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Politics

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Climat : obligations vertes et fumées noires

by Gerard le Puil

Global Climate – ‘green’ obligations versus black smoke

Translated Monday 25 May 2015, by Philippa Griffin

Speculations abound in the global financial realm regarding the future carbon price per tonne, yet with no clear agreement as to who will shoulder the increased cost in a globalised world devoid of any coherent strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To attempt to address this issue, 500 bankers, analysts, insurers and industry executives met from 20th – 21st May at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris to thrash out their contribution to the battle against climate change; more specifically, how to ensure that a ‘greener’ business sector does not need to compromise on financial viability. It was no surprise to learn that Gérard Mestrallet, CEO of international energy company GDF-Suez, favoured the “establishment of a carbon price” as the top priority. He insisted that “a tariff system, supported by energy regulators, must be put in place in order to provide an effective contribution to emissions reduction.” Mestrallet expounded that “limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2°C will necessitate $700bn of investment every year from now until 2030”. It remains to be seen, however, what form this investment will take, and with what effects.

The EU carbon market - the great hoax

In centering the debate upon the future carbon price per tonne, Gérard Mestrallet glosses over the great deception of the EU carbon market which has persisted for the last ten years. Quite simply, it was possible for industries in states committed to reducing their CO2 emissions to relocate their highest-polluting factories to countries which had not signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, and which therefore had surplus carbon credits to sell to other European nations – which in their turn were more than happy to pollute skies that were not theirs. This brutal simplicity defined the battle against climate change as established by Brussels’ technocrats who, supported by an advisory board of lobbyists closely in bed with industrial polluters, overwhelmingly favoured the executive viewpoint.

One of the most striking developments on this “Finance Climate Day” in Paris is that Henri de Castries, CEO of AXA, announced his commitment to divest from businesses with strong links to fossil fuel activity, explaining that this will comprise a withdrawal of approximately 500 million Euros between now and December 2015. Many other companies, however, were not so bold. If we are to believe newspaper Les Echos, Denis Childs, who heads up the “positive investments” portfolio at French bank Société Générale (which has currently hit the headlines for reasons which are decidedly not positive) declared that: “We wish to optimize the positive impact of our investments. In certain parts of the world, fossil fuels are the best means of doing this – so in principle, we have no intention to exclude any particular sector from our investments.” From this statement alone, we can expect no more than black smoke from the “green obligations” of Europe’s finance and business sectors.


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