Networks For Climate Change

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As in neoliberalism more generally, organisation around climate change has taken the form of collaborative partnerships, involving networks of all sorts of actors. This can be seen in various projects, from the approach made by Greenpeace's Jeremy Leggett to insurers in the early 1990s, trying to persuade them that climate change was a threat to their interests, to the UNEP Finance Initiative, through to the CDP project.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), one of the central elements of the Kyoto Protocol, has often been described as a huge 'public-private partnership'.29 Those involved in attempting to put it into practice after its surprise appearance very late in the Kyoto negotiations talk about it precisely as an exercise in 'learning by doing'.30 If the CDM is described as a public-private partnership, the World Bank's Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF) is described as an 'implementation network',31 bringing together interested parties from North and South under the rules set out by the CDM.

28 See:, accessed 19 November 2007.

29 See for example C. Streck, 'New partnerships in global environmental policy: the clean development mechanism', Journal of Environment and Development, 13(3), (2004), 295-322.

30 Interview, Christine Zumkeller, former UNFCCC secretariat member, Bonn, October 2007.

31 C. Streck, 'New partnerships in global environmental policy...'.

Partnerships have also been the preferred way of trying to encourage the uptake of renewable options that will be critical to the achievement of climate capitalism. Initially pushed by the German government, the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership is an international public-private partnership set up in 2002 and funded by governments, businesses and development banks. It is aimed at the development of market conditions that foster sustainable energy and energy efficiency and works to structure policy and regulatory initiatives for clean energy.

Partnership can also be a euphemism for voluntary regulation, however. Proposed as an alternative to Kyoto - critics suggest it was designed to derail Kyoto - the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate is a public-private partnership that brings together the governments and private sectors of countries that collectively account for more than half the world's economy, population and energy use including Australia, China, India, Japan, the United States and Canada. The partnership does not contain any emission-reduction targets. Rather, it aims to produce forms of cooperation that facilitate investment in clean technologies, goods and services, accelerate the sharing of energy-efficient best practices, and identify policy barriers to the diffusion of clean energy technologies.32

At national levels, many organisations have emerged which operate in this partnership fashion. Sometimes arms-length organisations, for example the Carbon Trust in the UK, are used by governments both to implement policy and at the same time act as sites of collaboration amongst companies and between them and NGOs. These bodies aim to foster learning about best practices and provide for the exchange of ideas. Some are based in one country, but operate transnationally. Examples include the UK-based bank HSBC's Climate Partnership. Some of these groups defy traditional categories. The Climate Group, for example, is a body that is technically a non-profit organisation based in London, but which can't be understood as a traditional NGO organised around research and lobbying. Rather, it has transnational corporations and subnational government units as members. They apply to join the Climate Group in order to be regarded as 'leaders' in their CO2 reductions strategies and use the Climate Group both for public relations (PR) purposes and to be able to network with other similar organisations. The group (both its organisation and its members) acts

32 APP, Asia Pacific Partnership on Climate and Clean Development, 2008. See

to promote CO2 reductions amongst other companies and subnational actors. The group's close ties to former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair have also provided a high-profile national platform for projecting their ideas into global policy debates on climate change.

These sorts of networks are highly fluid, expanding and changing focus rapidly, aiming to get people to act in ways that neither traditional regulation nor exhortation from governments can. It is certainly the case that the development of some of these networks can be understood as the result of efforts by private companies to avoid such regulation - to show their 'good behaviour' and so prevent a stricter form of action imposed by governments. Chapter 3 shows how climate change has become a leading Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) issue for companies. But at the same time, as we pointed out in Chapter 1 , climate change presents such fundamental challenges to the organisation of capitalist economies that flexible networks, focused on 'learning by doing' as an integral part of strategies for reducing CO2, are a necessary component of responses. We come back to the interplay between these organisations and larger questions of the 'governance' of climate capitalism in Chapter 7.


Those seeking new ways of responding to climate change, like the Climate Group, are organised in novel ways. So too are protest groups campaigning both for more aggressive cuts in carbon emissions and against specific types of policies such as emissions trading. Groups like Rising Tide, Climate Justice, Plane Stupid!, together with more loose networks of activists organising protests such as those at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 or those disrupting coal power plants or airports in 2008 and 2009 as part of 'Climate Camps', frequently make the connection between the weak response to climate change and the domination of the world by neoliberal capitalism. Some look at the history given above, the close link between energy use and growth, and conclude that to deal with climate change means an end to economic growth, and by extension, to the capitalist way the world is organised.

To act on climate change is, for many activists, to oppose capitalism, or at least its current, finance-led form.33 Many of these groups

33 I. Angus, D. Wall and D. Tanuro, The Global Fight for Climate Justice: Anti-Capitalist Responses to Global Warming and Environmental Destruction (London: IMG publishers, 2009).

have arisen out of the anti-globalisation protests which were widespread in the late 1990s; most famously those at major economic summits in Seattle, Prague and Genoa have evolved into the regular World Social Forum meetings, where activists share ideas and attempt to build movements around the world against neoliberal capitalism. The Durban Declaration on Carbon Trading produced by the climate justice movement in 2004, for example, makes explicit links between current attempts to turn the Earth's 'carbon-cycling capacity into property to be bought and sold in a global market' and historical 'attempts to commodify land, food, labour, forests, water, genes and ideas'. Groups signing up to the declaration claim, 'Through this process of creating a new commodity - carbon - the Earth's ability and capacity to support a climate conducive to life and human societies is now passing into the same corporate hands that are destroying the climate.'34

The aspects of neoliberalism discussed above - the ideological focus on markets, the dominance of finance, and the deepening inequalities, in particular - are precisely what angers many activists. This feeds through into the way that protest groups oppose particular sorts of climate policies. It manifests itself as opposition to emissions trading and carbon offset programmes.

Specific campaigns have been directed in particular at the carbon offset markets, both in the CDM and in the voluntary carbon market. These markets have been widely regarded as a means by which rich consumers in the West merely displace their high-carbon consuming practices by buying offsets for their emissions cheaply in the South. This is referred to as 'carbon colonialism'; a new way of acquiring land and resources in poor countries to sustain profligate consumption of the rich. To this criticism is added that of 'climate fraud'; that many of the projects double-count emissions paid for by other clients or that the scale of the emissions reduction is exaggerated or non-existent.35 Groups have lodged complaints over the carbon-neutral claims of companies and wealthy individuals, challenging what they consider to be the 'scientifically dubious practice of planting trees to compensate for pollution'. Their arguments are informed

34 Durban Declaration,'Climate Justice Now! The Durban Declaration on Carbon Trading,' 2004, signed 10 October, Glenmore Centre, Durban, South Africa.

35 L. Lohmann, Carbon Trading: A Critical Conversation on Climate Change, Privatisation and Power. Development Dialogue No. 48, September (Uddevalla Sweden: Mediaprint, 2006).

by a broader position adopted by many environmental NGOs on this issue that such practices 'distract attention away from the fundamental changes urgently necessary if we are to achieve a more sustainable and just future'.36

These policies are opposed because they turn climate change into yet another opportunity for financiers to make money through creating new commodities, and because they create new North-South inequalities or exacerbate existing ones. What is interesting is that as well as questioning and contesting the limits of commodification and exposing 'fraudulent' practice in carbon markets, such forms of activism also force advocates of market approaches to legitimise themselves. For example, they have led to restrictions on the sorts of projects that can be included within the CDM and temporary dismissals of organisations approved to validate projects where acts of climate fraud have been uncovered. They have also helped to create ways to govern the carbon offset markets, as in the Voluntary Carbon Standard or the Gold Standard. These set higher standards for those buyers and sellers of emissions reductions wanting to distance themselves from the scandals and controversy that activists have generated around 'climate fraud' and 'carbon colonialism'. We discuss these further in Chapter 9.

So the ways neoliberalism and climate policies are opposed by activists are closely intertwined. But opposition to both also helps to shape how neoliberalism and climate policy are developed. Neoliberalism has been 'softened' during the 2000s, in part because of recurrent economic crises, and the current crisis may well produce more reforms. But it has also changed because of sustained campaigning against many of its worst effects. Business-led voluntary codes of conduct and certification schemes offer an attempt to allay consumer fears and NGO pressure about increasingly mobile companies taking advantage of poor working conditions and lower environmental standards in a globalised economy. Similarly, carbon markets are being shaped precisely by the protests against them. Neoliberalism has been plagued by constant crises over its legitimacy; neoliberal climate change politics can be expected to be subject to similar crises.

36 CTW (Carbon Trade Watch), 'Environmentalists Cry Foul at Rock Stars Polluting Companies Carbon-Neutral Claims' (2004) (press release, 6 May). See http://www., accessed 19 November 2004.

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Global warming is a huge problem which will significantly affect every country in the world. Many people all over the world are trying to do whatever they can to help combat the effects of global warming. One of the ways that people can fight global warming is to reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy sources like oil and petroleum based products.

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