Patrick Jenkins (Financial Times) attended a debate held by the FT City Network, a panel of more than 50 senior figures from across the City of London, during which ‘two of the world’s biggest fund management bosses’ pleaded for reform.
He reported that these pleas were made in response to an address by Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, in which she called for wholesale reform of the current economic system to avert global disaster.
Recent protests have focussed in part on the City of London and the role that banks, asset managers and insurers play in financing and sustaining some of the world’s most environmentally damaging industries, from oil extraction to vehicle manufacture.
Several participants praised the part that UK-based climate change activist group Extinction Rebellion has played — alongside others, including Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and film-maker David Attenborough.
Anne Richards, chief executive of Fidelity International, said the world must end “our obsession with ever-increasing GDP” and the “primacy of shareholders” to foster the kind of long-term thinking that would help protect the environment and “pivot [away] from the Milton Friedman concept of capitalism and the primacy of shareholders, who may have a very short-term involvement with an individual company, towards a wider stakeholder approach”.
Andreas Utermann, CEO of Allianz Global Investors, said that the world’s growth mania — “nominal GDP growth, supported by population growth, [and profit] growth” — was clearly unsustainable, and suggested that capitalism in its current form is “borrowing from the future while destroying the environment . . . A more holistic approach to ‘growth’ needs to evolve, looking to capture societal and environmental benefits and costs . . . More sophisticated measures than GDP per capita are required to determine whether capitalism is delivering to all stakeholders without borrowing from the future while destroying the environment. It was self-evident that this is not sustainable”.
A number of City Network contributors said that, while it was impossible to blacklist climate unfriendly firms instantly, it was vital that companies set tough environmental targets, measure whether they were met and reward managers on their performance, rather than on short-term profit. Other interventions showed that a wider range of contributors to the debate believe that business and government must urgently improve their response to the growing evidence of environmental catastrophe.
Extinction Rebellion‘s spring rally in Bristol
He points out that one of Extinction Rebellion’s three central demands is for the creation of a deliberative citizens’ assembly to formulate recommendations that can inform debate about policy and enables ordinary citizens to get involved – a fundamentally democratic and constructive proposal.
The power exercised by industry’s lobbying of government – a recurring theme on this website – is highlighted by Pawley
Stressing that any realistic assessment of the battle for political influence must acknowledge industry’s “extra-democratic” force, he makes three points:
- In private, some energy companies continue to resist regulations designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, notwithstanding their public commitment to renewable energy (BP is a recent example).
- The energy industry has also distorted public debate by secretly funding climate change denial organisations.
- Environmentalists cannot fund lobbying efforts on such a scale.
He ends, “Instead, their protests are attracting media attention and promoting discussion of how to address the crisis. This has rapidly begun to highlight the strength of public opinion on this issue; we may hope that this will focus the minds of politicians”.
Most of the inconvenienced – who snipe at those ‘ecowarriers’ who were not born in poverty and who travel to their meetings in cars (ha ha) – ask why they do not put their arguments in a civilised fashion. Politicians even ask why demonstrators do not stand for election – failing to realise the widespread loss of confidence in parliament and the political process.
Diana Schumacher and Mayer Hillman are just two of those worldwide who have indeed presented their findings in a civilised way
Mayer Hillman, architect and town planner, changed direction by completing a PhD on transport, planning and environmental issues, said recently: “We must stop using the fuels and learn very, very quickly that life must be lived very locally.”
After decades of researching, speaking and writing on climate change and other topics, he announced his withdrawal – scornful of individual action which he describes as being “as good as futile . . . even if the world went zero-carbon today that would not save us because we’ve gone past the point of no return . . . national action is also irrelevant because Britain’s contribution is minute. Even if the government were to go to zero carbon it would make almost no difference.”
He advises the world’s population to move to zero emissions across agriculture, air travel, shipping, heating homes – every aspect of our economy – and to reduce our human population but is not optimistic, asking:
- “Can you see everyone in a democracy volunteering to give up flying?
- Can you see the majority of the population becoming vegan?
- Can you see the majority agreeing to restrict the size of their families?”
Hillman points out that “Wealthy people will be better able to adapt but the world’s population will head to regions of the planet such as northern Europe which will be temporarily spared the extreme effects of climate change. How are these regions going to respond? We see it now. Migrants will be prevented from arriving. We will let them drown.”
Diana Schumacher has contributed chapters to numerous international publications on ethics, ecology and the environment.
Her main interests are the 4 E’s – Energy, Environment, Education and Economics – connected basics of a holistic approach to sustainability.
The cover of one of her books, Energy: Crisis or Opportunity?, reviewed in the New Scientist, symbolically weighs nuclear power stations and wind-power in the balance. She continues to disseminate the teaching of the radical economist E.F Schumacher, author of “Small is Beautiful – economics as if people mattered” which called for economies to be decentralized, human-scaled, and based upon appropriate sustainable technologies.
Disruption appears to be the only way to break through the thick screen erected by powerful vested economic interests. If current action gets results and is able to mitigate and even halt climate instability leading to flood, famine, wildfires, storms and earthquake, some impeded travel and business is a price well worth paying.
And if ’business as usual’ continues and the scale and number of disasters in 2018 alone increases, Earth Strike warns of the threat of action by the millions who will be hardest hit by soaring food and healthcare costs and whose only homes will be destroyed by natural disasters and rising sea levels.
Millions of intelligent caring people all over the world have quietly presented their case and been sidelined; now the young – who see clear signs of global disaster looming -are fighting for their survival and that of future generations.
Any sane person and organisation should now listen to the ‘wakeup call’ being made by protestors – after thirty years of warnings using ‘civilised’ methods by people like Mayer Hillman have gone largely unheeded by decision-makers.
Not so the Times which – in a (hopefully) unwitting challenge to police which could provoke violent action and reaction – has published articles alleging a triumphalist ‘boast’ by climate activists who ’bragged’ that police do not have the resources to stop them and that “The hollowed-out British state is overwhelmed”
But its link – given above – leads only to an article by its environment editor and HIS headline that ‘Police (are) overwhelmed by Extinction Rebellion protesters plotting to clog up justice system’.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid (firmly allied with the status quo after a career as a senior banker) has said: “Let me be clear — I totally condemn any protesters who are stepping outside the boundaries of the law. They have no right to cause misery for the millions of people who are trying to lead their daily lives. Unlawful behaviour will not be tolerated.”
Does he really view impeding a holiday flight (targeting Heathrow airport) as being more serious than floods, drought, storms and wildfires, intensified by climate change, killing and displacing people and other life forms?
Protesters want the government to take climate change seriously, enact legislation to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and set up a citizens’ assembly to ensure action is taken.
Climate change deniers please note Joel Pett’s message: the actions proposed are in themselves socially, environmentally and – in the long term – economically beneficial.
If heeded, the activists will – at most – avert climate change and at least, as Pett points out, create a better world.
In December Extinction Rebellion wrote to BBC Director General Tony Hall detailing an eight-point plan of how it could play a pivotal role in the transformation to face the climate and ecological crisis:
“We issued a plea to BBC bosses to live up to their role as public service broadcasters by fully informing the public of the existential threat faced by the human race unless urgent action is taken to reduce carbon emissions” commented Sophie May from Extinction Rebellion.
On Monday April 1st, XR launched a campaign to discover whether BBC staff feel their organisation is telling the truth about the dangers from accelerating global climate breakdown. An Extinction Rebellion team visited BBC Broadcasting House in London to conduct a BBC Staff Survey – putting a series of searching questions to BBC staff on their lunch and coffee breaks.
In the evening, during the debate on the second stage of the Brexit alternatives, Extinction Rebellion activists stood semi-naked in the House of Commons public gallery to call attention to the ‘elephant in the room’ – climate and ecological crisis.”
In what may be an incomplete recording – though James politely said that he hoped the BBC would report climate changes issues more prominently the BBC Radio 5 Live interviewer, Emma Barnett (right), firmly focussed only on the protestors’ actions and not the crisis which prompted them.
James Dean from Extinction Rebellion explained that a dramatic gesture was needed because the government had ‘stuffed itself up with Brexit’ and was not dealing with more important issues which need emergency action now.
He briefly and calmly outlined ‘the awful and dangerous’ future awaiting us all unless every possible action to avert climate change is taken – referring to the increasing incidence of floods, wildfires and storms,
2018: wildfires in Australia and the United States
Emma was not distracted: she charged the protestors with a huge breach of security and risk to MPs – saying that it would be more difficult for people to visit parliament in future.
James replied that this sort of action was nothing new and cited the suffragettes, who finally achieved their ends and whose drastic actions are now admired.
Emma failed to respond to the references to climate change and once again said their action was a serious breach of security: “How can you defend that when we are being told to be careful, not to go out alone etc”.
James ended by saying that they had used a minimum disruption to make their point :
“We know that what is to come will be far worse than putting off a few hours of politicians’ discussions.”