Latest Developments, February 21

In the latest news and analysis…

Perpetual growth
The Guardian reports on a new UN-commissioned study that argues the international community needs to take “dramatic action” if it wants to “avert a collapse of civilisation.”
“ ‘The rapidly deteriorating biophysical situation is more than bad enough, but it is barely recognised by a global society infected by the irrational belief that physical economies can grow forever and disregarding the facts that the rich in developed and developing countries get richer and the poor are left behind.
‘The perpetual growth myth … promotes the impossible idea that indiscriminate economic growth is the cure for all the world’s problems, while it is actually the disease that is at the root cause of our unsustainable global practices’, [the authors] say.”

Plundering Somalia
Inter Press Service reports on a new paper criticizing international policy towards Somalia, with one of the authors suggesting this week’s London summit on the country’s future “seeks mainly to rally public opinion around more violence, more intervention, and more counterterrorism options” rather than promoting a holistic approach to problem solving.
“[Global Policy Forum’s James] Paul said the violence-prone naval approach [to halting piracy] has not worked, because it ignores the illegal foreign fishing and toxic waste dumping that is taking place off the Somali coast.
The fishing and dumping provokes the piracy and has led ordinary Somalis to approve the piracy as a legitimate form of national defence.
But powerful members of the Security Council, notably the U.S. and the UK, have blocked any action on fishing and dumping.
‘They pretend that there is no information about the matter, even while their naval fleets are closely monitoring the movement of all ships in Somali waters,’ Paul said. ‘So much for root causes and holistic approaches. Violence is virtually the only option allowed onto the table in London.’ ”

UN responsibility
The New Media Advocacy Project’s Abby Goldberg writes about a legal petition that calls on the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti to compensate and apologize to victims of a deadly cholera outbreak thought to have been caused by UN personnel.
“If the petition is successful, it will be the first case in history in which the UN takes legal responsibility for harm caused by their personnel.

The UN must consider the legal request and how to respond, not only for Haitians, but also for the success of peacekeeping operations globally. This case is about Haiti, but it is also about the UN and a changing world. As one of the lawyers who filed the case said, ‘there is a difference between immunity and impunity. Impunity cannot be tolerated.’ The UN can, and must, do better.”

Emission friction
Oxfam’s Duncan Green is baffled by widespread international opposition to the EU’s plan to charge airlines flying in and out of Europe for their carbon emissions, given that three-quarters of the greenhouse gases taxed would come from European and American carriers.
“The main objection to the EU’s policy is that it applies to air-miles clocked up outside European airspace. But the vast majority of emissions captured by the EU [Emission Trading Scheme] scope are from EU and US operators.  By implication, if India and others genuinely want developed countries to act to cut GHG emissions it would seem against their own interest to try to block the EU ETS, because obviously the EU would never apply it just to its own carriers – so if they were to be successful they’d also prevent us doing something about the large majority of emissions from EU/US carriers.”

Re-inventing the World Bank
Former World Bank executive Ana Palacio says the debate over the US monopoly on the institution’s presidency is “legitimate,” but thinks the organization requires far more significant reforms.
“Just as reconstruction finance gave way to development lending over the course of the Bank’s history, its current focus on banking operations should be reconsidered, as the organization’s main source of added value now lies in its formidable potential as a center of knowledge and a coordinator of international policies.

Today, the international community should look for a World Bank president who is attuned to ordinary people’s growing refusal to tolerate glaring global inequalities, and who understands that development is more than GDP growth. Such a leader, regardless of his or her country of origin, will reinvent the World Bank for the century ahead.”

Universal energy
The Steps Centre’s Rob Byrne and Jim Watson highlight the argument that the world’s poor should not be required to take a low-carbon approach to achieving universal energy access.
“[Practical Action’s Teodoro] Sanchez estimates that half the world’s energy-poor could switch to cooking on sustainable biomass and half to liquefied petroleum gas. Furthermore, half could access electricity from diesel generators while the other half do so from renewable sources. If these plans were implemented, he argues, the increase in global CO2 emissions would be less than 2% above 2005 levels.
If the world takes climate change seriously, this increase could easily be absorbed by cuts in industrialised country emissions and further action to slow emissions growth in the rapidly developing countries (especially China). The cost of this up to 2030 would be about $570bn (including capacity building and institutional costs); less than 3% of the estimated global energy investments needed during the same period.”

Questioning development
And, finally, a piece from last week by the Latin American Center of Social Ecology’s Eduardo Gudynas who argues sustainability will require a profound questioning of the concept of development and a recognition of the rights of nature. 
“The social and environmental crisis is so serious that it is now time to put aside minor adjustments and reforms, and instead address the root causes of resistance to the idea of development. We must adopt an approach whereby the term ‘sustainable development’ no longer requires the suffix ‘development’. The civil society programme in Rio+20 should not focus simply on fixing the superficial problems of development: it is necessary to look for alternatives to the entire body of ideas about development.

If sustainable development strengthens its demands for change, it must abandon the traditional idea of development and thus break with the anthropocentric ethics that are characteristic of Western cultural tradition.”

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