Latest Developments, December 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Canada out of Kyoto
The New York Times reports that mere hours after the international community agreed at the Durban climate change conference to extend the Kyoto Protocol, Canada has become the first country to withdraw from the accord.
“‘Kyoto, for Canada, is in the past,’ the environment minister, Peter Kent, told reporters shortly after returning from South Africa. He added that Canada would work toward developing an agreement that includes targets for developing nations, particularly China and India.
‘What we have to look at is all major emitters,’ Mr. Kent said.
Under the Kyoto Protocol’s rules, Canada must formally give notice of its intention to withdraw by the end of this year or else face penalties after 2012.
The extent of those penalties, as well as Canada’s ability to redress its inability to meet the treaty’s emission reduction targets, is a matter of some debate.”

Trade mispricing
Global Financial Integrity’s Sarah Freitas writes that the Philippines lost an estimated $142 billion due to illicit financial flows over the last decade, but that corruption and bribery accounted for a relatively small part of that amount .
“The study found that the majority of the illicit outflow, US$113.7 billion, is due to the mispricing of imported and exported goods. Trade mispricing is a phenomenon where individuals and corporations use fraudulent commercial invoices to smuggle money out of the country, usually in order to facilitate tax evasion. A large corporation or very wealthy individual in the Philippines will trade with a counterpart in another country, but will manipulate the price and quantity of exported goods to send more money offshore than represented by what they report to the government. The individual or corporation then collects the extra money later, usually in a bank account in a tax haven or secrecy jurisdiction.
This means that while the Philippines has seen significant outflows from corruption, bribery, and kickbacks, their biggest priority when addressing illicit capital flight should be to tackle trade-related tax evasion.”

Slow start
The Guardian reports that after 40 years of mining uranium in Niger, the French state-owned company Areva has agreed to begin monitoring the health of its employees.
“Deaths from respiratory infections occur at almost twice the national average in Arlit, according to Greenpeace. In a 2010 report, the organisation found water wells in Akokan contaminated with radiation levels up to 500 times higher than normal, and radioactive scrap metal for sale at local markets. Meanwhile, mining activity has drained almost 300bn litres of water from aquifers, key water sources in the desert.”

Biofuel crimes
A new report produced jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization and Transparency International suggests the troubles with the growing biofuel industry go beyond issues of food security.
“The drive to find alternative energy sources to mitigate climate change has resulted in a rush of money to related investments in countries. Yet many countries with governance and corruption challenges are considered among the most attractive destinations for biofuel investment.
In the case of Colombia, the rapid expansion of the cultivation of palm oil has been linked to reports of paramilitaries, hired by private interests, allegedly pushing poor communities off their land to increase the available area for planting.”

Boycott fever
Forbes blogger E.D. Kain writes about the Florida Family Association’s efforts to get companies to pull their advertising dollars from TLC’s reality TV show All-American Muslim, a campaign the group claims has succeeded with 65 of the 67 companies it pressured.
“The FFA’s statement on the matter reads: ‘‘All-American Muslim’ is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law… The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to the liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.’”

Durban disappointment
Oxfam’s Tim Gore argues that the final deal that came out of the Durban climate summit prioritized legal obligations over ambition and equity.
“Many developing countries are concerned the terms of the new agreement will pressurise them to act in the same vein as developed countries. The impassioned appeals of India and others to keep fairness at the heart of the new regime are not reflected in the text of the final agreement, which makes no distinction between the relative effort required by large and small historic and per-capita polluters, or between the richest countries and those where millions of people still live in poverty and hunger.”

In a Q&A with People of Colour Organize!, British Green politician and activist Derek Wall discusses the concept of ecosocialism and answers whether “zero growth” is possible in a capitalist system.
“The short answer is no. Firms compete to make profit. Those who make the most profit can reinvest in capital and with more efficient machinery they out compete other firms.
Firms have to make profit to survive. It’s not a case of wicked capitalists but instead a system with a built in growth imperative.
The problem is, from declining oil to diminishing fish stocks, an environmental wipeout is occurring.”

Dangerous game
In an Al Jazeera interview, Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs talks about the madness, as he sees it, of the American financial system.
“And the problem that the Occupy Wall Street and other protesters have is: you don’t deserve it, you nearly broke the system, you gamed the economy, you’re paying mega fines, yet you’re still in the White House you’re going to the state dinners, you’re paying yourself huge bonuses, what kind of system is this?
When I talk about this in the United States, I’m often attacked, ‘oh, you don’t believe in the free market economy’, I say, how much free market can there be? You say deregulate, the moment the banks get in trouble, you say bail them out, the moment you bail them out, you say go back to deregulation. That’s not a free market, that’s a game, and we have to get out of the game. We have to get back to grown-up behaviour.”