And the biggest NGO in Bali?

Who is actually attending the Bali climate conference

So, who do you think is the biggest non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Bali? Which NGO do you think has registered the most delegates to attend the climate conference? Is it Greenpeace? Is it the World Wide Fund for Nature? Could it be Friends of the Earth? Or maybe big business lobbyists the International Chamber of Commerce?

A couple of days ago I went through the official delegates list and did the complex mathematics (i.e. counting) to work this out. And to my surprise it’s a big fat nope to all of these guys.

It turns out the biggest NGO delegation in Bali is the lobbying group, the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA). With 336 representatives including lawyers, financiers, emissions traders, consultants, certifiers and emissions trading experts from companies like Shell, the IETA makes up 7.5% of the 4483 Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) delegates registered to attend the UN climate talks. Staggering, and also quite worrying (more about this later).

The IETA totally dwarfs even the largest environmental groups like WWF (2%), Greenpeace (1.6%), Friends of the Earth (1.52%) as well as big development organisations like Oxfam (1.31%). In addition, a close look at the list shows that well over half the delegates registered for these groups are actually from the region (with many from Indonesia itself) and they also do a favour to smaller organisations who don’t yet have their own individual official status with the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) by including them on their list. WDM’s sole representative (me) - comprising a massive 0.02% of the total NGO delegates - is actually registered under Friends of the Earth’s name for this reason.

Interestingly (?), the second largest NGO delegation is from something called the ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. This group has registered 282 delegates (6.3% of the NGO total) and, as far as I can work out, includes a range of local government officials from across the world. Bizarrely, their delegates list also includes a selection of Hollywood celebrities such as Michelle Yeoh, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz and George Clooney, and Bollywood celeb Shilpa Shetty.

Haven’t seen these guys around the convention centre yet. I guess they are planning to beam in next week for a surgical strike on the media once the politicians have arrived.

Anyway, back to the emissions traders and their massive delegation. I think the fact that the IETA is the biggest NGO in Bali just highlights the massive expansion in this industry over the past few years. Emissions trading is big business and it’s global. The worrying side of this is the potential influence they will wield over the talks.

Emissions traders will be pushing hard to expand their business based on the argument that if it is cheaper, easier and more economically efficient to pay for emissions reductions in developing countries, it makes more sense to do this than pay more for emissions reductions in rich countries. Kind of works on paper but in the real world it’s been riddled with problems that essentially make it a massive loophole: rich countries avoiding reducing their own emissions and bunging money at various dodgy schemes that don’t result in a clear benefit and can even end up harming local people.

Some are deeply suspicious of the whole thing and for good reason. Personally, I don’t have a problem with the idea of people making money out of the desire to tackle climate change, but this can only be legitimate as far as I’m concerned if it actually reduces emissions, if it’s not a loophole for rich countries and if it works without unwanted side-effects.

So far emissions trading has not proved it can deliver what is needed, yet governments will be lobbied heavily here in Bali to expand trading by the growing number of companies that stand to make money from it.

These climate talks could set in stone a deal that lasts for years. It may be our last chance to get it right and I think governments would be crazy to put all their eggs in a basket full of holes.

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The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times