The UN's climate capitalism is going to get us all killed
Its latest report calls for an "urgent system-wide transformation," but stops short of socialism.
International efforts to avert climate change have “no credible pathway to 1.5°C in place,” according to a new UN report on climate change released yesterday — and avoiding disaster will “require investments of at least US $4-6 trillion a year”. And this specifically means mobilizing “flows from abundant high-income economies for investment in faster-growing and capital-scarce developing economies”. Read through the executive summary, and you might even start to convince yourself that the United Nations finally gets it:
The task facing the world is immense: not just to set more ambitious targets, but also to deliver on all commitments made. This will require not just incremental sector-by-sector change, but wide-ranging, large scale, rapid and systematic transformation.
That’s what you get in paraphrase. But dig in to their specific recommendations for this “transformation”, and you’ll find that the UN is still relying almost entirely on the voluntary benevolence of our rich overlords to bail us out.
This document is absolute madness! The United Nations is very clear that
decisions by actors in capital markets to change their allocation of assets even modestly, or not, have an enormous bearing on economic transitions…However, it is not the primary objective of any of them, except for the climate funds, to address climate change… significant action has also been limited by the priorities of institutional investors on short-term returns, lack of climate expertise and their lingering scepticism about climate risk exposure.
Read: an extremely small group of rich people have enough money to save an extraordinary number of lives, probably on the scale of billions, but they don’t want to. So we have to take the choice out of their hands, right? It’s the only moral thing to do: sacrificing that many lives so that a handful of rich people can wallow in decadent luxury is the agenda of a death cult.
And yet these are the UN’s “six approaches to bringing about a financial system that is capable of the shifting of finance flows,” in their own words:
Increase the efficiency of financial markets.
Introduce carbon pricing.
Nudge financial behavior.
Mobilize central banks.
Set up climate clubs and cross-border finance initiatives.
What in god’s name are we doing here? One moment UN Environment Programme Executive Director Inger Andersen insists that “a stepwise approach is no longer an option”; the next we are talking about nudges. One moment they concede that our current approach still relies “heavily on individual self-responsibility”; the next, they call for “building on climate awareness and its associated moral claims”. Even when they call for public financing, it’s relegated to a brief sub-point of “create markets” and remains firmly trapped in that logic, proposing for example “public financial guarantees to private investments”.
The UN is so fanatically committed to the sanctity of private property rights that it would rather watch us slide back into the Permian era than advise governments to start nationalizing their energy sectors. Capitalism has placed such a straitjacket on their thinking that they have to resort to increasingly bizarre intellectual gymnastics just to keep their policy within the persisting neoclassical orthodoxy. Consider how they deal with the basic question: why aren’t people in rich countries investing their money in poor ones?
There are at least three ‘frictions’ that prevent capital markets from investing more in developing countries…Second, persistent ‘home-bias’ of investors in high-income markets to invest within their own borders, contravening efficient capital markets functioning (Hau and Rey 2008) (Ardalan 2019).
OK, so something called “home bias” is preventing rich people from investing in climate change. What’s that? Here are some of the explanations in the Hau and Rey article cited above:
…people prefer to invest in the familiar. In the same way that people root for their home team, they feel comfortable investing their money in the stocks of a company that is visible to them…Extant research has documented that culture and patriotism substantially impact the degree of equity home bias…people who have similar cultural backgrounds and similar appearances have a tendency to trust each other more….the degree of trust in the other country is affected not only by objective aspects of that country, but also by its cultural characteristics such as religion, history of conflicts, and genetic similarities… (9-12)
Let this sink in: the UN is pointing to petty reptilian-brain bigotry to explain why the rich can’t be bothered to invest in the Global South, and even this isn’t sparking any reflection on why we care so much about their precious portfolios. They certainly don’t care about us:
I’ve never seen a worst-case scenario that puts the kind of mass desertification scenario Ramm talks about here any closer than 100 years, but in the grand scheme of things this is just hairsplitting. And more to the point, as he notes: if the rich decide this is our future, that’s what’s going to happen whether they were in some metaphysical sense right or not.
The UN remains the only institution that even has the hypothetical capacity to take on a challenge on the scale of global climate change — but it also seems resigned to leave our fate in the hands of oligarchs who don’t care if we live or die. If we want to make it through this, we need a global socialist state. We don’t have time for nudges.
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