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Patrick Bond lecture on carbon markets and climate debt, Gyeongsang University, Jinju, Korea, 12 May

An alternative socio-economic model for climate debt:
How a movement emerged, waned and can be revived

by Patrick Bond
12 May 2015

경상대학교 사회과학연구원 2015년 국제학술대회
대안 사회경제 모델의 탐색 : 세계적 사례와 전지구적 시각
2015 International Conference: Exploration of an Alternative Social-Economic Model
Global Room, Social Sciences Bldg. 3rd Fl.
Gyeongsang National University Institute for Social Sciences, Jinju, South Korea

Enormous damage is already being done by climate change, with far worse to come. Who should pay the bills, and how? The main way in which ‘climate debt’ has been counted and ‘financialised’ is through carbon trading, in which the obligation to address excess carbon emissions is being directed through the decade-old European Emissions Trading Scheme and other new markets, including Korea. This is not working even though the several of the countries in the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) bloc are warmly embracing emissions trading and the purchase of carbon ‘offsets.’ Indeed the BRICS’ spatial extension of capitalism in the early 21st century is one of the most celebrated phenomena in contemporary economics, given that notwithstanding Russian sanctions, most BRICS financial markets are emerging to fuse with – not oppose – the Western-dominated institutions. This is important for boosting climate-related financial flows, at a time global environmental governance decisively fails to impose state solutions for the inclement climate catastrophe. Meant to conclude in Paris in December 2015 with a comprehensive United Nations deal similar to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (but with much greater emphasis on the responsibilities of large middle-income countries), recent rounds of world climate negotiations have indisputably served capital’s interests. Greenhouse gas emissions will continue on an unsustainable trajectory. There has only been marginal emissions-cutting progress in the North through outsourcing of pollution especially to China. Cuts in US coal emissions are negated by the rise of fracking gas, what with leaked methane that may be doing more not less damage. The relatively stagnant world productive economy is another factor in slowing Northern emissions. In turn, the persistent failure of carbon markets in the US and Europe reveals severe flaws in the character of global capitalism, the role of the state in its transformation and state-capitalist relations. An entirely different approach is needed, one which takes as a starting point an uncontroversial doctrine, ‘polluter pays,’ but transcends the existing strategy of carbon trading and the Incheon-based Green Climate Fund (which has already failed on many fronts as a route to direct finance to victims of climate change). From there, the alternative socio-economic model appropriate to promote is the careful allocation of ‘climate debt’ obligations and payment systes. Given the failure of the main case to date (‘Yasuni’, in the Ecuadoran Amazon), a case study in South Africa – ‘Fuleni’ – has the potential to not only develop an innovative pilot project but also a model for systemic eco-socialist strategy.


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