Latest Developments, November 20

In the latest news and analysis…

Hot Earth
The World Bank has released a new report warning that the planet could get 4°C warmer over the next century “even if countries fulfill current emissions-reduction pledges”:

“Moreover, adverse effects of a warming climate are “tilted against many of the world’s poorest regions” and likely to undermine development efforts and global development goals, says the study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, on behalf of the World Bank. The report, urges ‘further mitigation action as the best insurance against an uncertain future.’

The report identifies severe risks related to adverse impacts on water availability, particularly in northern and eastern Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. River basins like the Ganges and the Nile are particularly vulnerable. In Amazonia, forest fires could as much double by 2050. The world could lose several habitats and species with a 4°C warming.”

Long goodbye
Agence France-Presse reports that the French army has ended its combat mission in Afghanistan, though a contingent of its soldiers will remain in the country indefinitely:

“Of the 2,200 French soldiers still left in Afghanistan, a military official said that about 700 would return to France by the end of the year.
Around 50 trainers will remain based in Wardak province, west of Kabul, and 1,500 would stay in the Afghan capital, where most will be tasked with organizing the final departure of French troops by the summer of 2013.
After that date, only several hundred French soldiers involved in cooperation or training missions will remain in the country, the military official said.”

Killer robots
Human Rights Watch has released a new report calling on the world’s governments to “pre-emptively ban” weapons that would be able to operate without human guidance:

“Fully autonomous weapons could not meet the requirements of international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch and the Harvard clinic said. They would be unable to distinguish adequately between soldiers and civilians on the battlefield or apply the human judgment necessary to evaluate the proportionality of an attack – whether civilian harm outweighs military advantage.
These robots would also undermine non-legal checks on the killing of civilians. Fully autonomous weapons could not show human compassion for their victims, and autocrats could abuse them by directing them against their own people. While replacing human troops with machines could save military lives, it could also make going to war easier, which would shift the burden of armed conflict onto civilians.
Finally, the use of fully autonomous weapons would create an accountability gap. Trying to hold the commander, programmer, or manufacturer legally responsible for a robot’s actions presents significant challenges. The lack of accountability would undercut the ability to deter violations of international law and to provide victims meaningful retributive justice.”

Growing slick
Reuters reports that an oil spill has spread “at least 20 miles” from an ExxonMobil facility off Nigeria’s coast:

“ ‘This is the worst spill in this community since Exxon started its operations in the area,’ said Edet Asuquo, 40, a fisherman in the Mkpanak community, as women scooped oil into buckets. In some marshy areas, plants were poking out of the slick, not yet dead and blackened by the oil.
‘The fishermen cannot fish any longer and have no alternative means of survival,’ Asuquo said.”

Fairer taxes
Sol Picciotto and Nicholas Shaxson, authors of ‘Regulating Global Corporate Capitalism’ and ‘Treasure Islands’ respectively, make the case for a unitary tax to replace current global rules that “seek to disaggregate [multinationals] into collections of separate entities”:

“Instead of taxing multinationals according to the legal forms that their tax advisers conjure up, they are taxed according to the genuine economic substance of what they do and where they do it. Each company submits to the tax authorities of each country where it does business a ‘combined report’ providing consolidated accounts for the whole global group, ignoring all internal transfers. The report specifies the group’s physical assets, workforce and sales and the overall profits are then divided up among jurisdictions according to a formula weighing these three factors. This system would benefit everyone, particularly developing countries.”

Big waste
The Center for Global Development’s Owen Barder looks at the inefficiencies of US food aid – in one case, freight and logistics accounted for 97% of the cost of salmon for Cambodia – prompting him to ask three questions:

“a. How many people in the developing world go hungry each evening because of the way we waste our food aid budgets?
b. Is there really no limit on how much money is spent lining the pockets of our own companies before the OECD refuses to count the spending as aid?
c. How dare we lecture developing countries about wasteful procurement, corruption and inefficient public expenditure?”

Limited vision
Global Policy’s Katherine Wall takes issue with the “one-nation” theme being peddled by UK Labour Party leader Ed Miliband:

“Rather than focusing on social justice within the borders of the nation-state, we should broaden our understanding of the common good. By realising that the modern world in inter-connected, that the welfare of each is linked to the welfare of all, we can re-define the goals of the left. Instead of a common good within the confines of the nation, we should be pursuing the global common good and articulating how that aspiration can be achieved. ‘One-nation’ rhetoric limits the very ideas of social justice to within the borders on a map. What if we were to reimagine the world? What if we were to be truly one-nation – one world – in which the welfare and the good of all people were as important to us as those who happen to live within our state? Surely this would look a lot more like justice. Surely this would more accurately capture an understanding of the common good.”

A little sharing
Oxford University’s Frances Stewart argues that redistribution of wealth within and between countries is needed to eliminate poverty worldwide:

“The average incomes of high-income countries (in Europe, North America and Japan) are more than 70 times the average income of low-income countries. Redistribution of 10% of the incomes of the richest countries would increase the incomes of the poor group of countries by more than ninefold per head, clearly providing poor countries with enough resources to eliminate poverty.”

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