Wednesday, October 27, 2004

"Crocodile-Tears and Cookie-Jar Semantics"

A forceful e mail just arrived from contraction and convergence pioneer Aubrey Meyer, in which he accuses the New Economics Foundation of "Crocodile-Tears and Cookie-Jar Semantics"

It concerns Up in Smoke, a recent report about climate change from a consortium of NGOs organised by IIED and the New Economics Foundation. Meyer says:

[The report] is mostly about adaptation to climate change, but it also makes these points:

  • Thousands of people are aiming to make poverty history, but global warming has been critically overlooked.
  • To rescue the situation we need a global framework to stopclimate change that is based on equality, and we have to ensure thatplans for human development are made both climate-proof andclimate-friendly.
  • Faced by the intertwined challenges of obscene levels ofpoverty and a rapidly warming global climate, humanity has no choice.
The report’s first point is obvious and lacks rigor. The increasingly obvious reality is, “uncorrected, climate change will make all of us history.” Charity is relevant to charities.

To argue for a moral global framework on behalf of the vulnerable third parties who are in effect our victims, is vainly to argue again [like Jubilee 2000] from weakness with an in-built sub-text of defeat. Globally interdependent security and survival are self-evidently relevant to us all. As no-one can shoot or bomb climate change or solve it alone [including the US who have said as much], this is the realpolitik in the reasoning for the global framework.

The report’s advocacy of the need for a global argument is noted. However, not only does this lack rigor, playing antics with ‘semantics’, it services the arguments of its opponents. Without referencing C&C, the report authors cite “Contraction and Convergence” [C&C], but then idiotically describe it as a system of “entitlements-to-pollute”. As the contrarian lobby have successfully argued in court in the US, CO2 is not a pollutant. To saddle C&C with this is stupid. C&C is a calculus that organisesglobally equitable “entitlements to emit”.

All GCI referencing for the last ten years is clear about this. Consortium bosses contracted to correct this and include appropriate referencing. However, on publication they reneged saying the point was semantic. Whatever the reason, it embeds again the veteran objections to C&C from the Climate Action Network who have made their livings out of this for 15 years. The third point - "obscene levels of poverty" - is truly awash with crocodile tears. Using their charitable status and citing themselves as having world C&C expertise, NEF is raising £1,000,000,000 of charitable money to write a book about Contraction and Convergence.Put aside the lack of referencing to GCI, just look at the cookie-jar salaries . . . . £70,000 a year . . .

Aubrey can be fierce. His passion and wisdom are sometimes mistaken for monomania. One can predict a mean-minded reaction: "he's just jealous because he's not being paid like that". The billion pound figure is surely wrong. But look closely: it seems to me he has a case (even if the "Lords of Poverty"-type argument is not always useful). What will NEF say?

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