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Greenwash and “incoherent” aid policies have no place in the war against climate change

Tom Whipple, Science editor of the Times, elaborates on a theme aired last October in Global Witness

He reports that a study by parliament’s international development committee, chaired by MP Stephen Twigg (left), concluded that the government needed more joined-up thinking when it came to climate change policy: “MPs have lambasted an “incoherent” aid policy in which Britain allocates billions to tackling climate change abroad while spending the same amount supporting fossil fuel projects”.

UKEF allocates billions to tackling climate change abroad but gives the same amount to fossil fuel projects.

Evidence had been presented that between 2010 and 2016 UK Export Finance (UKEF), which supports trade abroad, spent £4.8 billion on schemes that contributed to carbon emissions. These included financing for offshore oil and gas extraction in Ghana, Colombia and Brazil. A sum, almost identical to the £4.9 billion, was spent by different agencies from 2011-17 on supporting projects to tackle climate change in developing countries.

The committee said: “The only context in which it is acceptable for UK aid to be spent on fossil fuels is if this spend is ultimately in support of a transition away from fossil fuels and as part of a strategy to pursue net zero global emissions by 2050 . . . Currently, the support provided to the fossil fuel economy in developing countries by UK Export Finance is damaging the coherence of the government’s approach to combating climate change and this needs to be urgently rectified.”

UKEF, the much-criticised and renamed Export Credits Guarantee Department, is the UK’s export credit agency which underwrites loans and insurance for risky export deals as part of efforts to boost international trade.

The committee also found that other wings of the UK overseas development sector, including groups such as the Prosperity Fund, which supports economic growth, were backing carbon-intensive projects.

In October one such proposal was announced: the financing of an expansion of an oil refinery in Bahrain which would allow its total output to increase up to a maximum of 380,000 barrels per day

“Given the urgency and scale of the challenge, spending climate finance has to be more than a box-ticking exercise to meet a commitment,” the committee wrote. “Climate finance must be spent strategically, it needs to be spent with urgency and it has to be transformative.”

Representatives from the Grantham Research Institute (LSE) (a site well worth visiting) gave evidence to the committee. They were critical of the latest economic strategy from DFiD in which, they pointed out, climate change “only receives a brief mention under the sector priorities of ‘agriculture’ and ‘infrastructure, energy and urban development’, while ‘extractive industries’ including oil, gas and mining are highlighted as a priority sector for support with no mention of climate change considerations”.

Mr Twigg said that the UK policy of reaching “net zero emissions” should extend to the government’s work abroad, as well as at home. “It is welcome that in recent weeks climate change has taken its rightful place at the top of the news agenda,” he said. “The scale and seriousness of the challenge to be confronted must be reinforced and reflected upon daily if we are to take meaningful steps to combat it.

Rory Stewart, the international development secretary (left), said that the report “makes for sobering reading . . . Although we have done much already to tackle climate change, I feel strongly we can do more. I am going to make tackling climate change increasingly central to DFID’s work. As international development secretary I want to put climate and the environment at the heart of what this government does to protect our planet for future generations. As climate extremes worsen it is the world’s poorest countries and communities which will be most affected, but this is a global issue.”

Adam McGibbon, Climate Change Campaigner at Global Witness, said: “As the world reels from the news that we have twelve years to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown, today’s announcement by the government is staggering. The UK claims to be a climate leader, but it continues to spend billions pumping fossil fuels out of the ground abroad.

And in the Western Daily Press, 6 May 2019, Paul Halas from Stroud describes government policy-making as being, “hobbled by its vested interests and metaphorical flat-Earthers”. He ended:

“In times of war, research, development and manufacture increase exponentially. What faces us now is no less than a war against Climate Change, which will take an unprecedented effort and unanimity of purpose to win. It’s not one we can afford to lose”.






Anglo-Saxon aid – a poisoned chalice?

david cameronTheresa sent news reported by Francis Elliott, Political Editor of the Times. A template for reform of aid spending has been drawn up by Tobias Ellwood, Mr Cameron’s envoy to Nato, who points out:

“Considering the financial pressure the MoD is under it makes sense to utilise funds earmarked for ODA spend, where of course it is permitted, which are currently sitting in the DfID”.

This news paled into insignificance when Mark sent news of the Obama government’s attempted subversion of Cuban society – no doubt hoping for a ‘Cuban spring’.

The Obama government’s USAID attempted subversion of Cuban society

It was first reported by Associated Press, ‘the world’s oldest and largest newsgathering organization’: “The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) masterminded the creation of a “Cuban Twitter,” a communications network designed to undermine the communist government in Cuba, built with secret shell companies and financed through foreign banks . . .

USAID graphicWorld News Network graphic

“The project, which lasted more than two years and drew tens of thousands of subscribers, sought to evade Cuba’s stranglehold on the Internet with a primitive social media platform. Its users were neither aware it was created by a U.S. agency with ties to the State Department, nor that American contractors were gathering personal data about them. In 2012, the text messaging service vanished as mysteriously as it appeared”.

According to documents obtained by the Associated Press and multiple interviews with people involved in the project:

“When the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society”.

joe mcspedonIt was reported that this project was carried out by a high-tech team, directed by Joe McSpedon who worked for USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). OTI was created after the fall of the Soviet Union to promote U.S. interests in quickly changing political environments — without the usual red tape. The team of contractors set up servers in Spain and Ireland to process texts, contracting an independent Spanish company called to send the text messages back to Cuba, while stripping off identifying data.

In 2011, the State Department’s Secretary Hillary Clinton thought social media was an important tool in diplomacy. At George Washington University, she said the U.S. helped people in “oppressive Internet environments get around filters.” In Tunisia, she said people used technology to “organize and share grievances, which, as we know, helped fuel a movement that led to revolutionary change.”

Josefina Vidal, director of U.S. affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, commented that the ZunZuneo program “shows once again that the United States government has not renounced its plans of subversion against Cuba, which have as their aim the creation of situations of destabilization in our country to create changes in the public order and toward which it continues to devote multimillion-dollar budgets each year.” Many will heartily agree with her restrained conclusion:

“The government of the United States must respect international law and the goals and principles of the United Nations charter and, therefore, cease its illegal and clandestine actions against Cuba, which are rejected by the Cuban people and international public opinion”.

Population change? Regime change is difficult, so . . .

In this country,  politicians/corporates have often turned to education in the form of stage-managed consultations about controversial issues such as genetically modified crops and nuclear power. 

In Clare Short’s time, one DFID series actually had the minutes/findings of the workshops written in advance. 

The chairman and chief executive of Enron International, Rebecca Mark, disclosed that she had spent a substantial sum in India ‘educating’ the people, but refused to say who received the money.

 Robert Shrimsley jokes that it is now time to replace the existing population with a technocratic electorate: 

“EU commissioners are surely working on the details now. It won’t be easy. The Greeks have lived in Greece for some time and there is bound to be some resistance. But by putting their own interests before the European project, they have shown themselves unfit for office. 

“There will be some dispute over whether it is necessary to sack the entire population or just enough to ensure a working majority in elections. 

“Chancellor Merkel is understood to have offered to do whatever is necessary to make this plan work – and is ready to redesignate up to 11m Germans as Greek nationals to ensure a smooth handover. 

“They will not need to live in Greece but will be offered holiday homes and depicted as the heirs to Sparta, returning to restore frugality, greatness and dedication to the single currency. On arrival they will flock into Athens waving banners, secretly prepared in German factories, demanding “more cuts” and “fiscal compact now”.” 

Stymied by recalcitrant populations that refuse to commit mass suicide 

R. Vijayaraghavan adds that “Population change” has now entered the political lexicon, in addition to “regime change”.  

Hopefully tongue in cheek, he commends Robert Shrimsley’s FT “Sack the people” for showing the way for the neo-imperialists to help their puppet prime ministers or presidents in other countries, who are “constantly being stymied by recalcitrant populations that refuse to commit mass suicide.”