Blog Archives

“The world’s economy can and must deliver for the common good and the majority of its people”

A year ago, Colin Hines and Jonathon Porritt challenged the “permanent propping up of whole sectors of our economy as a direct result of our failure to train people properly here in the UK”.

They called for the training of enough IT experts, doctors, nurses and carers from our own population to “prevent the shameful theft of such vital staff from the poorer countries which originally paid for their education”.

Mass migration from developing countries deprives those places of the young, enterprising, dynamic citizens they desperately need at home

Dependence on the free movement of peoples as practised in the UK is the opposite of internationalism, since it implies that we will continue to employ workers from other countries in agriculture and service industries and steal doctors, nurses, IT experts etc from poorer countries, rather than train enough of our own.

Many individuals who migrate have experienced multiple stresses that can impact their mental well-being

Professor Dinesh Bhugrah is an authority on the stresses of migration.  Years of research have revealed that the rates of mental illness are increased in some migrant groups. Stresses include the loss of the familiar, including language (especially colloquial and dialect), attitudes, values, loss of cultural norms, religious customs, social structures and support networks.


Porritt and Hines advocate like former Chancellor Merkel a redoubling of our commitments to improve people’s economic and social prospects in their own countries, tackling the root causes of why people feel they have no choice but to leave family, friends and communities in the first place. 

They advocate the replacement of the so-called free market with an emphasis on rebuilding local economies . . . dramatically lessening the need for people to emigrate in the first case. Hines gives a route to localization in his classic: Localization: a global manifesto, pages 63-67.

The seven basic steps to be introduced, over a suitable transition period are:

  • Reintroduction of protective safeguards for domestic economies (tariffs, quotas etc);
  • a site-here-to-sell-here policy for manufacturing and services domestically or regionally;
  • localising money so that the majority stays within its place of origin;
  • enforcing a local competition policy to eliminate monopolies from the more protected economies;
  • introduction of resource taxes to increase environmental improve­ments and help fund the transition to Protect the Local, Globally;
  • increased democratic involvement both politically and economi­cally to ensure the effectiveness and equity of the movement to more diverse local economies;
  • reorientation of the end goals of aid and trade rules so that they contribute to the rebuilding of local economies and local control, particularly through the global transfer of relevant information and technology.

Since that book was written, a gifted group of people set out the Green New Deal which – though aimed initially at transforming the British economy – is valid for all countries and most urgently needed in the poorest countries from which people feel impelled to emigrate.

Funded by fairer taxes, savings, government expenditure and if necessary green quantitative easing, it addresses the need to develop ‘green energy’ and ‘energy-proofing’ buildings, creating new jobs, a reliable energy supply and slowing down the rate of climate change.


Likeminded advocates 

Senator Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest person ever to be elected in Congress, now advocate a Green New Deal in the US.

Professor John Roberts, in one of the newsletters posted on says: “Increasingly my thoughts return to the overwhelming need for all of us to think (and then act) as world citizens, conscious of a primary loyalty not to our local nationalism but to the human race (however confused and divided) as a whole”.

Jonathon Porritt quotes Alistair Sawday: “I remembered that the skills and the policies to reverse the damage are there; it is a matter of will – and of all of us waking up.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, which has developed the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world,, urges all to work to “…Narrow the gaps. Bridge the divides. Rebuild trust by bringing people together around common goals. Unity is our path. Our future depends on it.” –

Jeremy Corbyn addressed the General Assembly at the United Nations Geneva headquarters last year. He concluded:

“The world’s economy can and must deliver for the common good and the majority of its people. . . But let us be clear: the long-term answer is genuine international cooperation based on human rights, which confronts the root causes of conflict, persecution and inequality . . . The world demands the UN Security Council responds, becomes more representative and plays the role it was set up to on peace and security. We can live in a more peaceful world. The desire to help create a better life for all burns within us. Governments, civil society, social movements and international organisations can all help realise that goal. We need to redouble our efforts to create a global rules based system that applies to all and works for the many, not the few.

“With solidarity, calm leadership and cooperation we can build a new social and economic system with human rights and justice at its core, deliver climate justice and a better way to live together on this planet, recognise the humanity of refugees and offer them a place of safety. Work for peace, security and understanding. The survival of our common humanity requires nothing less”.






Prime Minister: nuclear is the niche, not renewables

wind turbines in cornwall

In a recent blog, Jonathon Porritt opened: “I’m always rather heartened by the fact that the Prime Minister takes his holidays in Cornwall – for the simple reason that at least once a year he gets to see wind turbines in action, happily churning around (as they do most of the time in Cornwall) . . . But I wish these holidays would simultaneously stiffen his somewhat flaccid sinews in terms of sorting out the mess that is this country’s energy policy. Not just on wind, and other renewables, but on nuclear, fracked gas, energy efficiency, prices, regulation etc etc etc”.

In July 150 ‘solar champions’ wrote to the Prime Minister in support of an appeal from the Solar Trade Association to stop disadvantaging this country’s amazingly resilient solar industry. He replied that large-scale solar PV, under the Renewables Obligation, is deploying much faster than previously expected and can’t be allowed to go on because of the impact on consumer bills.

Is this a sick joke?

Jonathon, one of the 150, points out the glaring inconsistency of such a reply from a Prime Minister who has personally authorised the allocation of vast sums of public money to build the most expensive power stations in the world at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Mr Cameron: solar and wind are not ‘niche’ interests in Germany

He continues, “the PM’s letter arrived on the very same day that the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany published a new report showing that Germany generated 31% of its electricity from renewable energy sources throughout the first six months of 2014:

  • The country’s solar power plants increased total production by 28%
  • and wind by 19% compared with the same period in 2013.
  • Consumption of coal was down 4%,
  • nuclear down 2%,
  • and natural gas down 25%.

“Meanwhile, as Germany so powerfully demonstrates, if keep on consistently ramping up investment in wind, solar and biomass (all of which get cheaper every year, and require less and less government support as a result), you get greater energy security, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and (in due course) an excellent deal for the consumer . . . “.

Jonathon Porritt also asks why nuclear energy companies aren’t being required to compete in the same game, if the government is so keen on cost-effectiveness:

“Why are they not required to put in their bids against solar, wind, biomass, other renewables and energy from waste?”

Read on for his answer, for news of the ‘Contracts for Difference’ which will replace the outgoing Renewables Obligation and for a reference to Cameron’s ‘madcap fracking fantasy’. He ends:

“Come, on, David. See those wind turbines for what they really are next time you’re down in Cornwall. It’s nuclear that’s the niche, not renewables”.

Decoupling – part of a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient green economic growth: Arup, UNEP, Forum for the Future

“Climate change is a result of the greatest market failure the world has seen. The evidence on the seriousness of the risks from inaction or delayed action is now overwhelming. The problem of climate change involves a fundamental failure of markets: those who damage others by emitting greenhouse gases generally do not pay.” Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change

UN Under Secretary-General Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director writes (decoupling: separating, disengaging, or dissociating):

unep logo“Decoupling makes sense on all the economic, social and environmental dials. People believe environmental ‘bads’ are the price we must pay for economic ‘goods.’ However, we cannot, and need not, continue to act as if this trade-off is inevitable.

“Decoupling is part of a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy needed in order to stimulate growth, generate decent kinds of employment and eradicate poverty in a way that keeps humanity’s footprint within planetary boundaries.”

industrial pollution for decoupling

The idea that environmental ‘bads’ are the price we must pay for economic ‘goods’ must now be rejected

At the end of January, on Arup’s website, Jonathon Porritt said that we must continue to pursue economic growth, (surely meaning low carbon, resource efficient green economic growth) progressively reducing environmental externality in terms of emissions of greenhouse gases and use of resources.

So is your decoupling glass half-full or half-empty?

Here’s how the half-full lobby sees it

innovation in every field of energy, transport, water, waste, land use and manufacturing is consistently delivering ‘more for less’ every year. For instance, global emissions of CO2were still up in 2012 (by 1.4%), but the global economy grew by 3.5%. Decoupling at work. Even in China, carbon intensity (a measure of CO2emitted for each dollar of GDP) fell by a mighty 4.3% (see NYT).

And here’s the half empty lobby:

That’s all well and good, but still hopelessly inadequate. China’s 2012 CO2emissions still increased by a massive 300 million tonnes (despite the 4.3% efficiency gain), representing around three-quarters of the total global increase for that year.

WFenergy summit 2014 abu dhabi logo

I just got back from the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi

The wealth of new decoupling technology on display was mind-boggling. Even Abu Dhabi itself (one of the most profligate of all nations in terms of per capita energy and water use) is now starting to think seriously about decoupling in terms of its three great energy and resource guzzlers: desalination, air conditioning and construction.

evolving masdar city 2013The evolving shape of Masdar City 2013 – a site that produces its own energy and is a platform for the newest ideas of sustainability.

And lots of decoupling synergies are kicking in: for instance, I spoke with three small companies pioneering building-integrated concentrated photovoltaics combined with co-generated heat, for use in air conditioning or more much efficient desalination.

It’s not technology that’s the problem: it’s the politics and the finance

But I suspect nobody knows better than Arup’s engineers that it’s not technology that’s the problem: it’s the politics and the finance. And even my glass-half-full approach in The World We Made has to be tempered by extreme caution on that front!


Climate change: the cartoonist wins the day


Somerset levels

Somerset levels

Flooding and storms in UK – no evidence of climate change

Lord LawsonLord Lawson is quoted as saying,” There is “no evidence” that climate change is leading to more extreme weather. Earlier he said he is ‘open-minded on the contested science of global warming’ but deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated. He founded the Global Warming Policy Foundation, criticised for engaging in political lobbying and refusing to reveal its major funders, despite being given charitable status.

Flooding and storms in UK – clear signs of climate change

lord sternSo wrote Lord Stern, the former Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank, Chair of the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, and leader of a team which produced the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change. In 2007 he said: “Climate change is a result of the greatest market failure the world has seen. The evidence on the seriousness of the risks from inaction or delayed action is now overwhelming. The problem of climate change involves a fundamental failure of markets: those who damage others by emitting greenhouse gases generally do not pay.”

The cartoonist cuts through the arguments:

 GWhoax (2)

He implies that we should get on with the measures advocated by Stern, because they will reduce pollution of air, land and water – and lead to ‘green economic growth’.

See more on that tomorrow from Arup, UNEP and Jonathon Porritt.  

Nuclear power – a bad decision? Jonathon Porritt, Tony Juniper, Charles Secrett and Tom Burke write to the Prime Minister

Just days after the first anniversary of Japan’s worst nuclear disaster in Fukushima, four of the UK’s leading environmentalists Jonathon Porritt, Tony Juniper, Charles Secrett and Tom Burke, all former directors of Friends of the Earth, have cautioned David Cameron that he is being badly advised by DECC on nuclear power.

They assert that the UK is out of step with other countries on nuclear power. Japan is set to substantially reduce its current nuclear use, and countries such as Germany and Italy are confident they can meet their energy and climate security needs with no reliance on nuclear power.

The letter and accompanying note set out a range of political and economic risks that the four former directors of Friends of the Earth believe have not yet featured in advice to the Prime Minister. Because this is a matter of public interest and there are ‘implications across government’, copies were also sent to:

§ Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister

§ George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer

§ Edward Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

§ Sir Jeremy Heywood, Cabinet Secretary

§ Vince Cable, Business Secretary. 

They point out that the French will build new nuclear reactors in the UK only if the financial risks involved are transferred from France to British households and businesses – leaving UK taxpayers to pick up the bill to protect the French nuclear industry.

The nuclear plans proposed by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and EDF are based on a type of reactor that France has been advised to abandon. EDF intends to construct four European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) at Hinkley and Sizewell, yet the French National Audit Office has recommended abandonment of the EPR as too complex and expensive. François Roussely, the former head of EDF, also advised President Sarkozy that EPRs should be abandoned. Experience with constructing two EPRs in Finland and France has been woeful – both are already four years late and costs are running twice as high as originally projected.

By following these links readers can see the full Press Release, cover letter and the Note to the Prime Minister.

What has changed? Jonathon Porritt writes about a tiny group of ‘unreconstructed, vicious capitalists’

Six years ago Jonathon Porritt wrote:

“There is an elite of unreconstructed, vicious capitalists for whom the process of accumulation is so powerful … a tiny group controls so much leverage, and people are in thrall to this minuscule group . . .

“We have just come through what must have been one of the most spectacularly debauched periods of unfettered profit maximisation since the 19th century, culminating in a sequence of corporate scandals and collapses that has contributed to the pendulum starting to swing back from its neo-liberal extreme.”

“Sustainable capitalism needs to find ways of limiting the concentration of wealth.”

More on ‘Capitalism as if the World Matters’ in the book pictured opposite, published by Earthscan – six years ahead of its time?