G8 and Global Pollution

EDITORIAL, 14 July 2008

#16 | Johan Galtung

There are figures in the air.  CNN’s Todd Benjaminpointed out that the G8 countries account for 50% of the world wealth,but major developing countries for 70% of the world growth.  And AlJazeera estimated the G8 share at 48% some years ago, now down to 43%,whereas-because major developing countries’ share has risen from 12% to27%, like the Outreach O5–China, India, South Africa, Mexico,Brazil–from Asia, Africa, Latin America, The “Third World”, becomingthe First?  The G8 have somewhat late discovered that to discuss anddecide about others in their absence may be counterproductive, and arereaching out to the O5.  Or: the world is reaching in, to them, to theInreach 8.
G8pronounces itself on anything as if wisdom comes with wealth; this timein Hokkaido it was global warming: “Halve global green-house gases bymidcentury”.  What kind of empty talk when the point of no return maycome much earlier, like in 2020 if not 25% is cut, as the InternationalHerald Tribune points out (editorial, 11 July 2008), also quoting theSouth African comment, “without short-term targets the goal is an emptyslogan”.  It is what you initiate today that matters.

The G8 would have become so much more meaningful had they not lecturedthe world but to themselves.  They have contributed more than 50%, 48%or 43% of the green-house gas pollution, so we might expect concreteaction of at least that magnitude. Like the World Bank, theInternational Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization the G8 is theobject of major demonstrations, also in Hokkaido. Well deserved withsuch arrogant and self-serving emptiness.  So, what could and shouldthey have done?  What might have made world embrace them?

Very simple.  “Aware of our historical responsibility, hoping thatothers will follow suit, we hereby commit ourselves to the followingfour approaches to reduce carbon emissions:

* negative measures:  outlawing, with substantial fines, production ofany source of carbon pollution for production, moving, heating,cooking, consumption in general except with an X% annual cut relativeto last year, giving a short lease on life for existing sources unlessmade more carbon neutral;

* positive measures:  giving incentives for non-polluting sources ofenergy like wind, solar, wave, water, geo- or hydro-thermic, andbiomass, as subsidies, credits and gifts.

* corrective measures: eliminating the markets for buying and sellingemission quotas, and eliminating the market for compensating carbonemission by forestation oxygen.”

The negative measures remind us of a colossal negative undertaking inall G8 countries (and more): outlawing alcohol consumption for motorvehicle drivers (in some country also outlawing serving them).  Themaximum alcohol pollution is down from .5 per mille to zero manyplaces.  Not easy, and yet it has been done with notable decrease intraffic accidents.  Positive incentives, like bonus for 5, 10, 20 yearsdriving with no fines would have helped and so would deliciousalternative libations.

The positive measures are coming, but more quickly so if coupled to thenegative measures.  People look for alternatives but may need thedouble persuasion of push and pull.

The corrective measures are against deviation from the right course:reduce the emissions, whether ships like tankers do so by reducing thespeed a couple of knots, change to natural gas or, maybe, reduce airand wave friction by using huge, slow speed submarines. To buypollution quotas from less developed countries is like buying slavequotas from non-slave countries; to plant trees for oxygen is likecompensating for slavery by a high birth rate of children born free.Forestation and free people are both positive, but attack an evil atits root.

There is nothing so convincing as positive words dressed in inspiringaction.  Of course G8 will not do that, their major concern is to haveothers help cleaning up their mess.

And that brings us to the point that maybe G8 itself is a case ofglobal pollution that should be halved much before 2050, preferably outby 2020? Have a look at G7. What does little Canada do there, exceptpossibly as Little Brother? How about USA, today obviously more on thereceiving than the sending end of needed economic advice?  Italy,France, England, Japan, with stagnant growth and population, and nopath-breaking economic initiatives?  What is left is Germany, morecapable than the others of handling growth and distribution; carrying amantle of well-deserved modesty and less lecturing than Anglo-Americanswith some others in tow.

Rich, tired, maybe retired?  Having exhausted their growth potentialthey hoped for fresh energy supply after a Moscow coup that had all thekey characteristics of a CIA coup: organize, or use, a coup from theleft to launch a counter-coup from the right, choreograph a democraticlegitimation process and control the cabinet members. They got whatthey deserved, Putin, who turned the energy inward.  Unable to inspireeven themselves, the tired search for inspiration in the O5, for apossible G13.

Let us hope not.  We have United Nations for such purposes, like theEconomic and Social Council, with its 54 members. We do not need anyeffort of the former big to revise authority with a lot of media hype. This is a question of serious work, together on problems that areglobal in the sense of transcending borders like pollution, and in thesense of being shared, like misery?

For global problems global organization.  Revive the UN.  And drop G8.  We do not need “summits”.  We need the real thing.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 14 July 2008.

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