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GLOBALISATION, EQUITY, AND CLIMATE CHANGE

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NEW DELHI, Dec 4 2007 (IPS) - The pollution created by corporations must be recognised as their responsibility and liability, no matter where they create it. Transferring their pollution burden to the poor of the South is not equity, it is injustice, writes Vandana Shiva, author and international campaigner for women and the environment. In this analysis, Shiva writes that in times of globalisation, global corporations are the main economic players, not countries, and global corporations out-source their pollution to the developing world to save costs and maximise profits. The author coins the term \’\’equity schizophrenia\’\’, by which corporate globalisers destroy equity to concentrate wealth and resources in the hands of a wealthy few, while they want the poor, whom they have dispossessed of their livelihoods and land, to share the responsibility for pollution, which the poor did not cause. This is hypercapitalism of wealth and resources and socialism of pollution. The poor lose their \’\’goods\’\’ to the rich and inherit their liabilities.

In India, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, vice chairman of the Planning Commission, was asked to release the report and did so but rejected its recommendations. Ahluwalia, a market fundamentalist who throws equity to the winds while forging his neoliberal policies for India, rejected the UNDP report in the name of equity: “Any reduction strategy based solely on total global emissions, and not differentiating on the basis of per capital emissions by countries, is fundamentally flawed and goes against the tenets of equality.”

It would be helpful for citizens of India, especially the poor and the marginal, if the head of the planning commission did his planning on the basis of equity rather than corporate profits: if he supported equal per capita access to water instead of water privatisation; if he supported equal access to livelihoods in retail for hawkers and shop keepers instead of promoting corporate retail; if he protected India’s small farmers instead of promoting the corporatisation of our agriculture, or defended the equal per capital access to food instead of allowing two-thirds of Indian children to slip into malnutrition by promoting commodification and speculative trade in food.

This is ”equity schizophrenia”, by which corporate globalisers destroy equity to concentrate wealth and resources in the hands of a wealthy few, while they want the poor, whom they have dispossessed of their livelihoods and land, to share the responsibility for pollution they did not cause. This is hypercapitalism of wealth and resources and socialism of pollution. The poor lose their ”goods” to the rich and inherit their liabilities.

It would be wrong to tally the emissions from the burning of Borneo’s forests as the equal contribution of all Indonesians, including the peasants and indigenous communities who are being burned out to make room for palm oil plantations. The Greenpeace Report ”How the Palm Oil Industry is Cooking the Climate” has identified the polluters, their share of pollution, and the steps they need to take to stop the pollution of the atmosphere that is leading to climate change. Cargill is the backseat driver for palm oil growth on all fronts. Proctor and Gamble, Kraft and Nestle, and Unilever promote deforestation by using palm oil in their products. The major suppliers to the trade are Sinar Mas, with 1.65 million hectares of palm oil plantations and exports of 400,000 tonnes of palm oil, and ADM-Kuok-Wilmar, with 493,000 hectares of plantations and 1 million tonnes of exports.

The ordinary Indonesian is not responsible for the forest and peat fires that are contributing 11 percent of the country’s emissions: giant corporations are. When the source of pollution is known, equity demands that the polluter pay. Equity does not translate into transferring pollution responsibility to non-polluters.

Greenpeace has suggested three steps which could reduce emissions by 3.8 gigatonnes of Co2 per year, or nearly 8 percent of current annual greenhouse gas emissions: first, cut global deforestation; second, stop Indonesian peat land fires and establish a moratorium on peatland conversion; and third, rehabilitate Indonesia’s degraded peatlands.

Today global corporations are the main economic players, not countries. And global corporation outsource their pollution to the developing world to reduce costs and maximise profits. Equity demands that the pollution created by corporations be recognised as their responsibility and liability, no matter where they create it. Transferring their pollution burden to the poor of the South is not equity, it is injustice.

We need to revisit the concept of equity and restore integrity to it. Equity with integrity implies both honesty and coherence. First, equity should govern economic policies and actions and not become an excuse for creators of economic inequality to avoid their clear social, economic, and ecological responsibilities. Second, equity at the global level should be derived from equity at local and national levels. Those who are dispossessing the poor at home and polarising society have no moral right to invoke ”equity” on global platforms to continue to prey on the poor and the planet. What protects the poor, protects the planet. What hurts the poor, hurts the planet. The laws of equity and the laws of ecology have a coherence. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

 
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