Davos - Day 3: The New Anglo-Dutch Model
By Robert Ingraham
To truly grasp the wrenching experience of stepping through the Looking Glass into the Land of the Fantastique, consider that on Day Three of the World Economic Forum's 2021 Davos Conference, a Panel Discussion, titled "Mobilizing Action on Climate Change" took place, a discussion devoted to building a popular movement to "save the planet" and to rescue humanity from the crisis fast approaching. Among the "progressive voices" heard on this panel were: Ben van Beurden, CEO Royal Dutch Shell, Feike Sybesma, Honorary Chairman, Royal DSM NV (Netherlands), Rebecca Blumenstein, Deputy Managing Editor, The New York Times, Jesper Brodin, CEO Ingka Group (IKEA), Alok Sharma, President of the (COP26) UN Convention on Climate Change and Cabinet Office in Her Majesty's Government, Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum, Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations, and John F. Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. Not exactly a working-class uprising.
The alleged topic of discussion on Day 3 was "Fighting Climate Change"---what the WEF program gently referred to as "stewardship of our global commons"---but in the land where "Snow is Black" the alleged content of the discussion had, in reality, an entirely different agenda. The star of the Day 3 proceedings was none other than Mark Carney who appeared on two panels, gave an interview on the Radio Davos podcast and was referenced, in reverential language, by several other speakers. The Davos Agenda 2021 Website is available here.
In the Radio Davis podcast, Carney (United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance, former Governor of the Bank of England, former Chairman of the Bank for International Settlements' Committee on the Global Financial System, UK finance advisor for the upcoming Glasgow COP26 United Nations Climate Change conference) focused on the demand that the procedures for Green Finance and decarbonization must now be made mandatory for every nation and every component of the private sector. He referenced the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), an organization created by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative. For several years the TCFD, whose Chairman is Michael Bloomberg, has compiled climate-related financial risk disclosures, based on an array of investments, "for use by companies, banks, and investors," but participation in this venture has been voluntary. What Carney proposes is that governments must be compelled to impose this approach on all businesses and corporations. He says, "As part of COP, what we're looking for from countries is to establish pathways to make it mandatory over the next few years so that this is a consistent disclosure around the world." New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom have all announced that they will make compliance with the TCFD mandatory, and the European Union is pursuing legislation which will do the same.
Asked if the cost of emitting greenhouse gas emissions can be embedded into the price of things, Carney pointed to the current $3 per ton price of carbon, saying that measures could be taken to increase this to $75-100 per ton. He also adds, "Lots of other policies, lots of other regulations, lots of other things can help. But we're a long way from where the carbon price needs to be in order to get there."
Carney also appeared on a Panel Discussion "Carbon Markets: A Conversation." Participants included Carney; Bill Winters, CEO Standard Chartered Bank; Annette L. Nazareth, former Commissioner US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); and Bill Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and former Chairman of Microsoft. On this Panel the emphasis was on getting the world to "net zero" carbon emissions by 2050. The question of establishing a "carbon offset market" was discussed, with Winters of Standard Chartered Bank stating that the "offset" financial markets were key to getting billions of dollars to move from the hands of banks like his into the hands of people that can actually remove carbon from the environment. He stated, "The next step is getting people to monetize those things and put the money into things that have a provable impact."
There were other panels which explored these topics of Green Finance, but space precludes a full report here. Briefly, the Panel "Transforming Food Systems and Land Use" provided a dystopian vision of a world where all food production will be subordinated to "Food Innovation Hubs," all food production will be rated by the carbon emissions involved in producing it and consumers, using a phone app, will be able to scan food labels and learn information on the product’s environmental footprint.
On the Panel "Net-zero: take a leap of faith," China's Environment Minister Huang Runqiu reiterated President Xi Jinping’s pledge to get China’s greenhouse gas emissions to stop growing by 2030 and to become net-zero by 2060. He stated that China will accelerate the building up of China’s carbon market. Other leaders, including Christian Mumenthaler, CEO of Swiss Re, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, Hak Cheol Shin, CEO of LG Chem and Teresa Ribera, Deputy Prime Minister of Spain all declared their intention to ensure that governments will determine all policy "through the lens of climate action."
Mark Carney appeared on yet another Panel, this one called "Financing the 'Net-Zero' Transition." Other participants included Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), Oliver Bäte CEO Allianz SE; Stephanie von Friedeburg Managing Director of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Al Gore, former Vice-President of the United States and Co-Founder of Generation Investment Management LLP). The question that was immediately posed is that "trillions of dollars are needed to finance the transition to zero emissions," and where is this money going to come from? Carney stated that "Net zero commitments are cascading down through the private sector, and we must unlock blended finance flows, a mixture of public and private money." Von Friedeburg said, "There are a lack of bankable projects. How do we take critical operators and bring them into our countries of operation?" We need blended finance, and we need to de-risk these projects." Bäte demanded "It cannot be an elective; it has to be a must... we need public-private projects."
Essentially, what is under discussion, and already agreed to by the Davos participants, is a "blended" model in which governments and corporations will surrender all individual sovereignty and agree to be governed by the new policies and mechanisms that Carney and his cohorts will put into place. This is not a public-private partnership as people usually think of such things, but rather a truly Orwellian updated version of the old Dutch imperial model where the Dutch legislature, the East India Company, the Bourse and the Bank of Amsterdam were fused in one single oligarchical purpose which ruled supreme over the axioms of the Dutch Empire---and where the difference between public and private became meaningless.
The obligatory issue of racism could not be ignored, if even for a single day, so this became the focus of the Panel "Delivering Social Justice in the Recovery." Here we find such prominent Civil Rights leaders as Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director, Oxfam International; Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of the City of London; Anisa Kamadoli Costa, Chairman and President, Tiffany & Co; and Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation voicing pearls, such as "The challenge of white supremacy is real," "Tinkering at the edges won’t do... we need to abolish inequality," "The best antidote to populism in recent times has been the election of Joe Biden," and my personal favorite ""If capitalism is to be sustained, we must put a nail in the ideology propagated by Milton Friedman."
Comic relief for the day was provided by a video clip from Greta Thunberg, the participation of "climate expert" and Greaser's Palace star Robert Downey Jr., and the bumbling performances of failed U.S. presidential candidates Al Gore and John Kerry.
Both Benjamin Netanyahu and Moon Jae-in (President of South Korea) delivered speeches. Moon speech was a fairly non-descript endorsement of the goals of the conference, and Netanyahu focused almost entirely on Israel's success in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.
Enter Russian President Putin
By far, the most important individual speech -- and the only discordant note -- given at the Conference was delivered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. [It is notable that outside of Putin's speech there is almost no Russian participation in the Davos Conference]. Putin barely touched on the issue of Climate, did not mention decarbonization or the CO2 reduction target dates, nor did he mention any aspect of "green finance" Instead, his speech focused almost entirely on strategic and physical economic matters. Drawing a parallel with the crisis of the 1930s, Putin warned of a resurgence of both strategic and social dangers, saying that the situation "might develop unpredictably and uncontrollably if we sit on our hands and do nothing."
On economic policy, he attacked the current policy of financial bailouts, disguised as "economic stimulus efforts," saying that "Economic stimulation by traditional methods through greater private lending becomes "essentially impossible, while the quantitative easing only inflates the bubble of the financial assets value and leads to further stratification of the society." He further stated that "While the problem could be solved 20-30 years ago, through stimulating macroeconomic policy, such mechanisms have actually reached their limits and do not work; their resource has been exhausted."
He said, "There is a chance that we will face a formidable break-down in global development, which will be fraught with a war of all against all and attempts to deal with contradictions through the appointment of internal and external enemies and the destruction of not only traditional values such as the family, which we hold dear in Russia, but fundamental freedoms such as the right of choice and privacy. I would like to point out the negative demographic consequences of the ongoing social crisis and the crisis of values, which could result in humanity losing entire civilizational and cultural continents."
Putin pointed not only to the situation in the "developing" countries" but the growing crisis in the "developed" countries, where in both Europe and the United States, "the real incomes of over half of the citizens have been stagnating, not growing. Meanwhile, the cost of education and healthcare services has gone up... In other words, millions of people even in wealthy countries have stopped hoping for an increase of their incomes. In the meantime, they are faced with the problem of how to keep themselves and their parents healthy and how to provide their children with a decent education."
Putin announced his "four priorities" for economic policy:
1) Everyone must have comfortable living conditions, including housing and affordable transport, energy and public utility infrastructure.
2) Everyone must be sure that they will have a job that can ensure sustainable growth of income and, hence, decent standards of living. Everyone must have access to an effective system of lifelong education, which is absolutely indispensable now and which will allow people to develop, make a career and receive a decent pension and social benefits upon retirement.
3) People must be confident that they will receive high-quality and effective medical care whenever necessary, and that the national healthcare system will guarantee access to modern medical services.
4) Regardless of the family income, children must be able to receive a decent education and realize their potential. Every child has potential.
The other major warning in Putin's speech was against the growing power of high-tech and social media. He stated, "Modern technological giants, especially digital companies, have started playing an increasing role in the life of society. Much is being said about this now, especially regarding the events that took place during the election campaign in the US. They are not just some economic giants. In some areas, they are defacto competing with states. Their audiences consist of billions of users that pass a considerable part of their lives in these eco-systems. In the opinion of these companies, their monopoly is optimal for organizing technological and business processes. But society is wondering whether such monopolism meets public interests. Where is the border between successful global business, in-demand services and big data consolidation and the attempts to manage society at one’s own discretion and replace legal democratic institutions and essentially usurp or restrict the natural right of people to decide for themselves how to live, what to choose and what position to express freely? We have just seen all of these phenomena in the US and everyone understands what I am talking about now. I am confident that the overwhelming majority of people share this position.