Investing in NGOs

I really should start a consultancy business advising ambitious entrepreneurs on how to make money out of setting up NGOs. There are property columns and share tipsters on the money pages of the serious press. Why not NGO investment advisers?

We’ve got used to the idea of NGOs being financed by governments, ministries and international organisations. I’ve just found one that was actually set up by the European Parliament. Perhaps they all are. How could you tell?

I was wandering round the site of the French Ministry of Ecology looking for information on the big 2015 Paris Conference and I found this:

http://www.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/Les-enjeux-de-la-conference-de.html

The challenges of the 2015 conference

This conference should be a decisive step in the negotiation of a future international agreement to come into force in 2020, defining its main outlines. The objective is that all countries, developed as well as developing, including the largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, should be committed by a universal binding climate agreement.

France wants an agreement applicable to all, ambitious enough to achieve the two degree target, and with binding legal force.

So for the three French ministers involved in organizing and chairing this conference (Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pascal Canfin, Minister for Development, Philippe Martin, Minister of Ecology) “Climate Paris 2015 must be a meeting for decisions, not for tentative proposals. It should be at the same time offensive, collective and positive.”

To achieve this, the future French Presidency is working in close coordination with the other two Presidencies current and future in Poland and Peru to form a genuine Troika to give political impetus to the negotiations. The 2015 agreement must be applicable to all, committed to limiting global warming to 2°C, while adopting the principle of differentiation. They recognize that a “series of steps” will have to be completed before “achieving universal and binding agreement” by the end of 2015. In addition, even the best possible deal should be completed in 2015 to enter into force in 2020 as planned.

The usual pious flimflam, you may say, though the idea of the challenge of climate change being tackled by a troika of France, Poland and Peru has a certain surrealist appeal.

Even more interesting were the names of the three ministers who will be chairing this conference, since two of them were sacked over six months ago, though apparently no-one at the Ministry has noticed. Let’s hope they sort that one out before President Hollande has to welcome all those important heads of government, like Gordon Brown, George Bush, and Leonid Brezhnev…

I’d never heard of either of the two ministers until the day they were sacked, so I thought I’d find out more.

The socialist Philippe Martin who was replaced as minister of ecology on March 31st 2014, was presumably chosen for his links with “La France profonde.” He campaigns in favour of hunting and bullfighting, and has called for the forced feeding of geese to make foie gras to be recognised as part of the national heritage. In 2012 he proposed a boycott of Californian wines in protest against the banning of the sale of foie gras by the state of California.

President Hollande recently received Arnold Schwartzenegger as part of his consultations on climate change, so perhaps getting rid of the troublesome enemy of Californian winegrowers was a quid pro quo for being photographed in the arms of Arnie on the steps of the Élysée Palace.

Pascal Canfin was a Euro MP for the party “Europe-Ecology-the Greens” from 2009 until May 2012, when he was named Minister of Development by President Hollande. When he resigned in March 2014 he became a Euro MP again – for two months. (How does that work? Maybe MEPs have understudies. French MPs do – they’re called suppléants, which has a nice cringing ring to it)

In June 2010, Canfin and 21 other MEPs called on civil society to create an NGO to challenge the activities of major financial operators (banks, insurance companies, hedge funds etc.). The NGO, named Finance Watch, was set up a year later. It’s largely financed – by the European Union.

http://www.finance-watch.org/home

This is a new one on me. I’ve absorbed the idea that many, possibly most, non-governmental organisations are in fact governmental organisations, financed in part by the governments. But here we have an NGO created to order by parliament.

At

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/funding/ngos/pdf/ngos2013.pdf

is a list of 32 NGOs chosen for funding on environmental issues. Finance Watch isn’t there, probably because it’s sucking on another teat of the octopus, but there’s Bankwatch, founded in 1995, and 63% funded by the EU, and Counterbalance, (69% EU funded) formed in 2007 to scrutinise the European Investment Bank, which is of course an EU institution.

So here we have the European Union paying at least three NGOs to keep an eye on the banks, including one whose sole purpose is to scrutinise an EU institution. The EU is paying outsiders (“civil society”) to stare up its own fundament. But isn’t that what we pay the MEPs for? And don’t they have generous allowances to employ researchers to help them? Bankers are probably the second most despised creatures on the planet (after Members of the European Parliament) and they should be kept an eye on. But we employ people to do just that. They’re called politicians.

Why don’t they just create one big NGO to run the European Union for them, and they can all retire on their generous pensions?

Which is more or less what Monsieur Canfin has done.

Except he’s keeping busy in retirement. He’s got his MEP’s pension and his Minister’s salary for life, plus a part-time teaching job at the Sorbonne, and has just taken on a new job at the World Resources Institute, rated second environmental thinktank in the world, according to Thinktankwatch (I’m not kidding). In case you were wondering what M. Canfin does for a living, he’s a journalist.

So I went to the website of the World Resources Institute, which is huge, with 450 experts and staff, and of course a zombie blog, superbly laid out, with nine articles in the past week, and not a single comment.

http://www.wri.org/blog

I looked for Pascal Canfin, but couldn’t find him. I tried “Paris 2015”, because according to Wikipaedia his job at the WRI is preparing for that. I looked on his personal blog, but according to his biography he’s still a minister.

http://www.pascalcanfin.fr/

Perhaps he should call on civil society to create an NGO called Greenblogwatch to update the blogs of ministries, thinktanks and multi-tasking green entrepreneurs who are too busy running the world to update them themselves.

And get us to pay for it.

Posted in France Italy & the rest, Phantom Bodies & Zombie Blogs | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Rapley’s Cogitatum Interruptum: 2071 Transcribed

I’m busy transcribing Rapley’s Royal Court monologue. It’s awful, but in a totally different way to Emmott’s Ten Billion.

Rapley delivers his well-turned phrases, each one decorated with curlicues of statistics, in a clear, if rather boring, voice. As I wade through the tedious enunciation of exactly how many scientists from how many countries took part in this or that intergovernmental initiative, I long for Emmott with his rambling stuttering verbless sentences, his nervous tics, and his surrealist Alice in Wonderland factoids. Whereas Emmott dealt in hamburgers that consume thousands of gallons of water in their creation, Rapley is more interested in how long a glacier flowing at x kilometres a year takes to raise the sea level by y millimetres. Rapley’s delivery is like that of a primary school arithmetic lesson, while Emmott is more like a tragic actor raging against the elements. They’re both bonkers of course, but Emmott in a more interesting way.

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout

Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!

You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,

Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,

Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!

We’re fucked I say, so teach your son

to wield the murd’rous musket

And thus act out the sordid fantasies that

Obsess thy Guardian-reading brain.

Which is a lot more fun than Rapley’s:

Unless we succeed in reducing our emissions

By thirty percent in the next twenty years

(Which I’m sure we can, given goodwill on all sides.)

The reviews I’ve seen are unanimous about the tedium and the lost opportunity:

…a nervous but poised performance …The professor never stirred from his chair. I watched several people drop off to sleep..” (The Observer)

It’s low-key to the point of dullness. There’s … no plot, no characters, no dialogue and less emotional upheaval than most audience members will have encountered on the Tube journey to the theatre … this is a lecture, and a dry one.” (Financial Times)

but equally sure that the message is spot on:

the facts themselves are where the drama resides.” (Financial Times)

It was an evening to make the craziest of climate change deniers blush.

(Business Green)

Ben Pile, in a typically cool and even-handed review at

http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/11/13/2071-the-most-skull-crushingly-dull

entitled ‘The Most Skull-crushingly Dull Piece of Green Propaganda in the Planet’s History” observes:

Chris Rapley is keen to qualify his role as lecturer by professing his expertise in many things during the opening ten minutes (they felt like hours). One of those things is the cryosphere (the frozen parts of the planet), which is so-called because Rapley went there and bored entire mountains of ice to tears.”

Ben compares the performance to a ritual, and in an article at

http://www.climate-resistance.org/2014/11/2071-and-counting.html

he wonders if a sermon might not be a more appropriate term, which is unfair to the practitioners of two thousand year tradition of speaking with tongues and rousing the faithful to a pitch of fervour in which miracles happen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=av08GHz_9C4

They don’t sound too worried about a 3mm per year sea rise, do they? And in case anyone thinks it’s patronising to equate religious fervour with oppressed minorities in the deep south, we old white men can do it too

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BJuO4zPJGk

A fairer comparison would be with “Thought for the Day” the BBC’s god slot that’s always on in the morning when you switch on Radio 4 to get the news, in which some worthy vicar or imam or rabbi or lay preacher tries to extract some deeper meaning from the trivial events of their lives. Their shapeless musings only last for two minutes, but they seem to go on for over an hour while your toast burns and your coffee goes cold. Rapley’s ramblings really do go on for over an hour, but, when they occasionally rise above the level of interest of a warning notice in a packet of aspirins, they catch exactly the tone of “Thought for the Day”:

We can observe the change in atmospheric concentration over time by looking at data from ice cores drawn from the ice sheets and glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland […] The deepest ice cores extracted from the Antarctic are more than three kilometers long, and contain a record going back 800,000 years. As the director of the British Antarctic Survey on one of my Antarctic trips in 2002, I visited the European drill site at a place called Dome C. I watched as a fine section of ice core nearly half a million years old was extracted from a depth of just under three kilometres. It took an hour to load the drill, a few minutes to drill the core section, and an hour to winch it up to the surface.”

So far this is typical Rapley, a man who can’t unwrap a Mars Bar on the tube without measuring its length and reading aloud the ingredients on the wrapper to the other passengers. But then he gets intensely personal:

There are offcuts, small chunks of the core which aren’t useful to science. I picked a piece up. As a scientist, I try to remain objective and dispassionate, but here I was in a part of the world that had fascinated me since I looked at that area marked “Region unknown to man” as a child, holding a piece of ice that had not seen the light of day since before the dawn of mankind. I listened to the air bubbles pop and crackle as the ice melted in the heat of my hand.”

Pure Thought For The Day. We prepare ourselves for the inevitable dénouement, the reflection of mind-searing banality on the meaning of life that will round off this life-changing experience. Instead, we get this:

By measuring this air, it’s possible to study the composition of methane and carbon dioxide over time. We then melt the ice and measure the ratios of different atomic isotopes in the water. This provides us with a history of global temperature. We can then study the relationship between trace gases and temperature. The ice core data show an almost perfect match between the time curves of global temperature and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane. As temperature increases, carbon dioxide and methane are released from the ocean and by the biosphere, causing further temperature rises through their enhancement of the greenhouse effect. The opposite takes place during the cooling phase.”

I‘ll leave it to others to comment on the science. My point here is that Rapley embarks on an anecdote meant to lead up to some intense meditation on something or other – and stops. He can’t do reflection. (Why should he? He’s a geography teacher.) Yet he vaguely senses that if you want to persuade the world (or even Sloane Square) of the need to change the world’s economy and every detail of the way we live, isotopes in very old ice won’t hack it.

If only we could feel what he felt when he held that bit of old ice in his hand (Isn’t that rather dangerous in Antarctica?) then we’d understand the need for five thousand delegates from a hundred and ninety five countries to hammer out an agreement to limit CO2 emissions to x gigatons by the year y in order to limit the temperature rise (Rapley calls it a “guard rail”) to 2°C in the year z.

2071 is named after the year that Rapley’s grandchild will be the age he is now. Every year that date will change (go on, do the maths – it’s not complicated) and every year he will have to rename the play, just as every year he will have to put off the date of the doom which is never quite upon us.

Posted in Weirdos | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

2071: Rapley’s Rap

The Chris Rapley / Duncan Macmillan doomfest “2071” is on at the Royal Court. I’ll try and do what Alex Cull and I did with Stephen Emmott’s “Ten Billion” and glean the maximum number of howlers from reviews. Please add anything in comments because I’ll be out of action for the next few days.

As with “Ten Billion”, there’s no text available, Rapley and Emmott apparently agreeing with mediaeval churchmen that it’s best the plebs don’t have direct access to the Word.

Two points from Michael Billington’s review in the Guardian:

… he tells us that “we are the first human beings to breathe this level of carbon dioxide..”

Well, yes, up from 0.025% to 0.03%. Suffocating, isn’t it.

…And, in a clear rebuke to climate-change deniers, he warns: ‘All the warming that is occurring is due to us.’”

Really? Has he told the IPCC?

The reviews I’ve seen are slightly less enthusiastic than the ones that greeted “Ten Billion” two years ago. Since that can hardly be due to Stephen Emmott’s superior dramatic skills, it may perhaps signal a change of mood in public opinion. Here’ for instance, is the review in What’s On Stage, (thanks to Paul Matthews)

http://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/reviews/katie-mitchell-climate-change-royal-court_36382.html?cid=news-ticker

2071 is one of the most outrageously anti-theatrical events I’ve ever attended. Auditions must have gone on for weeks to find the most boring and incompetent speaker in the world – Professor Chris Rapley CBE, professor of climate change at University College, London – and the Court’s costume department despatched to study the dress code of middle-aged theatre critics; they’ve come up with a nifty looking maroon jumper, tweedy jacket and cheap shoes combo that makes it impossible to confuse the prof with anyone resembling a proper actor, or a tramp in Beckett, or even an eccentric sci-fi boffin.

Katie Mitchell has declared in an interview that she’s not going to buy any more new clothes in order to save the world, and the prof has obviously followed suit (sic). He stands on the stage, inert and microphoned – the talking clock is Judi Dench in comparison – and drones on about oxidisation while the stage behind him, designed by Chloe Lamford, with video by Luke Halls, changes constantly like a kaleidoscope, or a weather forecast of swirling high pressure, galactic upheaval and scary looking sea monsters.

The one positive thing the prof says we can do – apart from set up home in a cardboard box with no lights or running water (it would make the cardboard soggy, you see) – is pray that our grandchildren will become missionary engineers and slow down the process of self-elimination. The prof almost showed a flicker of emotion at this idea, but stopped himself just in time.

Rapley has co-written the 70-minute show (excuse the hyperbole) with Duncan Macmillan. Had it been more interestingly presented, it could have amounted to the starkest message on a stick ever mounted at the Royal Court. Instead, it’s probably the worst play ever seen on that hallowed stage, convincing you that the world can’t end quickly enough if this is all we can expect from the so-called home of new writing.

Posted in Weirdos | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The Conversation

The Conversation is a website where academics comment on their areas of expertise and which has recently extended its reach from Australia and the UK to the USA.

It’s a form of vanity publishing for university lecturers who would rather be journalists – and none the worse for that. I can count on my fingers the number of British journalists I respect for their expert knowledge (Patrick Cockburn, the Independent’s far-left correspondent in Baghdad, Robert Fisk, also of the Independent, Ambrose Evan-Pritchard, the Telegraph’s polyglot economics freak…) If university specialists can provide expertise that today’s journalism can’t, then bring it on.

That said, any journal has its biases, and those of the Conversation are particularly evident when it comes to climate change.

For example, there were complaints about moderation policy on the thread at

https://theconversation.com/study-vindicates-climate-models-accused-of-missing-the-pause-29477

which begins:

Comment removed by moderator.

Comment removed by moderator.


Comment removed by moderator.


Comment removed by moderator.

Comment removed by moderator.


Comment removed by moderator.


Comment removed by moderator.


Comment removed by moderator.


John Phillip

Michael, I am baffled as to why Geoff’s original post has been deleted. Is it possible to reinstate it as he raised some valid concerns?





Malcolm Short

I was thinking the same thing. It wasn’t off-topic nor did it contain any ad homs, which was the reason they removed Alice’s comment.

Comment removed by moderator.


This led to a tightening up of moderation policy concerning climate change:

Michael Hopkin (Editor at The Conversation) In reply to Malcolm Short:

Geoff’s original post (and subsequent replies, including mine) have been deleted in line with our policy of moderating against comments that introduce misinformation or distortion. We much prefer commenters to link to sources that are informed by credible, peer-reviewed evidence.”

[My only sin, I think, was to have cited Wattsupwiththat, the world's most popular science blog, on an article about climate science]

Editor Michael Hopkin continued:

For more info have a read of Cory’s blog post about our approach to comments about climate science -”

https://theconversation.com/cleaning-up-climate-comments-25914.

Where you can read:

As part of our approach to improving comments on The Conversation, we’re paying particular attention to comments on climate change…. we’d like climate change comments to be intelligent and constructive. To help achieve that, we’ll be taking a more involved role on moderation of climate articles and to keep things on track we will take a firm stance on what is on- and off-topic. For example, comments challenging the scientific basis of climate change will be regarded as off-topic unless the article is specifically about this subject (as opposed to articles about climate policy, for example).”

So if, for example, the Conversation carries an article suggesting that climate deniers should be hanged drawn and quartered in public, it will not be permitted to observe:

But climate change isn’t happ… AAAAAAAARGH!!”

(although I suppose it would be ok to point out that hanging drawing and quartering was contrary to UN Resolution number x…)

Despite these limitations to free speech, a number of us have been commenting, with a certain success I believe, for example at:

https://theconversation.com/climate-change-its-only-human-to-exaggerate-but-science-itself-does-not-33150

http://www.science20.com/the_conversation/why_climate_uncertainty_is_no_excuse_for_doing_nothing-147447

https://theconversation.com/limiting-global-warming-to-2-c-the-philosophy-and-the-science-3207

https://theconversation.com/can-people-power-drive-action-on-climate-change-33155

https://theconversation.com/germanys-green-power-surge-has-come-at-a-massive-cost-33202

https://theconversation.com/book-review-naomi-klein-finds-kernels-of-hope-amid-climate-change-and-untamed-capitalism-31756

I‘m talking about you, Robin Guenier, Barry Woods, Paul Matthews, (and others. Apologies to any I’ve forgotten)

But not enough. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of commenters at Bishop Hill, and maybe thousands at Wattsupwiththat (the Conversation has recently extended its tentacular growth from Australia and the UK to the United States) who could add to the utter destruction of the consensus among the superior university chaps who express such supreme confidence in the superiority of their superior university opinions at this superior university-financed blog

https://theconversation.com/uk

This could have an effect. For example, the third article mentioned above was by a philosopher, Laurence Torcello, and a climate scientist, Michael Mann.

I made several comments, mostly aimed at the philosophical arguments of Torcello in favour of the idea that expressing an opinion opposed to the scientific consensus was “morally condemnable”. But in an aside, I also took a couple of sideswipes at the science, for example when I quoted the article:

At our present pace of fossil fuel burning we will, by 2036, exceed the 2°C limit [...] Currently, at just 0.9°C (1.6°F) warming…”

and commented:

So you’re predicting 1.1°C warming in the next 22 years? Bets anyone? Is there a scientist in the house who would care to support that prediction?”

Soon after, the article was corrected, presumably by author Mann, since author Torcello knows nothing of climate science, and comments were closed, with the excuse:

For ressource reasons, the comments on this article have now been closed”

whereas other articles, e.g.:

https://theconversation.com/can-people-power-drive-action-on-climate-change-33155

are still open for comments.

I hereby claim to be the first person in the history of the universe to have got Michael Mann to have corrected a mistake.

Go there, BishopHill’s Angels and WUWTistas. There’s a battle to be engaged, and won.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 23 Comments

2071: It’s the End of the World Again

After the success of Stephen Emmott’s “Ten Billion” in 2012, Director Katie Mitchell is bringing a new play about climate change to the Royal Court, opening on November 5th at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs.

It’s by Duncan Macmillan and Chris Rapley, and it’s called 2071. In an interview at

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/sep/23/duncan-macmillan-theatre-every-brilliant-thing-lungs-2071

Macmillan explains his thinking:

There’s nothing I can do in my life to compensate for the fact that the world would be better without me in it,” says Duncan Macmillan, smiling over his coffee.

Whereupon the journalist tapped him affectionately on the shoulder and said: “Come, come there old chap. We all have days like that, but you’ll get over it.”

Well, no, actually she didn’t. She (her name is Catherine Love) continues the article:

It’s a bleak statement, but one that the writer and director explains is grounded in climate science. Each of us in the west, with our hefty carbon footprints, is a drain on the planet’s resources.”

Now if Macmillan truly thinks that the world would be better off without him, then he is suffering from severe depression and should seek medical help immediately.

And if Macmillan believes that his suicidal tendencies are “grounded in climate science” then he should consult a climate scientist immediately. Or perhaps not.

2071 is “a new project for the Royal Court that he is co-writing with climate scientist Chris Rapley. For the past six months, the two men have been meeting regularly at University College London, trading their respective expertise in an attempt to bring climate change centre stage.”

Chris Rapley chaired a conference of psychoanalysts back in 2010 devoted to the question of how to make their patients more depressed and dysfunctional than they already were by getting them to face the truth about global warming, I took a look at this at

http://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/psychoanalysis-and-climate-change-the-doctors-take-over-the-asylum/

Rapley went on to write the introduction to the book of the conference, and an Amazon review of the book. I look forward to his reviews of his play.

It’s called 2071 because: 2071 is the year my oldest grandchild will be the age I am now.’ says Chris Rapley, Climate Scientist.”

Director Katie Mitchell also had an article in the Guardian last month, in praise of continental night trains:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/18/save-night-trains-ticket-daughter-rail-greenest-travel-europe-sleeper-services

I’m fighting to save night trains – the ticket to my daughter’s future” is the rather grand title, and there’s a lot about carbon emissions and the pain and suffering involved in having a job which obliges you to ponce about Europe.

I stopped flying in 2011. At the time, I was working with the scientist Stephen Emmott, developing a show, Ten Billion, about population growth, climate change and the environmental changes taking place as a result of human activity. The project made me realise that if I wanted to change the way the world worked, I had to change something about how I lived. Specifically, I had to change the way I travelled: I was in the middle of a period of intense work in theatres and opera houses across mainland Europe, taking more than 40 flights a year. [...] carbon dioxide emissions from a one-way London-Paris trip amount to 3.2kg by train, 74.6 kilograms by car and 72.1 kilograms by plane.”

Well yes dear. But that depends on the train being full of passengers. If there’s just you and your daughter, it’s not paying, which means it’s got to be subsidised by other people who aren’t forever crisscrossing Europe from one damned opera house to another, and your personal carbon emissions are horrendous – far worse than mine on Ryanair.

The link to her daughter’s future is made thus:

I was travelling with my eight-year-old daughter when I found out about the end of the City Night Line, which made the situation even more delicate for me. She was one of the reasons I had resolved to reduce my carbon footprint in the first place. I wanted to do something to help her future, so I had made an effort to show her night train travel early and it had become a favourite treat.”

Can we see a pattern emerging here? The play’s name is the year the play’s co-author’s granddaughter will be the age he is now. The director’s daughter is the reason she worries about her carbon footprint and pesters the European Commissioner with petitions to allow her to continue to flounce around Europe at night in old trains. The other author has already written a play about guilt about having children, and now thinks the world would be better off if he didn’t exist – all because of climate change.

As Ben Pile has pointed out, environmentalists’ concern about the future of the planet is really all about me, me, me.

I too have grandchildren who will be the age I am now some time later this century. Not being a climate scientist, I’ve never worked out which year exactly this momentous event will occur. (I have enough difficulty remembering their birthdays). I used to take the kids on cross-European night trains. Not being a world famous director, I did it to get from A to B, not in order to assuage some guilt about existing.

We can all do simple arithmetic, and we all realise that our grandchildren will be the age we are now at some point in the distant future when we have long since popped our clogs. Let’s just decide to leave the place nice and tidy when we go, and let them get on with it.

You can book tickets for 2071 at

http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/2071

Duncan Macmillan, Chris Rapley and Katie Mitchell wil be present in conversation
 on Tuesday 11 November, post-show.

Posted in Stephen Emmott, Weirdos | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Out of the Mouths of Malnourished Babes and Sucklings

My search for a serious analysis of the new French law on Energy Transition and Green Growth in the last post http://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/french-take-leave-of-their-senses/

began and ended with this article from le Monde http://www.lemonde.fr/economie/article/2014/10/07/transition-energetique-fantasmes-francais-realite-allemande_4502139_3234.html

which, as I pointed out, is written not by a journalist but by two employees of climate think tanks, the European Climate Foundation and Agora Energiewende, and I said I’d come back and have a look at them later.

In a comment Paul Matthews points out that Ben Pile at

http://www.climate-resistance.org/2014/08/does-the-uk-need-another-climate-unit.html

had already spotted the European Climate Foundation as one of the funders of Richard Black’s Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, which has been set up apparently as a counter to the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Their other funders are the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, and the Tellus Mater Foundation.

The ECIU is a modest affair, with a team of four: Director Richard Black, ex-BBC environment correspondent; Peter Chalkley Head of Policy and Engagement, who is a communications consultant; George Smeeton, Head of Communications, who was media relations manager for WWF-UK; and Helena Wright, Principal Analyst, who is described as “a consultant” and who is currently finishing her PhD on climate change adaptation. You can see them strutting their stuff (and you can comment) at

http://eciu.net/blog

Of the three Foundations which fund the ECIU, the Grantham Foundation is well known as the overflow conduit for Jeremy Grantham’s vast hedge fund wealth, which spills over into two prestigious British Universities, and, via the journalism of PR man Bob Ward, into the press whenever climate scepticism rears its ugly big oily head, for example here: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/10/tory-right-becoming-desperate-climate-change-and-energy

The Tellus Mater Foundation, as Ben Pile notes, is a mysterious organisation, and I’ll be coming back to it. It seems to have just two employees, both young, an ex-banker and a chartered accountant, and its home page hasn’t been updated for over a year.

The European Climate Foundation, on the other hand, is big and active, with an annual budget of €25 million, a supervisory board of eight,(who are also currently running, among other things, Deutsche Bank, the investment arm of Pamoja Capital, and Duke Yale and Oxford Universities in their spare time); a leadership team of fourteen, (who are aided by four “fellows”, one of whom is the Princess Laurentien van Oranje-Nassau) and a staff of 46, spread between the Hague, Brussels, Berlin, London, Warsaw and Turkey.

They say about themselves: The European Climate Foundation “was established in early 2008 as a major philanthropic initiative to promote climate and energy policies that greatly reduce Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions and to help Europe play an even stronger international leadership role to mitigate climate change. The group of philanthropists who founded the ECF were deeply concerned over the lack of political action and the lack of general public awareness around the devastating future consequences implied by climate change. They formed the ECF – a ‘foundation of foundations’ – to collaborate in ensuring the necessary transformation from a high-carbon to a low-carbon economy.”

Ben Pile quotes from their website: The majority of our funds are re-granted to NGOs and think tanks engaged in bringing about meaningful policy change [...] In 2012, we made 181 grants to 102 organisations.”

Clearly, the ECF is a big deal, so where does this “Foundation of Foundations” get its funding?

From:

Children’s Investment Fund Foundation

Climate Works Foundation

McCall MacBain Foundation

National Postcode Loterij

Oak Foundation and

Velux Fonden

(among additional supporters for specific projects they also mention the Tellus Mater Foundation).

Let’s just look at the first one. The home page of The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation‘s site http://ciff.org/ has articles about reducing under-five mortality in Uganda and the $7.5 million they’ve just disbursed to fight Ebola. CIFF is clearly doing wonderful work with their investments of $106 million.

On their page

http://ciff.org/about/approach/

they say: We are clear about our desired impact: transformational change to development approaches that will dramatically improve child survival, learning gains and nutritional outcomes. […] Within this framework, we have identified the following exceptionally high potential opportunities: - Neonatal survival - Prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission - Early learning - Severe acute malnutrition - Deworming”

Brilliant. So what are they doing handing out money to the sixty-odd men in suits (plus the Princess Laurentien van Oranje-Nassau) of the European Climate Foundation? Do they need de-worming?

The answer is in the small print: … in 2013 we invested $106 million for children and climate.”  and they enlarge at

http://ciff.org/priority-impact-areas/climate/

CIFF’s climate programme uses a sound evidence base to demonstrate that ambitious attempts to tackle climate change are politically and economically feasible and desirable […] Our focus is on geographies where there is already some political leadership on climate change. So far, this is in Europe, China and Latin America…”

One wonders how they go about deciding how much to disburse for their programmes to counter mother-to-child HIV transmission, and how much to give to the think tank wonks in the Hague, Brussels and Berlin. And, remembering the obsession of environmental correspondents with discovering whether the GWPF received money from Big Oil, how do Richard Black and his merry band of consultants and communicators feel about accepting dosh that should by rights have gone to fighting Ebola and reducing infant mortality in Uganda?

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French take Leave of their Senses

The Lower House of the French Parliament has just passed a law on the Energy Transition to Green Growth, which is going to the Senate for rubber stamping before being passed into law under a special accelerated procedure. You can read the current state of the law in the three tomes devoted to the deliberations of the special commission which has been examining the law, tome one of which is at

http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/pdf/rapports/r2230-tI.pdf

but I warn you, it’s over 700 pages.

The press dutifully reported the key proposals, the most interesting ones being an “energy cheque” for people on modest incomes that they could use to pay their fuel bills or save towards loft insulation, and the banning of non-re-usable plastic bags and plastic picnic plates. The ministress* objected to the last amendment, on the grounds that the poor might want to wash them and use them again, (let them eat off Sèvres, I say) but she was overruled.

Less widely reported were the proposals for actually dealing with climate change. These included

- reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, and by 75% by 2050

- reducing the share of nuclear in the production of electricity from 75% to 50% by 2025

- increasing the proportion of renewables in the energy mix to 23% in 2020, and 32% in 2030

- reducing the country’s total energy consumption by 50% by 2050.

- reducing the use of fossil fuels by 30% by 2030.

Yes, you read that right. (Actually, you probably didn’t. You probably skipped over it – I would have.) In 2050 the French will be using half as much energy as they do now – by law.

One can imagine several ways this might be done, e.g.:

- thirty five years of continuous economic depression

- a radical reduction in the birth rate à la China or Italy, coupled with a complete ban on immigration à la Front National

- banning paper napkins, non-recyclable sanitary towels, air conditioning, central heating, and air travel (Air France has already made a stab at that).

The French government thinks this can be done by giving people tax breaks to insulate their houses and exempting employers from paying social security contributions on the money they disburse to compensate their workers for coming to work on a bike.

No, really.

I’ver been combing through the French press over the past 24 hours looking for some reaction – a savage Voltairean barb, or a loud Rabelaisian fart in the direction of these numbskulls – nothing.

I had a glance at the 770 page Tome I referenced above, and discovered a few gems which have escaped the attention of the entire Parisian press corps, for instance:

- The ministress* of Energy and Ecology Ségolène Royal, who announced loudly recently that there would be no fracking for gas while she was ministress*, announced quietly to the parliamentary commission that there would be fracking for petrol. What would happen if the prospectors struck gas instead of, or together with, liquid she didn’t say. Presumably they would just ignore it, like a bad smell. (We may yet get that Rabelaisian riposte).

- She began her address to the Commission by insisting on the seriousness of the challenge of climate change, pointing out that there were currently more refugees from climate change than from wars (is she counting British holidaymakers on the Côte d’Azur?)

- Six million recharging terminals for electric vehicles are to be installed. France is the main European market for electric vehicles, with 200,000 (including buses, roadsweeping trucks etc) but still, thirty terminals for each vehicle seems a bit much. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to have each electric vehicle followed round by a lorry full of batteries?

- One member of the commission successfully proposed an amendment that gaseous emanations from farm animals should not be counted in the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. IPCC be warned. France has a different definition of what constitutes a gas from the rest of the world. (O Rabelais, where art thou?).

I could go on wading through this tripe, but what’s the point?

I thought I might have found a critical point of view, someone who dared question the “pensée unique” when I found

http://www.lemonde.fr/economie/article/2014/10/07/transition-energetique-fantasmes-francais-realite-allemande_4502139_3234.html

French fantasy and German reality” – at last! Is there someone in the French press willing to compare the fantasy embodied in the French intention to replace their efficient nuclear energy with wind and solar with the reality in Germany, where ruinously expensive solar is being dropped in favour of coal in its most polluting form of cheap lignite?

No.

In France one finds the same beliefs about the German energy transition: a cost running into the trillions, companies relocating abroad, risks of general black-outs, inevitable importation of electricity from nuclear, an inevitable return to coal, with the huge rise in emissions that that entails. But the Energiewende is by no means doomed to failure. It’s a complex energy paradigm shift which is not without problems, but which has to be judged in the long term.”

And so on. Certainly, energy is more expensive in Germany, but they use less of it. (Yeah, they take cold showers, and they don’t eat their Sauerkraut and Bratwurst on plastic plates, I’ll bet)

The means for a true energy transition exist, at once a motor for competitivity for enterpises, of growth for the country, and of construction for the Franco-German relationship and for Europe. And France possesses numerous trump cards for meeting these challenges. It must assume fully its predominant role, both nationally and at the level of the European community, and cease to project its own worries on Germany.”

Apologies for the quality of the above translation, but I refuse to spend more time on translating this drivel, which apparently represents the opinion of France’s most respected newspaper. Though the article isn’t written by a le Monde journalist, but by Stephen Boucher (Directeur de programme, European Climate Foundation) and Dimitri Pescia (Agora Energiewende)

By the sacred paps of bounteous Gaia, not more bleeding climate foundations. They’re breeding like rabbits, and they’re employing Europe’s entire population of sentient polyglots, each one with their own website, each one devoted to producing on-line articles noting the latest reports from all the others.

While the élite minds of the US are devoting their energies to becoming billionaires, and the élites of China and India are preparing to explore Mars, the best minds of the European establishment are forming foundations devoted to persuading each other of the necessity of conducting an energy transition which nobody wants, nobody’s voted for, and nobody’s got the foggiest idea how or why it might come into being.

I’ll leave an analysis of who European Climate Foundation and Agora Energiewende are and why, and who pays their salaries to another time. It’s not difficult – just a question of lots of obsessive clicking.

Mary Robinson is there. And John Ashton. He’s the bloke who, when he lectures trade unionists in Newcastle on climate change, mentions his grandfather who was a miner, and when he lectures businessmen in Beijing on climate change, mentions his grandfather who helped the communist rebellion in Shanghai in the thirties – and delivers his speech in Chinese. (How many grandfathers has this supercilious smartarse fucker got?)

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix…”

Allen Ginsberg said that. He wasn’t maybe the greatest poet of the twentieth century, but he meant something to a certain generation who thought there was more to life than the consumer society and the dreary routine of nine-to-five office work, who rejected capitalism and yearned for a more honest relationship between man and his environment.

He didn’t live to see the best minds of his generation on their knees before – not Mammon – but the bountiful foundations that Mammon finances – forming an ever widening circle, their fingers on their I-phones and their heads up each other’s arses, blindly scratching statistics in the dust demonstrating that we must, we must, we must …

Do what?

Well, forego plastic picnic plates, for starters. That’s obvious. 97% of scientists say so. For the rest, it all depends on you.

I’ll come back to the European Climate Foundation and Agora Energiewende when I’ve calmed down a bit.

*Ministress”:

A Member of Parliament was recently censured for repeatedly addressing a female member of the Government as “Madame le ministre” instead of “Madame la ministre”. He was undoubtedly doing it to annoy, but the dictionaries and tradition are on his side, which didn’t stop him from being fined a week’s salary. If they can do that to an elected member of the people, free and sovereign, what might they not do to a foreigner who happens to live in France? Hence I shall be addressing Mme Segolène Royal as “the ministress” instead of “the barmy old cow”.

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