China Climate change Finance

Why #COP21 won’t deliver the deal we need: Interview with Oscar Reyes

Last week, I interviewed Oscar Reyes on the background to and likely outcomes of the climate talks in Paris just wrapping up. His answers were prescient as the talks look set to deliver a decidedly insufficient agreement, one that locks in more warming shrouded in lofty rhetoric. This interview gives context to the talks and the perspective for the continued fight for climate justice.

Oscar is a Barcelona-based climate policy researcher. He works with the Institute for Policy Studies and has also been affiliated with the Transnational Institute; he has a long history of excellent critical writing and activism on climate issues.


Michal Rozworski: What concretely is going to be debated, and what are its limits?

Oscar Reyes: In Paris, countries are trying to create a protocol that will replace the Kyoto Protocol from 1997. The Kyoto Protocol put some limits on emissions, but at the same time it brought in carbon markets and created lots of loopholes.

Is this deal going to do better than Kyoto? My guess is no. Every country will make a statement about what they want to do to reduce emissions. We know that the collective action of countries is meant to restrict warming to 2 degrees or even 1.5 degrees. What’s promised is not going to meet that target. The better outcome would be some kind of mechanism for increasing those later.

Another key piece of the COP21 talks is finance. If countries in the Global South are to not follow the kind of fossil-fuel-intensive development of the North, there needs to be some cash resources to help that transition. Under the UN climate convention, developed countries are supposed to pay these additional costs, but we know that they aren’t intending to.

They’ve started talking about a figure of around $100 billion per year, and they’re nowhere near even that. So there’s a scramble now to come up with different ways of counting this $100 billion without doing much extra, which given global flows of infrastructure investment and finance won’t be too hard.

On the other side, we have the G77, the largest grouping of developing countries, which has said this is not an acceptable definition. We’ll see where this goes but finance will be a key part of the talks.

Is there any concerted pressure from the Global South to really start shifting both rhetoric and policies at this official level this time around?

Canada Finance

Bay St. isn’t back, it never left

The New York Times reports that Wall St. is back in a big way since the 2007 crisis: profits, salaries and confidence have returned in the US financial industry. As often happens when I see something intriguing like this about the US, I wanted to quickly see whether a similar dynamic is taking place in Canada. Turns out that Bay St. is doing better than ever too…though it never really went away.

To illustrate this, consider two of the charts used in the Times piece, both augmented with Canadian data. First up, employment in the financial sector. While the US saw the number of securities and investment workers flatline after the crisis, Canada has continued to see more growth, only plateauing more recently. Today a greater percentage of total employment is in the investment subsector than in the US.

Source: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Economic theory Finance Workers

Whose efficiency? what efficiency?

Efficiency is formidable. It rears its head most everywhere. Witness the tyranny of the target at more and more workplaces: from more greets per hour to more exam points per teacher. At the same time, efficiency also nurtures increasing tyrannies at home: get fit in 12 minutes per day instead of 15…but don’t waste those 3 saved minutes, other efficiencies await!

The ruthless search for efficiencies is everywhere, whether in reality or in slogans, corporate reports or government policies. When, for example, workers are fired or fossil fuel pipelines are planned in the name of efficiency, we want to question the cold calculations behind these decisions. On the other hand, it’s hard to disagree with efficiency. Try it at home. Walk to the kitchen via the bathroom. Use a ladder, a long stick, tongs and some string to get snacks out of the fridge. Efficiency follows us everywhere whether we like it or not: from a diagonal path across a green space to the l8st txting app.

Due to this omnipresence, efficiency is easily conflated with other categories – the drive for profit for instance. (This is no straw man: I’ve had conversations recently where such conflations have come up; overall, I think they are not marginal, albeit often implicit.) This kind of conflation works in two ways. It naturalizes profit-seeking as a simple and inevitable human aim, while making arguments against profit-seeking difficult because increasing efficiency appears to be a no-brainer.

Canada Finance

Public owners need public aims: BDC and the unrealized potential of socialized finance

I stumbled upon a presentation released by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) yesterday. The presentation outlined strategies for companies to integrate ethical and environmental concerns raised by consumers. In many ways, this is nothing new. The distance between this rather tepid advice and the actual needs of facing our economy and our planet brought to mind another gulf that will likely be need to be bridged first: that between public ownership and public aims.

The BDC is a Crown corporation that provides financial services. In short, it is a public bank, an institution of socialized finance. It is a good example of how the reality of socialized finance differs from its potential – of the limits of public ownership that exists without a broader context of democratic pressures for public aims.

Austerity Crisis Finance Political Eh-conomy Radio USA Workers

In and out of crisis with Sam Gindin

Today’s podcast is a feature interview with fellow political economist Sam Gindin. I interrogate Sam about the political economy of the present: the exit from the 2007 crisis, the role of states, austerity, the place of finance and the possibilities of resistance.

Sam Gindin is a left political economist with a long career. He was the longtime Research Director of the CAW and later held the Packer Visiting Chair in Social Justice at York University. Most recently, Sam authored The Making of Global Capitalism with Leo Panitch, a book that has gone on to win prestigious awards and spark important debates.

Canada Finance Political Eh-conomy Radio

Why we need postal banking

Introducing the Political Eh-conomy Radio podcast, a new podcast on economic issues in Canada and beyond. The inaugural episode tackles postal banking: why cut valuable services and jobs at Canada Post when it is instead possible to create financial services run by the post office, at the same ensuring the Post’s future sustainability? Canada Post put it best in its secret report: postal banking is a “win-win” – unless of course your aim is to dismantle public services and set the stage for privatization.

Interviews include John Anderson, author of the CCPA report, Why Canada Needs Postal Banking, George Floresco, Vice-President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and David Bush, who is among those spearheading community organizing to stop the cuts at Canada Post.