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Powers in Play

November 25, 2009

Big picture time for planet Earth. To frame this a couple of facts:—

• CHINA – annual emissions of greenhouse gases: 6.8 billion tonnes (= 5.5 tonnes per capita)
• UNITED STATES – annual emissions GHG 6.4 billion tonnes (= 21.2 tonnes per capita)

All up ie everyone else included, the world’s climate science community has a case that the humanity outputting these levels of pollutant do — ACTUALLY DO — something to reduce them. Else, an unlivable planet before the turn of the next century. And that, we trust the scientific source of data, information and intelligence because climate changes arising constitute an unstoppable force upon the future.

So, and let us be absolutely clear, changes already underway can only build and build upon themselves without our attempts to prevent them do so. Whatever we do now then needs be part and parcel of continuing action, arresting emission levels the first and primary goal.

Big picture. And my two pennorth o’ big speeches.

How about a smile as my line in the sand to the tide of nitty gritty below.. (apols if you need wait some – they’re hellish busy right now!)

So to comparatively tiny – I seem recall emitting a mere 0.2 percent of global emissions – New Zealand. Though you betcha! folks determined punch above their weight in globalization. Yep, they have their big trade ambition and sporting record to prove it. And the government coalition parties along with Opposition assiduously go on, and on, about this business. At every opportunity. Thereby coining value to the phrase as seekers and takers of ‘significant opportunities’. Like FTA in the presence of WTO Doha Round suspension.

Insofar as the remainder of this blog the important point I would have you bear in mind is that WTO business, conduct and agreements occurs under signoff by heads of states. Yet, a quick reading of present political enthusiasm would suggest something else again. Yep, you’ll come to it.

Small picture. Spare a half-penny.? Go on, it’s worth it.

How come?

Well, firstly, punching above one’s weight here is a habit. For those ego-driven enough to countenance business backer political parties with what appears to all intents and purposes somewhat extreme views. Special interests, including, they would profess, the very special. Small, vociferous, influential and capably enhanced and amplified as required per another SO (aka significant others). Yes, these folks know the merit of opposition for some of their still present number have spent many years in Opposition and have greatly enhanced themselves with tin ears.

Tin ears + recognisable political opposition makes them something of a stedfast ally for any government. These are the bulldogs, as it were, that certain corporation lobbyists enjoy. In bringing special interests to the political table. And back office. Front office, dinner parties, club rooms, ‘business breakfasts’. And in enzed such vox are even up to total belief and support of backers’ claims that, for instance, global warming is a “hoax”. Thus up to opposition for fame, for watering down legislation, delaying it, whatever it takes.

Fame.? Oh yes, the band of brothers( sorry I can’t recall sisters though I’m pretty sure that behind every last man of them there is a last woman), have even been known to claim a wonderful ‘freedom’. In two-fingering the world’s scientific community in these matters and telling all who will listen that they’ve got things wrong, ( yes, oh yes, ego-driven with moral overload is so stedfast) that global warming is not happening. With enough denial, delay and downright deviousness, the folks they deem ‘alarmist’ will go away.

Topics well covered in recent times you would suppose.

Incorrectly. Indeed the topic I am about to blog has had no reports or commentary at all. And, I for one, would not be at all surprised if, after reading what must be said on it you conclude that the wool has been pulled over australasian eyes by new global masters in the art of political serfdom.

Secondly then, and not to get ahead of myself let us go back to 2001 when Kim Todd wrote about the Methanex campaign and case in California to Sierra Club members and followers. Instructively she began:

Methanex, the Canada- based company that manufactures MTBE, sued the state of California, under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which allows private companies to sue governments. If Methanex convinces a NAFTA tribunal that California’s ban cost the company profits, taxpayers may owe Methanex $1 billion.

TomFarmer here — the chemical methyl tertiary butyl ether(MTBE) was a gasoline(petrol) additive. Low boiling, this ether was said to be a “gasoline cleanser”. The manner in which it does this is to ignite early in the combustion, take the mixture to higher temperature and thus combust more fuel. Exhaust-to-atmosphere waste products are something else. And no, not at all at issue right here and now. MTBE, unfortunately, leaked from underground gasoline storage tanks and went pretty directly into underground waters to contaminate drinking water supplies across California. (One city had to buy its water from Los Angeles). And reported elsewhere as outraged americans and public services woke up to the facts. In California Governor Gray Davis banned the chemical under the state’s Clean Water Act.

Loss of Assets.

But as you see above, the not-to-be outdone Canadian company (corporation) took the matter above this state’s jurisdiction to secure compensation in lieu otherwise of MTBE earnings/profits. In a phrase LOSS OF ASSETS. (From market withdrawal)

Not here you will see any admission as to a flawed product. Mention market controls, standards. Untested additive in operational gasoline storage conditions. No, the sole purpose of MTBE’s maker/supplier was in securing dollar compensation from its lost market value. As if they would continue make/supply the chemical regardless because the North American Free Trade Agreement held provision they could do so. You may have guessed how NAFTA had become in divers boardrooms, the ‘source’ of corporate rule. Not government/s.

CHECK: the issue I am making before you is not the environmental toxicity angle. That was discharged against the company by the state of California. The ISSUE is the legal one around ‘loss of assets’. So very real, as things have turned out.

Responsible Trade

In follow up on the NAFTA Tribunal’s decision – August 2002 – Sierra’s Responsible Trade Program Director, Dan Seligman, reported :

“The Methanex Corporation, a Canadian chemical company, stumbled today in its attempt to sue the U.S. government for almost $1 billion over a crucial California clean water law…
Methanex must show that the California government intended to discriminate against the company when it banned the toxic gasoline additive, MTBE, which is polluting drinking water across the state..”

Tomfarmer: my emphasis. Making for important distinctions, else a most costly (to life and/or limb, as well as financially) lack of justice.

Writing in his capacity and context Seligman further explained: —

“[T]he Bush administration wants to expand NAFTA’s “corporate lawsuit” provisions across the western hemisphere, creating a Free Trade Area of the Americas that allows foreign companies from Chile to Canada to jeopardize crucial public interest laws for their own profit.”

And, okay, what does Elizabeth May, CEO at Canada’s Sierra Club have to say. Yep, there’s more, both after and before where that came from:—

Other companies have also taken advantage of the rule. In 1998, Canada paid $13 million to settle a suit with Ethyl Co., a Virginia company that produces MMT, a fuel additive the Canadian government attempted to ban. And last August, a NAFTA tribunal ruled the Mexican government should pay Metalclad, a California-based company hoping to operate a hazardous-waste treatment plant, $16.9 million because local activists stopped the plant from opening.
“These Chapter 11 cases are really piling up, and they establish the way in which trade agreements are replacing the decisions of sovereign, democratically elected governments with corporate rule,” she said.

Tomfarmer: The Emperor’s clothes.? Did you know..? A top government official advocating “corporate lawsuit”. And, doubtless as their Commander-in-Chief OP’s director-general. So what about the people the whole people and nothing but the people who put him there! Let alone democracy at large.

Okay put yourself in the shoes of a corporate lawsuited party. You know they have bigger resources. Intimidated? Be honest now. Here we all are in Recession, not too much money about, certainly among smaller parties. In these terms weaker parties. Will you fork out a legal defence, take on the corporates( and likely by extension the corporate sector). Allow me say it for you: probably not.

In which case these heavies win.

Loss of Assets Amplified

Third gambit in the process of compensation via corporate lawsuit(real and intimidatory) is how delay in let’s say binding climate change legislation will up settlements etc…which amounts to corporations and their networks deliberately delaying needed environmental changes to further profit from activities. Jean Tyrole @ voxeu.org says:

The Kyoto Protocol was symbolically an important step, but it failed to deliver a major effort toward greenhouse gas reductions. In the absence of a new mindset, the Copenhagen Protocol will bring us eleven more years of the same waiting game. Countries will continue free-riding. They will also realise that staying carbon-intensive will put them in a strong position to demand compensation to join an agreement in 2020.

Tomfarmer: smart cookies.. if they still have a business and others can afford them.

Loss of Assets kiwi-style

Briefly now, and pointed, since this audience has been bathing in the government’s amended Emissions Trading(ETS) Bill all day through Parliament. And at last a journo to touch base on my issue. Rod Oram penned:—

“In these negotiations Maori are trying to set a new principle: governments must guarantee in perpetuity the value of any Treaty of Waitangi settlement against possible devaluation of assets caused by any subsequent policy action of government.”

I am informed that the Maori concerned are corporate and their backers/advisors aware of Clause 11 – disclosures on-air by the Executive Director of the NZ Business Roundtable plus his assumed kiwi corporate sector spokesmanship in Hong Kong – NAFTA along with the Bush Administration’s advocacy — (I see no reason why they should not be) then this “new principle” is not so new. But in point of fact just what Doctor Corporate wanted. From New Zealand.

Knowingly or otherwise, Minister Nick Smith, in discriminating FOR a corporate (and specified others, thusly against others in respect of loss/potential loss of assets) has handed legal precedent to willfull corporations in or market trading upon this country.

Repeat: the issue is legal and the language to avoid such precedent-setting would need be very tight indeed. Else it has been put there, as is, by design. As I said exceedingly devious design.

Which I choose for the moment to dismiss. Trusting that when PM Key said that the only cost of the Maori business to kiwi taxpayers was $25mn over 70 years he’s correct. And maybe proven correct on the specific.

Whilst major damage consequentially is sidelined.

And would typify at some near/far point in the future the electorate’s answer on whether this government administration is incompetent(did not know) or criminal(did know) and played dumb along with other parties for the benefit of corporate lobby capture. Not democracy. And certainly not the good folks who voted for its ‘participatory’ values.

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