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Patrick Bond: carbon trading is a scam January 23, 2008

Posted by Andreas in Uncategorized.

Durban-based activist/academic Patrick Bond makes a very convincing argument against carbon trading, the mechanism meant to mitigate industrial carbon dioxide emissions (for a great intro to the subject, check-out this urban sprout post).

Bond agrees with Vandana Shiva that “the right to pollute is a multitrillion dollar giveaway to the people who caused the bulk of the climate problems” in the first place.

He criticizes the role South African environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk played at the recent Bali conference:

Van Schalkwyk’s leadership is a travesty, for he has said nothing about South Africa’s own $20 billion in new investments – partly privatised through the US multinational AES – in cheap coal-fired electricity generation for the sake mainly of large corporations; he endorses nuclear energy expansion. SA already has an emissions output per person per unit of GDP twenty times worse than the US [GULP!], and van Schalkwyk’s official carbon trading policy argues that it is primarily a ‘commercial opportunity.’

and he points to a “very different strategy and demand by civil society activists: leave the oil in the soil, the resources in the ground”. This strategy that is also supported by George Monbiot:

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I have the answer! Incredible as it might seem, I have stumbled across the single technology which will save us from runaway climate change! From the goodness of my heart I offer it to you for free. No patents, no small print, no hidden clauses. Already this technology, a radical new kind of carbon capture and storage, is causing a stir among scientists. It is cheap, it is efficient and it can be deployed straight away. It is called … leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

It’s the stop-what-you’re-doing principle again, isn’t it.

And if you can’t be bothered to read it all, here’s a short video of Bond on the topic:


1. alleman - January 23, 2008

Carbon trading is probably a scam. But it is always disappointing to me when green activists say things like we should leave fossil fuels in the ground – and then not even attempt to say how we can do that without destroying the economy and jobs.

2. Andreas - January 23, 2008

Good point, I guess – it’s a long standing tradition among the left to moan and criticise without coming up with positive alternatives. Having said that, I think you’ll find that both Bond and Monbiot throughout their work do, in fact, suggest practical alternatives…

Also, to suggest that we should keep things the way they are to sustain “the economy and jobs” is not necessarily a more pro-active stance, since it’s the very “economy” and the back-breaking and mind-numbing “jobs” that continue to kill thousands of humans and stop millions from developing to their full potential every day.


3. Rory Williams - February 2, 2008

I have argued that if we want to change the way the capitalist economy impacts communities, that’s great – but it’s a separate discussion from the one about whether carbon trading is a useful strategy for reducing emissions. I agree with Bond that the carbon market hasn’t worked so far, but that doesn’t mean it can’t play a role. Let’s hope the current series of negotiations beginning in Bali will produce a more robust set of mechanisms.

4. Patrick Bond - February 2, 2008

I’d be happy to send along my book Unsustainable South Africa as a .doc file (just write me at pbond@mail.ngo.za), because it goes through in detail what should have been done with the Coega space north of PE, rather than planning a smelter, container terminal and Export Processing Zone for it. As for what should be done across SA, anyone have a problem with the Reconstruction and Development Programme? In drafting most of that document, and doing the formal audit of it in 1999 for the ANC National Executive Committee, I was alerted to all the ways that a radical strategy to meet basic needs could replace the current approach: Western consumerism based on a vast infusion of consumer credit (at historically very high interest rates), speculative bubbles in real estate and JSE shares, huge outflows of profits/dividends to the financial hq’s of Anglo and the other large offshore firms, mass imports from E.Asia, and the need to export that together are now threatening the economy’s stability. Rory, ‘let’s hope’ is a wonderful sentiment, but look at the actual balance of power in the world, and please for the sake of realpolitik, reassess what’s feasible by way of reform. That’s why ‘keep the oil in the soil’ is such an important innovation in progressive movement strategy. To comrade Alleman, would you offer your critique to Alaskan enviros who have done such a good job at preventing tundra drilling, or women in the Niger Delta, or the Oilwatch NGO network, or the Ecuadorian government, or Norwegian and Canadian activists who are together leading the way? They’d have every right to tell *you* to fix the demand-side by changing your (our) hedonistic consumption patterns and sorting out power relations so that we get an economy that isn’t addicted to fossil fuels…

5. alleman - February 4, 2008

Patrick did I offer a critique? It was more a question, I’d say. A question that remains unanswered.

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