, masquerading as the Scottish growth commission was the passed down scripture from Rome that gave the whole game away. The hymn ” heart of Europe” changed everything There was no going back. Even if that meant turning 15 years of political campaigning to win the heart and soul of Scotland into 15 years of lies and deceit and a false alter.

      However, there is hope. I can feel it in the air.

      Thatcherism, Reganism, Monetarism, neoliberalism and globalism were all managed by consent. They were all new and that made it easier to bring people along with it. As the realities became clear over time, the consent had to be replaced by more authoritarian measures. At some point as consent vanishes and the authoritarian measures increase. The whole means of coercion will break down. The only question then what will replace it?

      Lord of the rings or Animal farm. One things for sure it will be structured like a church with all the same false idols and salvation.

    3. Paulo,

      You can blame the liberal. Yet, it is the left that always gets the blame. It is how triangulation works. How both the liberal and conservative have weakened the left over the last 5 decades.

      I’m pretty sure Biden, Schultz and Starmer ( all liberals) will actually just about finish the left off by the time they are finished. Our generation we will be the last to have put up a fight. This generation simply can’t free themselves from their I phones and can’t wait to live in the metaverse. Be charged monthly not for living in the real world from which they want to escape but charged for living in a virtual reality.

    4. The only difference between the EU and the church. Is when the EU select their technocratic leaders in the most undemocratic way possible. Like the Vatican ensure the continuation of the one party nation state.

      The EU don’t blow smoke out of a chimney to let everyone know the deed is done. They get right down to changing the scriptures to close any loop holes to prevent escape.

    5. I see only one possible ray of hope in this seemingly-unstoppable global corporate takeover. Edward Bellamy, in “Equality” (the sequel to “Looking Backward”), said that after the Great (Egalitarian) Revolution, the people realized that the capitalists, in consolidating everything under their control, had actually done them an immense favor. Much of the interconnected and coordinated structure to serve people and planet had been put in place, and all that was necessary was to repurpose those structures to serve human and environmental interests rather than the interest of private profit. (In a similar vein, imagine if those 800 or so U.S. military bases spread around the world were repurposed to protect and enhance life rather than take it.)

      Every thinking person knew pre-pandemic that we desperately needed a Great Reset of our exploitative, ecocidal way of life. So maybe we shouldn’t merely sneer at “stakeholder capitalism” or “green capitalism” rhetoric but instead run with it and push it toward something more genuine. It seems certain that if we are ever to get to some form of eco-socialism (likely a necessity for our survival and that of many other living things) it will be on the far side of something talked about years ago and still only talked about: capitalism with a human (and environmental) face. Could not MMT play a crucial role in concretely envisioning such a transitional economic system?

    6. Noone should be surprised that unfettered capitalism has shown itself to be about the accumulation of financial capital by any means and bugger the rest. It is NOT about doing something productive which is of worth and benefit for societal wellbeing within the ecological boundaries of our planet from which profit/addition to capital is but a by-product.

      As much as anyone might want capitalism to be defined by the public interest, the personal interest easily wins through financialisation of everything into a virtual guaranteed financial return for the rentier capitalists while avoiding the risks of doing real productive work. Such financialisation can only increase the detriment to public “externalities” which on a finite planet can only lead to catastrophic failure of a former “goldilocks” zone for our existence. Entropy is reality which no amount of financial engineering can reverse.

      There’s nothing natural about “Natural Climate Solutions” as Bill points out. Just another example of the use of coded language to sell the unsellable via a 3-word slogan. All the while employing the latest “opiate of the masses” https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/johann-hari-stolen-focus/13719046 to destroy reflection, analysis and critical thinking for so many.

    7. Where are all of the Job Guarantee advocates, in the wake of the Reddit /r/antiwork movement? (don’t judge the movement by first impressions, from its name – it’s the perfect social movement to awaken JG awareness to)

      I feel like I’m on my own, and overrun by Universal Basic Income advocates – and I’ve spent a decade debating MMT with people, and trying to find the right narratives to persuade people of the benefits of the JG – but even after this long, feel like I simply haven’t cracked the right narrative yet – or that the JG is too easy for bad faith actors to talk-down.

      I’m a big proponent of MMT and the JG – but I don’t see many knowledgeable advocates of it, in the places they should be.

    8. 34 years ago in 1988 James Hansen gave his testimony to the US Congress about the threat of global warming and in 2001 Hansen gave briefings to Dick Cheney, George W Bush and other cabinet members.

      If decisive global action was taken back then the needed yearly global greenhouse gas emission reductions would have been moderate, easily affordable and the very expensive need to extract CO2 from the atmosphere would have largely been avoided. Unfortunately Dick Cheney and the Bush Administration instead implemented an industry-formulated disinformation campaign designed to actively mislead the American public on global warming and to forestall limits on climate polluters.

      Subsequent US governments have performed little better and the Trump Administration was the worst of all. Globally most governments apart from a few exceptions such as those of Norway and Sweden have acted much like Big Oil’s insider Dick Cheney.

      We are all collectively in deep trouble and are now at the point of locking in catastrophic climate change even if the world were to reduce GHG emissions to zero within a few years which is itself now impossible to achieve. It is now too late to avoid catastrophe but we must still not give up so as to limit the extent of the catastrophe that will now occur in the decades and centuries time scale.

      One of the last of James Hansen’s warnings was for the world to stay under the trajectory of 6% p.a. GHG emission reductions plus the removal of 75ppm of atmospheric CO2 starting in 2020 so as to stabilise long term at 350ppm atmospheric CO2 with minimal overshoot.

      It is now 2022 and global emissions of CO2 and methane are both still increasing exponentially. The remainder of this decade is critical but most are unaware of the urgency and ineffectual governments continue to be elected.

      One thing for certain is that salvation does not lie with the private sector financiers and scammers or their political harlots.

    9. The solution to climate change is primarily nuclear power and the electrification of everything.

      Everything else is handwaving that fails to recognise physical resource constraints – as we can see from Germany going backward to lignite and coal despite 30 years of politically supportive policy. France has done more in reality via its embrace of nuclear.

      My money is on the Chinese getting there first. They have 150 plants planned over the next 15 years and will dominate the technology.

      Regrettable the environmentalists are now part of the problem, not the solution.

    10. The main players will no doubt increase their utilisation of nuclear power but many countries such as Australia will find the cheapest, quickest and best solution is wind and solar power fully backed by pumped hydro power plus battery banks for frequency control and rapid response which in total has proven to be cheaper than new build coal fired power stations and way cheaper and quicker to build than nuclear power stations.

      Powerful fossil fuel lobbies and corrupt politicians prevent the needed transition.

    11. Bill, glad to see you finally doing a piece on the World Economic Forum’s plans for the environment. Now perhaps it’s time for you to drill further into this organization and their broader plans including the 4th Industrial Revolution. May I suggest you check out this site: https://intelligence.weforum.org/topics/a1Gb0000001RIhBEAW?tab=publications
      Each topic on the wheel, allows you to drill down to the finer detail. As you’ve pointed out in this article, it all sounds ‘rosy’ but when you look at the fine print, it’s something very ugly.
      Cheers
      Anthony

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