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Global finance and climate change

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, April 14th, 2018 - 18 comments
Categories: capitalism, climate change, Economy, energy, Environment, global warming, greens, james shaw, science, sustainability - Tags:

The two greatest powers at work in the world right now are the roles of global finance, and climate change.

In New Zealand we don’t yet see how these intersecting worlds of finance and climate change are interacting, or the government’s role in forming that interaction.

To give a sense of the pieces this government is putting together to address climate change, here’s the initial view of what role the government could have about managing finance markets in this interests of New Zealand within climate change. The report that Minister James Shaw launched today to a business audience states there are four kinds of role the government can adopt: “1. Direct investor, 2. Investment manager, 3. Market Maker, and 4. Trailblazer.”

That debate opens today.

The paper was prepared prior to a change of government for the Ministry for the Environment in mid 2017.

The Minister is seeking something exceedingly bold and difficult: he wants his climate change legislation to have the support of both sides of Parliament.

And persuade the 1%. Because that is where the money is.


In order to do that he needs the fulsome support of the business community for the proposals.

In order to do that he needs proposals.

To do that he needs a Climate Change Commission.

But the work is too pressing so he needs interim appointees.

And he needs to work the business community with research pieces like this.

Softening the ground. Preparing the way. Stabilising the discourse beyond the binary.

As the launch of the decision this week to not release further offshore oil blocks for exploration, the Prime Minister made it very clear that she wanted to see a “transition plan”. It was as high level as that, and honestly pretty empty. But at least she knew she wanted to avoid the restructure crises and wholesale industrial collapses from 1984-1988.

So what Minister Shaw is doing – seeking to form a compact between business and key stakeholders and a left-leaning government towards addressing climate change – really is as hard as it looks. The result of New Zealand’s last restructure of this kind of scale was a complete change in our entire electoral system, to seek to ensure no such wholesale and poorly mandated change ever occurred in New Zealand again.

Minister Shaw’s task is to form the discourses, the processes, the proposals, and the legislation to restructure New Zealand about climate change.

Who knows if Ardern, Shaw, and the rest of this government has enough time to achieve concrete stuff, from enacted legislation about climate change, before the term runs out.

This approach will take time. Neither global finance, nor the climate, have much use for time.

But this is a government determined to take its people with them.

18 comments on “Global finance and climate change”

  1. Either we evolve a plan, or climate change sweeps us along to an inevitable doom.

    Either we start making changes, big, widespread structural changes, or Guy MacPerson’s gloomy prophecies will come true.

    It may be hard, and it will involve some disruption, but nothing compared to sitting on our backsides in a ‘perpetual present.’

    So, full marks to James Shaw for pushing the envelope and stirring us out of our ‘fatal’ complacency!

  2. cleangreen 2

    100% correct Tony,

    We need a real boot up the bum here in our “once active nuclear free NZ”
    So complacent we are when we see the evidence actually affecting our homes and lives and still fucking national sits where and tries to wind the clock back to pre-1950’s when we used to think we could last forever driving big gas guzzling cars!!!!!! Wake up National and grow some balls.!!!

    Cut the ties big oil has shackled you with and live free again.

  3. patricia bremner 3

    Well I am sure James will play to the 1% self interest. What ever he promotes will be “Win Win”. He has a good grasp of what drives them, and the efficiencies that will appeal.

    He will chess play and strategise, using investment ploys in innovations making sure they and NZ develop an edge in climate change ideas.

    Far from being at sixes and sevens, this Coalition is using it’s strengths very well.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    “1. Direct investor, 2. Investment manager, 3. Market Maker, and 4. Trailblazer.”

    And persuade the 1%. Because that is where the money is.

    But if we changed to a sovereign monetary system it very rapidly wouldn’t be and we’d have a better economy. With a sovereign monetary system the government could easily do 1, 3, and 4.

    One of the things that Shaw mentioned in the run up to the election was developing our silicon resources and producing actual PV solar panels. We have vast tonnes of the stuff and it’s a pretty old technology which means that it wouldn’t be excessively hard to do.

    How the government could do it is to:
    1. Create the money and use that money to
    2. Buy the necessary tech (I understand that there’s a few struggling solar PV factories in the US)
    3. Build the necessary factories here
    4. Train up the necessary skills here

    End result: Solar PV made in NZ from NZ resources utilising NZers skills.

    As for 2? Well, who gives a fuck about rich people’s investment? Rich people aren’t needed and they’re a massive drain on the economy. Better to simply leave them out of the equation.

    In order to do that he needs the fulsome support of the business community for the proposals.

    Which part of the business community The people actually doing the work or the bludging shareholders and financial sector?

    If it’s the latter then simply ignore them – they’re not important.

  5. Bill 5

    The basic problem is that in seeking to preserve (quite literally) “business as usual”, these ‘transition plans’, are most assuredly not addressing global warming.

    And it ends one way. Badly. Very, very badly.

    The nonsense (inherent to all governments policies around AGW anywhere in the world) is that we can somehow have our cake and eat it. We can’t.

    They do as they plan, and the physics beneath AGW is going to make life well nigh impossible for billions of us and downright terrible for the remainder.

    We need new ways, not ‘tinkered with’ old ways that have led us to here.

  6. CHCOff 6

    The ‘facts’ about climate change/global warming don’t actually matter.

    If structures are going to be imposed on the public without consent or manufactured public support, then they will be detrimental and further accelerate environmental castastrophe…that is what the political approach will achieve.

    If new structures with environmental consciousness are introduced with genuine wide spread public support and acceptance, they will at minimum decelerate environmental degradation worst case scenario but more likely rapidly reverse significant trends.

    GIven that politics is pretty much lemmings walking in whatever direction high finance directs it to, it’s pretty much a case of what degree is high finance capable of independent governance from it’s political pyramids at this point.

    • Pat 6.1

      so its about time governments took back control from finance….its a choice.

      • CHCOff 6.1.1

        Such like feels good to think, but in practical terms is also unsustainable, at least in terms of purely political democractic government structures.

        • Pat

          and yet thats exactly what we did post WW2 through to the rise of neo-liberalism

          • CHCOff

            Nope, more control with with the reins ‘perhaps’ for a while but was the same horse as now and eventually lead back to it’s one drinking pond.

            Keep the horse, change the saddletype & rider, find a new drinking pond with a replenishing waterfall!

  7. patricia bremner 7

    Jacinda has made a first move on oil. OK, it is not enough but a beginning. If National was in, would this happen? NO!!

    She will do more. NZ First will try to mitigate the changes. The Greens are involved!!

  8. Incognito 8

    A very good post, thank you.

    I like the last sentence:

    But this is a government determined to take its people with them.

    And I like to turn it around and start at the other end, with the people.

    Apart from legislation is there any (compelling) reason why the charge against climate change has to come from the top, from our democratically elected representatives, and only from the top? I (can) see no particular reason why there could or should not be a simultaneous community groundswell or movement, if you like. Arguable, such groundswell is (already) present but the connection, the intersection and interaction with (this) Government still is latent.

    Governments have been beholden to the financial and business community since forever and also need to please the electorate. In any case, Governments come and go.

    The people, however, don’t have the same pressures and restrictions placed upon them, they are not really beholden to businesses and banks, for example – they might believe this to be the case but that doesn’t make it so. They care about their future and the futures of their children and grandchildren.

    If we turn that sentence around we get something that feels right to me:

    The people are determined to take their politicians with them.

    It makes sense because there are many more of us than there are politicians let alone politicians who make up Government.

    Of course, it is no coincidence that the only grassroots party in Parliament, the Green Part, leads the charge despite the limelight being on the PM and Labour and its coalition partner NZF.

    That said, I like to think that Ms Ardern also had in mind the power of the people and did not limit her thinking to only politicians or Government when she made her famous statement during the election campaign:

    This is my generation’s nuclear-free moment, and I am determined that we will tackle it head on.

    I disagree with her on making it an exclusive (?) issue for her generation but she clearly hinted at a much more widespread sense of urgency and will to change things than just her own personal conviction and commitment. Obviously, one PM can only do so much …

    I don’t see climate change as a great battleground but as an issue that goes beyond and transcends all other (historical) divisions and one that will bring people together, by necessity. Unfortunately, there always people and forces that will (actively) resist this convergence and consensus and cling to status quo and BAU. One of the questions that this post raised, for me, is whether the financial & business sector is by definition in the opposing resisting camp and whether they are beyond redemption …

    I realised I almost wrote another post in response, sorry …

    • Pat 8.1

      good thoughts and yes the PM deserves all the support we can offer…as to the business community (and perhaps even finance to an extent) I think there is a distinct division between those with a vested interest and those not, which is not really surprising but none the less effective for that…it is indeed an issue that should transcend all historical divisions,

  9. Carolyn_Nth 9

    I have been doing a little google-led reading on climate change and class. Basically, it’s crucial to engage the working classes with climate action.

    They (including the precariat and beneficiaries) will suffer most from climate change. Meanwhile the Green Movement internationally have been trying to engage the 1% in climate action.

    Many see this as the wrong way to go. There will be no successful climate action unless the least well off, the working classes, are engaged.Naomi Klein sees the struggle against capitalism as being central to climate action.

    Others have argued that capitalism is now decimating working class communities int he US, and shifting working class jobs to low waged, relatively poor communities. Automation is also decimating working class communities in the US. Basically capitalism and climate change are eating the working class communities and the environments and extractive industries on which they originally built their communities.

    This article on The New Republic from December 2016, addresses issues of class and climate change, and the class divisions undermining environmental action.

    What was once a popular movement now pushes a technocratic elite agenda with few connections in the American working class.

    First, they must emphasize job creation in a green economy. Environmentalists must fight alongside unions for full employment in a green economy that uses union labor.

    Environmental justice campaigns have to be waged at the grassroots level, in statehouses, and at the federal level. Centering these struggles on the plight of the working class and people of color will go far to bring the movement back to its democratic roots. The large green organizations do some of this work now, but it remains a minor part of the larger environmental agenda, much to its own detriment.

    If the history of the environmental movement demonstrates anything, it is that the movement gains political support when everyday people see how it affects their own lives. Until it effectively battles the belief that environmental protection is a privilege the nation’s working classes cannot afford, the environmental movement will fail politically …

  10. timeforacupoftea 10

    For Christ sakes ! I did not know Minister James Shaw came from the Values Party,
    the funny money brigade, good luck James.

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