Monday, 27 April 2009

Tesco Announce Record Profits

Last week Tesco announced record profits of £3 billion for the last year, a staggering figure in today’s economic climate.

What Tesco failed to mention was the nature of their business practices which are responsible for generating such huge sums of money and perpetuating the race to the bottom.

Only in December, the War on Want campaign group released a report into the working conditions of Bangladeshi factory workers who produce clothing for Tesco, Asda and Primark.

Their report, which looked into six factories in the country, found that workers were manufacturing these corporations’ cheap produce for a pittance, for long hours and with few worker rights.

On average, workers received wages of £19.16 for a 48 hour week, less than half the minimum living wage the same workers calculated to be at least £44.87.

The top end of the wage scale was no more than £24.37 and one worker earning this sum, Runa, said: “My pay is so meagre that I cannot afford to keep my child with me. I have sent my five-month old baby to the village to be cared for by my mother.”

Not only is the pay appalling, but workers are also expected to work long hours and long weeks.

In Bangladesh, the standard working week is defined as 48 hours, over six days, with a maximum allowance of 12 hours overtime.

The War on Want report found that most employees were working between 10 and 14 hours a week and forced overtime to meet tight deadlines was commonplace.

One worker, Farzana, said: On several nights a month I have to work until 3 o’clock in the morning, alongside my regular shifts spanning up to 12 hours a day.”

Furthermore, abuse of workers was also found to be prevalent, with many women victims of sexually related language and other abuse.

Since a military-backed caretaker government took power in 2007, trade unions have been under the cosh from the government, with many banned or severely restricted in what they can do.

In one instance, 100 workers involved in a sit-in protest about back pay were baton charged by police in the Dhaka export processing zone (savaged by Naomi Klein in ‘No Logo’).

The amazing thing is that this is actually the second report from War on Want, following a 2006 report into the same factories. This earlier report found similar circumstances of worker abuse and little has changed in the meantime.

The Bangladeshi government did raise the national minimum wage, but in light of a 70% hike in the price of rice, and a 30-60% rise in the cost of other essential food stuffs like oil, wheat and flour, this has already been devalued.

Tesco and its ilk will point to their involvement in the Ethical Trading Initiative, a voluntary and flimsy program that ‘ties’ participants to a code of conduct.

This lip service is undermined by their pursuit of fast fashion – an effort to get fashionable items in the shops no more than six weeks after they’re revealed on the catwalk.

These short lead times put enormous pressure on suppliers and subsequently their workers to deliver the goods in time, leading to the long hours mentioned above.

When the report was released, Tesco gave War on Want an earbashing, calling the claims ‘unsubstantiated’ and demanding they reveal their sources (as if they would). However, they didn’t bother to present any evidence to contradict the report.

It’s not only in Bangladesh where Tesco bullies suppliers though. Andrew Simms showed in his book Tescopoly how Tesco use their massive bargaining power to force suppliers into selling their produce at stupidly low prices in South America, Africa and even the UK.

Simms also highlighted Tesco’s dealings with local planning authorities to push through applications to build new stores which are ultimately to the detriment of local communities, forcing the closure of many smaller, independent stores.

He also looked at the treatment of workers in their direct employment, not to mention the frightening Big Brother-like capabilities of their Clubcard system and broader, expanding services such as insurance and pharmacies.

Simms goes into far more detail than I can cover here but it's worth a read. Watching Armando Ianucci’s ‘Time Trumpet’ when Tesco invade Denmark, you’ll realise he wasn’t far off the truth.

So next time you buy a pair of pants from Tesco (or Asda or Primark) or indulge in out of season strawberries and other such fantastic food, think about that £3 billion profit and from where these ludicrous figures arise.

Visit the Tescopoly Alliance website

Friday, 24 April 2009

What a load of rubbish

Here's an image from artist Chris Jordan's latest body of work "Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait", which uses imagery to convey statistics representing contemporary American culture, with a particularly consumerist slant.

That's two million plastic bottles, the number consumed in the US every five minutes.

For more astonishing images, check out his website.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Budget and Power Stations

The budget was alright, but not brilliant, certainly a step in the right direction and it's nice to hear positive noises from the government regarding the need to put more economic effort into combatting climate change. We've stepped on to the first rung of the ladder shall we say.

The media have given some fairly decent coverage to the arguments made by environment campaigners saying it doesn't go far enough, but as usual they've just been thrown in the latter half of budget stories as 'balance' rather than given over to the detailed analysis and separate stories they really warrant.

Two items of the greenwash vein are worth flagging up in particular though. The first is the car scrappage scheme, which will see motorists have £2000 knocked off the cost of a new car if they trade in any vehicle over ten years old. However, this scheme doesn't restrict drivers to buying especially 'green' cars. Indeed, they can buy anything they like (under 3.5 tonnes), so there's nothing to stop them getting shot of their little one litre Micra and buying a three-litre Beamer instead. Way to cut emissions, Darling.

Secondly, tied in with the budget, is Ed Miliband's announcement that energy companies must "demonstrate CCS (carbon capture and storage) on a substantial proportion of any new coal-fired power station." The thing is, such technology is unproven on a commercial scale. At first, this 'substantial proportion' would represent capturing only around a quarter of emissions from the power stations. Once the technology is proven, which Miliband expects to be by 2020, stations will have five years to adapt CCS to capturing 100% of emissions.

As George Monbiot points out though, Miliband has turned the 'if' question surrounding the technology, into a 'when' question. In the meantime, if CCS works at 25% capacity, for every tonne of carbon captured before 2020, three tonnes will still be released into the atmosphere. Nor should we forget the huge costs involved in developing the fledgling and unproven technology which could be better spent on truly clean, renewable technologies.

Climate Camp Video Collection

It's been a while since I wrote anything about the policing at the G20. I've been meaning to, honest, but developments have moved at such a pace that everytime I eventually find time to sit down and write something I realise it's already been said, or a new video is released or another authority figure defends the policing and it changes everything. Ay ay ay!

So I'm going to keep quiet for a few days until I have time to digest everything. In the meantime, the legal team from Climate Camp have been busy gathering evidence and have put a raft of videos on their YouTube channel, including this particularly stomach wrenching footage of an innocent woman being slapped in the face by an idiot copper:

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Parisians protest against Facebook - On the Streets...

Now, I know the recent Facebook revamp hasn't gone down all that well amongst many of its users, but some people really are peeved. Like this group of Parisians who took to the streets to protest about the changes:

My French isn't too good, so I haven't the foggiest what they're chanting, but I know enough to be able to tell the banner says "Against the new version of Facebook" (Wow, aren't I clever?!). Looking at some of the pictures on TechCrunch it all looks a bit like a stunt of some kind, though equally, knowing the French delectation for taking to the streets at the drop of a hat, it could also be a genuine protest.

Which raises an interesting question - how do you protest against something that exists pretty much entirely in the virtual realm?

The obvious answer would be to protest online, as Facebook are well aware from the backlash to their terms of service debacle not too long ago. But does it being an online dispute mean it can't spill over into the 'real' world?

And then I got thinking about a presentation from my boss man Tom Abbott this afternoon, in which he quoted William Gibson:

"One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real, the virtual from the real. In the future, that will become literally impossible."
How will this blurring of the virtual and real worlds affect protest and even direct action in the future?

You can understandably say that the changes to Facebook's look and feel won't affect people much in real life, which makes the whole French protest, if indeed it was genuine, look a little silly. However, their Terms of Service cock-up can very much be considered a kind of blurring of the virtual and real worlds, in so far as Facebook, had they got away with it, would have owned what amounts to a record of people's private, real lives, even when they left the service. Had Facebook not backed down (inconceivable really given the furore but let's consider this hypothetically), would this have led to some people taking to the streets?

On the flip side, we already see protest about real world issues taking to the virtual world, such as the New Zealand blackout protests in February, but will we maybe see the likes of Greenpeace and Plane Stupid taking on the corporations and governments through direct cyber-action? Obviously, the digital world is already a well-used tool for mobilising, informing and organising protests and campaigns, though how long until we see climate campaigners shutting down E.On's website as well as its coal fired power stations?

Greenpeace 'Inspiring Action'

Here's a pretty nifty video the folks at Greenpeace have knocked together. Doing the rounds on Twitter and racing up the charts on YouTube, gaining them a bit of 'free' publicity.

The premise behind the video is to inspire three million people to become 'activists' for Greenpeace. Putting on my cynic's hat, I wouldn't exactly say this particular process of becoming an 'activist' necesssarily constitutes activism - it simply means signing up to receive 'action alerts' and a newsletter.

However, that's a substantial number of people receiving information about topics they may not previously have had any knowledge of and hopefully, will spur them into actually taking some kind of action, whether its simply writing letters to MPs and businesses or dodging harpoons and nuclear tests.

And I have to admit, the video does stir the loins somewhat. Think I need to buy some climbing gear...

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Lights out, please

Despite standing empty for two months, the Zavvi store in Coventry city centre is still lit up like a Christmas tree 24 hours a day. If there’s one thing in particular that annoys me, it’s people wasting electricity in such a manner. Zavvi is empty and no longer trading – there’s absolutely no need for the lights to remain on, it’s just a mindless waste of energy and light pollution, not to mention a waste of money.

Of course, turning lights off isn’t going to save the world as it looks at the problem the wrong way round. In most cases, the lights we use are the result of producing electricity by burning fossil fuels. It’s such power plants that we should be turning off rather than our light bulbs, but until that day arrives we need to minimise our use of dirty fuel through turning off unused electrical appliances alongside making numerous other lifestyle changes.

Angered by Zavvi’s poor example, I sent an email to the council about two weeks ago, asking that they be turned off. The council promptly replied and sent me in the direction of West Orchard shopping centre, who apparently own the premises. Almost a week went by without a reply and I mentioned this on Twitter. As is the power of Twitter, it was picked up by somebody at BBC Coventry who then asked me to come and talk about it on the Breakfast Show, as it tied in with a long running story they’ve been doing about empty shops in the city centre.

Liz Kershaw was quite receptive of my point of view, but argued that the city centre surely looks better lit up at night. If somebody’s idea of a pretty city centre is one of countless stores, some empty, advertising the latest mobile phone deals, make-up, bestsellers and fashion trends, they’re very much mistaken. Coventry city centre needs more than lit up stores to make it look pretty, and besides, the precinct itself is actually quite well lit without the need for businesses to leave their own lights on. The only reason I can surmise for these businesses to be illuminated are to sell their products, but who goes window shopping in the middle of the night? Unfortunately, due to the short nature of the conversation, I was unable to mention that what really needs to be switched off are the power stations – another time, hopefully.

After I did my bit, the Beeb called the landlords. They said, on air, that the reason the lights were on is because they are part of the same circuit as the shutters and therefore can’t be turned off without affecting the operation of said shutters. That is quite frankly, a poor excuse. (I said as much when the Breakfast Show called me back later). Even disregarding the environmental concerns for a moment, it makes no financial sense to be enforcing such a waste of money by ensuring the lights are left on at all times. Surely it would be cheaper for them in the long run, as well as to the benefit of the environment, to have an electrician split the circuit and cut out the need for the lights to be on? I shall keep pestering them.

Zavvi aren’t the only culprits though. On a walk around the city centre one evening last week, I noticed many more businesses still had their lights on. Many of them were simply lighting up the window displays. These included Bank, Boots, Sony, Monson, O2, Topshop, both of the Waterstones, River Island, Starbucks, HSBC, Yorkshire Building Society, Derbyshire Building Society, Ryman, Thomas Cook, Debenhams and MK One (which is another empty store).

However, some stores were also lit up inside, supposedly to help the magic elves that live amongst the products and navigate the empty aisles at night. These include the Co-op, BSM (the driving school), Halifax, Woolworths (again, empty) Phones 4U, H. Samuel, Abbey bank and Thomson travel agents. Both Marks and Spencer and BHS had their entire stores lit up, but at the time there still seemed to people doing work of some kind. In the most baffling instance, the Virgin Media and O2 stores were blaring out televisions, not to passers by, but the pixies inside.

I can see no reason for any of these businesses to be wasting electricity in such a manner. They’re not going to lose out in any way by switching their lights off, indeed, many other businesses do turn off their lights, so do us all a favour and reduce the waste by turning the damn things off!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

On Policing

Let's get things straight. The now well documented assault of Mr Tomlinson was perpetrated by a single officer and it would be rash to judge the entire force on the behaviour of this individual. Many of the police I spoke to on the day were polite, civil, helpful and even managed to fashion the odd smile. Let's not forget that all police leave in London was cancelled for this particular week and no doubt many of the officers on duty that day sympathised with protesters. Many people join the force to do good deeds, not to clobber innocents.

However, that's not to say there are no bad apples and for the many friendly police I encountered, there was an equal measure of downright rude and unprofessional officers who were unnecessarily aggressive and uncommunicative, forcing their way through crowds like the souped-up alpha males most of them are and treating protesters with so much disdain we had to double check we weren't actually pieces of shit on their plodding black boots.

There are endless accounts of other officers threatening to break people's arms and laughing off pleas to be let out from non-protesting bystanders caught in the kettle and what about the police medic photographed wielding a baton at protesters? A blatant breach of the Hippocratic Oath if ever there was one. It's like a football physio trying to hack down an opposition winger who strays too close to the touchline.

Without doubt, many police seemed to be thriving in the tense environment and clearly relished the opportunity to knock a few skulls together. Ahead of the protests, Commander Simon O'Brien said his force was 'up for it' and the relevance of naming the policing operation 'Glencoe' was not lost upon history buffs who pointed to the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe where 38 people were killed by government agents.

As for the incident itself, you can clearly see for yourselves that Mr Tomlinson, who was not protesting, with his hands in his pockets and his back turned, posed absolutely no threat to the police. Even if Mr Tomlinson had called the officer all the names under the sun and disrespected every female member of his family, the officer's actions can not be justified and amount to nothing but pure cowardice (though thankfully he's had the decency to come forward).

What is more startling though, is the lack of any kind of reaction from the officer's colleagues, who simply stood by and watched. If this had been a person in the street they would have been promptly arrested.

As for the policing in general, their tactics and the laws in which they are enshrined seriously need to be evaluated. I've already written about my personal experiences last week. I wasn't at the Bank of England when things kicked off so don't feel I can comment, however, I was there first thing in the morning and immediately the police tried to exert their authority and control over the situation by trying to split the protest apart the moment the processions converged. The next day, a peaceful rally in memory of Ian Tomlinson was surrounded by police riot vehicles in nothing more than a show of force and flexing of police muscle.

At the Climate Camp where I spent most of my time, a working, porous police line during the day was needlessly exchanged for a kettle and infrequent incursions in the early evening, creating artificial tension and agitating protesters. In what circumstances do the police find it lawful to detain people, including many non-protesters, in the streets with no access to water or toilets or indeed any communication from the police themselves, before breaking up the stragglers with brute force?

When it comes to protests, police have to balance protecting the inalienable right to protest alongside protecting the public from harm and by extension, property from damage. In this instance, police were not actively protecting the public right to protest. If anything, they sought to frighten people away with talk of a 'summer of rage' (a police fabrication) and hyperbole about impending violence. It is also widely known that police intimidate and harass activists ahead of known protests and demonstrations.

Trapping people in a kettle does not protect the public's right to protest. Immediately it criminalises protester's actions and in many cases intimidates those who are there peacefully and whom wouldn't hurt a fly. At the Climate Camp there wasn't even hint of any trouble and there was no threat to the public; apart from that of the police.

Of course, there were idiots intent on damage and there was always going to be trouble flare up somewhere, but this should be dealt with subsequently and accordingly, with reasonable force, rather than treating everybody as suspects in potentially violent activities. If the police had let things happen 'organically', as they initially did at Climate Camp, there would have been less trouble.

Finally, the police should relinquish their right to anonymity. Masked policemen are what you expect from Nazi Germany, not a so called liberal democracy like the UK. When has it ever been a good idea to allow the police to remain anonymous, especially when they're armed to the teeth? On Thursday, I was stopped and searched under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, by which "police can require you to remove any item reasonably believed used wholly or mainly for purpose of concealing identity". If it's an offence for me to conceal my identity, why are the police exempt?

When the police first encircled Climate Camp, I tried to make out their individual numbers on their helmets, before realising there were none. The silver numbers on the lapels are too small to notice unless up-close and even then the police take an extreme dislike to you noting their personals. A friend I met at Climate Camp had earlier been at the Bank of England. When the police noticed him taking down numbers of aggressive officers, they hauled him through the line, under the pretence he was a trouble-making ringleader, slung him in the back of a police van and searched him. Pure intimidation tactics.

This week also proves how utterly ridiculous and nonsensical the recent anti-terror law banning photography of the police is. If ever there was a requirement that police be held to account in such a manner then it was last week's policing. If people hadn't filmed the officer shoving Ian Tomlinson, where would we be now?

Some activists are openly suggesting his death be used to fight their cause and initiate retaliatory violence against the police. These are opportunistic, disrespectful idiots seizing on the death of an innocent bystander to propel him to martyrdom, who are thankfully few in number and widely criticised in the activist community.

However, questions must now be asked of the policing in general and it's appalling that we have had to come this far to even reach this stage. No doubt much of the focus will be on the inquiry into Mr Tomlinson's death, but there must also be a wider inquiry that extends beyond this one incident to take into account protest policing. That is why I have contacted my MP and I urge you to do the same.

Monday, 6 April 2009


So what can be made of the protests and the G20 communique?

Let's start with the protests. Jeremy Seabrook wrote one of the most eloquent and beautifully written comment pieces on the Guardian website, declaring the protests the beginning of a new movement. As much as it was well written, I think it was far from being well founded.

Undoubtedly, the protests were wonderful, particularly the Climate Camp with its flamboyant and good humoured carnival in the streets, a brief little requisition of our land from the imposing cathedrals of capitalism that had laid the tarmac on which we played games, shared food and held workshops.

But if Jeremy had been there, he would have realised it wasn't quite the first wave of a perfect storm of unbridled revolutionary fever. Many of the protesters were the usual suspects; veterans of campaigns past and present, and to my dismay, many more were unmistakeably media, holding aloft cameras, video cameras and microphones. That's not to say there were no protest virgins. There were lots of them, as well as folk who just came for a knees up and bit of booze in the sunshine and thanks to police tactics, many innocent bystanders who simply got caught in the kettles.

I don't want to undermine the work of many of the protesters (including myself) because I think we sent out a strong message that we are not happy, and especially at the climate camp, which in itself was a starkly beautiful image of climate change's insignificance in the face of the global economy, we left with a renewed vigour to continue the fight. However, put simply, most of the people I spoke to on the day had done this kind of thing before. The average Briton was still going about their usual daily business, giving the odd cursory glance to the rolling news stations during the day and getting their fill of protest on the six o'clock news and in the morning papers, which I may add, seemed to focus entirely on the violence at the Bank of England. Hardly convincing material for a revolutionary recruitment drive - "Come, protest! And get your head in kicked in by the Met!"

That's not to say it wasn't worthwhile. Climate Camp generated some real debate amongst the campers, proving to ourselves and anybody in the City that day that sustainable, environmentally friendly communities are perfectly feasible. We managed it on limited resources and a bit of imagination; imagine what the whole world could achieve if it pulled its finger out of its arse and got on with it? Unfortunately a lot of the mainstream media passed over this, what's new? But there's enough coverage in the blogosphere, social media networks and some of the more counter-culture media to build upon and help spread the word. If anything, the camp can act as a launchpad for future campaigning.

Furthermore, real questions are now being asked about the policing of not only these particular protests, but protests in general. The violent and heavy handed manner in which police dealt with peaceful protesters last week was catapulted into the limelight, especially with the sad death of Ian Tomlinson (which I'll comment no further on, out of neither being there nor being able to make head or tails of conflicting reports; albeit reports which are generally pointing the finger at the police). The police behaviour was nothing new, the brutality itself was for me at least, but the general treatment of protesters as hoodlums and scum whose protests are an inconvenience to the establishment has been around for some time now and finally there are murmurs of a new concerted effort to reform the laws that enshrine such policing.

As for the G20 itself, well, it failed climate change spectacularly. It's as if somebody rather meekly raised their hand as proceedings drew to a close, mumbled something about gases or something and then simply lumped a couple of courtesy paragraphs at the end of the communique:

"27. We agreed to make the best possible use of investment funded by fiscal stimulus programmes towards the goal of building a resilient, sustainable, and green recovery. We will make the transition towards clean, innovative, resource efficient, low carbon technologies and infrastructure. We encourage the MDBs to contribute fully to the achievement of this objective. We will identify and work together on further measures to build sustainable economies.

"28. We reaffirm our commitment to address the threat of irreversible climate change, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and to reach agreement at the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in December 2009."

In other words, as Greenpeace said, they'll sort it out later. The G20 basically skirted the issue of really tackling the problem by saying "yeah, we'll keep doing what we're doing", which isn't really a lot and is still enslaved by the dominance and mechanisms of carbon trading, the very thing we were protesting about on Wednesday.

If we're honest, we never really expected to get much of a deal out of it in the first place, yet still we seized the opportunity to put climate change at the forefront of people's minds. Unfortunately, that got overshadowed somewhat by a few chaotic idiots down the road, but for those that were there it was an inspiring day and a boost to our morale, despite the violent end at the hands of the police. Now we have to keep the pressure up and not be bowed by what we knew would happen in the Excel centre all along. We must take what we learnt from each other at the camp and use it to continue the fight, to keep the issue of climate change and carbon trading in particular in the spotlight and generate that grass roots movement that Jeremy Seabrook senses. This is just the first step on the long road to Copenhagen, where a real difference can be made and we can't shy away from the challenge.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Panic on the Streets of London... Part 3

I didn't sleep well, compounded by somebody switching on the lights at 4am yelling the police were trying to break in. An energy swept through the room and previously slumbering protesters leapt out of their sleeping bags and hurriedly packed. We could hear banging on the door downstairs and shouting police and blue lights flickered on the windows. Another regular squatter appeared a minute later telling us not to worry; "they do it every night". Everyone bedded down again, though fully clothed this time I noticed.

I eventually woke again at about 10am. The sleeping room had thinned out and people were quietly talking about the police blockade set up outside. I didn't know anybody by now but a few were about to leave so I tagged along with them. A veteran anarchist was manning the front door and listening closely to what was going on outside. When he thought it was clear he opened the door and ushered us out. Looking left and right, either end of the street was awash with police (no riot gear). There was no option but to put up with the inevitable stop and search. I lifted my scarf above my face so they couldn't photograph me. I got hauled aside by a policeman who said he was going to search me under Section 60, looking for dangerous weapons.

I was told to uncover my face in accordance with that particular law. He asked me my name. I refused. I didn't have to give it under Section 60 (1). But then he said under a Section 50 (2) I had to give my details or face arrest. A second policeman stood at my side and pulled out his handcuffs "Let's warm them up shall we?" I was getting confused. I knew under a Section 50 he could arrest me, but he originally said I was being searched under a Section 60, could they apply both laws? By now a third cop with a huge camera contraption was in my face. I was tired and couldn't be bothered with the hassle so told them my name and address to the camera. I glanced to my right and saw another protester, whom I’d overheard discussing stop and search powers in the squat, offer his hands for an arrest, calling their bluff. He eventually relented and gave them his details too; perhaps they can use both laws? After they pulled everything out of my bag, I was handed a slip with details of my search and told to be on my way.

Now I was on my own and determined to get to the Excel centre for the protests against the G20 itself. I walked the short journey to Liverpool St Station and at the ticket machines bumped into yet more protesters, two anarchists; M and his girlfriend, K. M had messy, pink hair, with a pen through his ear and a white climbing helmet hanging from his bag. They said they were on their way to the centre too and invited me along. We jumped on the DLR and headed East. Along the way, M and I chatted about our beliefs. He was an anarchist and member of the Socialist Workers Party who'd opted out of society to live in a squat in West London. They'd been at the Bank of England the previous day but avoided all the trouble, before staying in the Earl St squat that night. He listened, with great interest, to me question the possibility of a truely anarchist society and explained how he personally believes it's something that can only be achieved over the very long term; very far removed from the mainstream media depictions of anarchists as violent, chaotic hoodlums.

We arrived at Canning Town and headed for the station exit. A polite British Transport cop asked us if we were heading to the protests. He recommended we take the train to the next stop to save us a bit of a walk. Surprised by his friendliness we turned around and headed back up the escalators. At the top, more Transport Police stopped us, this time less friendly. They asked where we were going and I said the protests, so they asked why we were heading back onto the train. Bemused, I told them their colleague recommended so. They kept probing and making us stumble over our words about where exactly we were going, taking the Excel centre and the protest to be two separate things. Behind me, a towering officer who just looked like a dick, spotted M's helmet, grabbed it from him and hauled him aside to search him. M carried the helmet in case things got violent with the police, to protect his head. Fair enough, but a little bit stupid as it ultimately begs the question: "Are you expecting things to get violent?"

Another officer asked me to step aside and searched me too. I handed over the previous search slip and just let him get on with it, again, he was looking for an offensive weapon under a Section 60. Despite me and M being searched, K was left untouched. Because there were no WPCs, she couldn't be searched, which makes the whole stop and search powers laughable - she could be carrying, knives, guns, grenades, explosives, the entire Woolwich Arsenal, and she'd be able to walk right through.

When they finished, they told us if we wanted to go to the protest then we had to walk from Canning Town. Was the original 'helpful' Transport cop just trying to waste our time? Isn't that a criminal offence punishable by up six months in jail if you do it to a policeman? I didn't dwell on it and simply headed out into the sun.

By now, a straggle of other protesters had joined us in the station, including a Czech guy in a Boston Celtics vest and a pop-up tent on his back, and a couple of Australians who lived in London. As we left, a nervous looking guy in a suit approached us. "Are you going to the Excel?" We chuckled and asked if he was one of 'them'. He laughed as well and introduced himself as Shlomo, an Israeli living in London who'd been out of work for four months and had donned the suit out of protest. We invited him along.

Close to the protest site, a five minute walk from the station, we were stopped again by the police. I managed to convince them to let us through without yet another stop and search, but M wasn't so lucky. "Don't I recognise you?" said an officer. M shrugged. "Climate rush on Parliament? And at the Smash-EDO protests in Brighton? Come here, I want a word..."

M got hauled aside, again. K was lamenting on why he had to be so recognisable with his helmet and pink hair ("He never learns"). I was more interested in the police officer. He wore a Met uniform, yet he'd been policing a protest in Brighton? M was eventually let through and we walked to the small protest area cordoned off by police, not even within sight of the Excel centre. There were about five hundred people there, but most of them seemed to be media. There was a large contingent of Ethiopian protesters, a few Stop the War and Palestine Solidarity, as well as a couple of climate change campaigners. We'd walked by a lot of protesters heading back to the station, dismayed by the size of the protest and its location. Many seemed more interested in the memorial rally being held for Ian Tomlinson at Bank.

The Czech guy, I never got his name, pitched his pop-up tent and M and K sat inside with myself and the Czech on the outside. The media loved it. Photographers gathered round taking pictures and somebody from Time magazine came and recorded a video interview with M, though judging by the quality of his answers I doubt they'll have used it. Not long after, Al-Jazeera (Arabic) brought their huge camera over to interview M too, provoking more photographers to picture us, and for some reason, the Ethiopians came for a group photo with us, possibly seeing the media opportunity the tent afforded.

It soon became apparent that this protest really wasn't going to get off the ground, so we decided to up sticks and head to Bank. Again, at Canning Town we were stopped and searched. In the case of the Czech guy, at both the bottom and the top of the escalators. Paty met up with us on the platform, aghast at how the police dealt with us, but we put it behind us and moved on. By now, the sleep deprivation and lack of food and drink was catching up with me but I was determined to at least check out the rally.

When we arrived, a small, silent group of protesters had gathered in the triangle opposite the Bank of England's entrance, encircled by a police line which at that point was still letting people in and out. M, K and the Czech guy went through but Paty and I refrained; it was blatantly obvious that a kettle was imminent. On the other roads, other protesters, spectators and workers were slowly gathering to watch or were simply trying to get through the crowds. All was going well until the police line appeared to close up around the central bunch to form a kettle.

Soon after some of the most horrifying and stomach churning police vehicles I've ever seen drove through the square and surrounded the protesters. These huge, black armoured behemoths look like something from Robocop. American-style SUVs with blacked out windows and covered in armour, they don't even look European never mind English and only served to antagonise the hitherto peaceful protest.
A few missiles were thrown at the police line and a couple of people tried to break through. Police pushed and shoved back and refused to let people out of the kettle, to cries of "Shame on you!" and "Fascists!". Familiar scenes. When the tanks moved on, seemingly serving no other purpose than to flex police muscles and intimidate protesters, police horses soon followed behind to disperse the few people in the street and allow a couple of red buses through, but many of the horses seemed nervous and jittery and needed controlling by the police; not a good thing in a febrile atmosphere such as this.
Things remained tense for another half-hour or so, the protest locked in a kettle and the police trying to keep people off the street to let traffic move freely, but then for no apparent reason, black clad riot police (minus the shields and batons) kettled the protesters and spectators opposite the main demonstration. People who tried to get out were violently shoved back into the kettle and a little old lady, heading blissfully unaware into the sqaure, was manhandled out of the way by the police. This caused more anger, shouts and screams and a few people tried to force their way out of the kettle only to be shoved back. I saw the police making their move and pulled Paty out of the way before the kettle closed. I didn't fancy being stuck there for five hours like the protesters the previous day.

It turned out the police just intended to move people on though, and forced the kettle down Prince Street, away from the main square. Again, more pushing and shoving from the police and absolutely no communication. It's the lack of communication that annoys people the most. The police just take it upon themselves to move everybody on. Pleas to be released from innocent pedestrians caught in the crowds are ignored as the police go about their business in the most offensive way possible.
The kettle was slowly moved behind the railings and down the road. One officer padded and armoured up to the eyeballs was shouting threateningly at people outside of the kettle to get out of the street. I overheard one person shout back something about it being the most disrespectful way to remember the life of Ian Tomlinson and I couldn't agree more. As the kettle moved down, the police fanned out and blocked Prince St, making it impossible to use that route to get to the Bank. When the kettle got to the junction, one end opened out and the police reinforced their lines, also blocking off access to Lothbury. By now it was mid-afternoon and clearly apparent that the police had no intention of letting anybody protest at the Bank that day. Slightly deflated, certainly sleep deprived but inspired by the collective actions of thousands of climate campers, I decided to call it a day. And went in search of ice cream.

1/ Section 60 Criminal Justic Act - entitled to search for offensive weapons and dangerous instruments. If s60 order is in place, police can require you to remove any item reasonably believed used wholly or mainly for purpose of concealing identity or to seize any item reasonably believe you intend to wear wholly or mainly for that purpose. Can arrest you if you refuse.

2/ Section 50 Police Reform Act - Police have the power to arrest you if you don't give them your name and address when asked, if suspected of anti-social behaviour (reasonable grounds to suspect have caused, or are likely to, cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons)

Panic on the Streets of London... Part 2

Ceilidh at Climate Camp in the City 2009 from Jamie Potter on VimeoWhen we heard the samba band from earlier strike up at the southern limit, Paty and I raced off to buy a couple of beers then returned to dance with the band. Watched by a line of police and builders from another neighbouring construction site, we danced to the beat, clapping, stomping and cheering. I spotted one of the Azerbaijanis in the band and we high fived. A couple of idiots were shouting to stop dancing and start rioting but they looked like Millwall fans out for a fight and were duly ignored. As we walked back past the police vans, campers were pleading with them to turn their engines off but they just stood and shrugged their shoulders. We had the last laugh though, as climate change graffiti was daubed on their sides, tyres let down and a bit later, three girls climbed on top of one of the vans to have a dance.

And so the festival atmosphere continued. As the light began to fade, the pavements cleared up as workers left their offices and the media went back to file their reports. Then the police made their move. We noticed it first when officers with bright yellow jackets, helmets and shields move from behind the police vans, which were roughly halfway along the street, to secure a little area between the vans and the buildings. This little move cut through the camp like a knife and again, like at Bank, the atmosphere changed instantly. The police shoved those closest to them out of the way and people stood up like a Mexican wave, booing and shouting "shame on you!". Despite an email circulating for people to sit down in such an instance, most people stood up with their hands in the air, to show we were unarmed.

A couple of idiots threw bottles of water at the police and in the most heartwarming incident of the entire day, nearly every camper turned their anger at these few hooligans, severely reprimanding them and telling them to "get the fuck out". Another line of riot police moved into the camp to block off a small alleyway and then we realised we had been completely encircled and detained by riot police, 'kettled' in protester parlance.

People remained standing, hands in the air chanting "this is not a riot". The police remained impassive. The mood had completely soured. There was no need for such policing. All day, we'd been free to come and go as we pleased. Everybody had been happy, there was no violence, we'd coexisted with city workers and bankers, tidying up after ourselves and generally having a good time. The police knew our intention was only to stay until midday the following day, so why make the move?

When we realised the police were going to be keeping this up for a while, we returned to what we'd been doing, though many campers made sure to form a wall of unarmed resistance close to the police line. But again, the mood was far less happy than before. Many people who'd simply come down to see what the fuss is about and have a few drinks were getting frightened and a rumour mill about police plans was beginning to spread, not helped by the fact the police refused to answer any questions or direct any kind of communication to us whatsoever. This happened at about six-thirty, maybe a little later, and they remained airtight until nearly eleven. Nobody in; nobody out. We were running out of water but they ignored our pleas for more. People had resorted to pissing in the street because we couldn't get to the toilet and our own compost toilets couldn't manage everyone.

As time went on people became more angry and downtrodden, as is the point of the kettle. The police hope it will provoke violence from protesters, thus giving them reason to break it up. Unbeknownst to me and many more protesters at the Northern end, riot police had moved on the Southern end, forcing people up the street. Rivers of urine were running into the tent city and everybody was getting tetchy. People were discussing whether to stay the night or not, but we all knew it would be futile as the police would eventually break it up.

At about nine o’clock, a counter protest had formed on the other side of the police line at the Northern limit. I could see a few missiles thrown, including, somehow, a traffic bollard, and assumed they may be the remnants of the Bank protest. The samba band continued, keeping spirits up, as did the ceilidh right under the noses of police at the Northern limit. Eventually, around eleven, the police began letting people out one by one, after the protest on the other side disappeared. (How, I’m not sure). Most protesters took the opportunity to leave and numbers began thinning out. Any hope of staying the night was diminishing by the minute and organisers half-heartedly tried to rally the troops.

Realising a police attack was imminent, I decided to head off. I didn't want to get arrested and miss the second day of protests. By now I'd lost Camila and Rose; Paty had left just before the kettle, and the West Midlands and People and Planet campers had decided to head off too. With no alternative sleeping plans I found a couple of campaigners heading to a squat on Earl St and we left the camp behind us. Our route took us on a roundabout tour of the City, an area of London new to me. The huge banking buildings had police officers stood outside but they all ignored us. We headed down Earl St, a side street close to Exchange House, and saw the squat ahead of us, a forgettable four storey brick building, dressed in a couple of banners, a black anarchist flag and a legal notice about their squatting rights. The squatters symbol was sprayed on the heavily secured door and a couple of punks let us through and in to the warmth.

Downstairs in the sparse basement, a DIY kitchen was handing out warm vegan food. Weary protesters were sprawled on carpet cuttings, asleep or sharing stories over a cuppa; a rag tag bunch of your archetype anarchists, trendy Shoreditch girls and hippies. More protesters steadily arrived until about 1am when they literally flooded in. The police had finally made their move at the camp, clearing out the detritus of campers and tents. The remaining campers had tried to resist by sitting down and locking arms, but horror stories unfolded of riot police 'picking people off' and dragging them away (nobody was sure what happened to them; either arrested or simply told to feck off) and generally beating people with batons and shields.

One girl said a copper threatened to break both her arms if she didn't let go of another protester and somebody else said the police had actually 'commandeered' some red buses ready to move protesters, though ultimately there had been no need. Despite taking a literal battering, most protesters carried a smile and sense of some kind of victory. We may have been well short of a full 24 hour camp but we still held out for a good twelve hours. Finally the day caught up with me and I headed to the top floor, where at least a hundred more protesters were sprawled on the hard floor in sleeping bags and darkness.

Continue reading... Part 3

Panic on the Streets of London... Part 1

Quick panorama of Climate Camp in the City from Jamie Potter on Vimeo
I arrived early into Euston and sauntered down to Kings Cross to waste some time and see if there were any internet cafes around. It could have been any other day in London, if this little part of it was anything to go by. People went about their usual business; travellers, tourists and workers in a world of their own, seemingly ignorant of the burgeoning protests not that far away in the Square Mile. The police presence around North London's three major stations was barely noticeable. Not having any luck with the internet cafe I decided to just get a move on and get to the City.

At the ticket machines in Kings Cross tube station I came across my first 'comrades'. Two sun-kissed guys in their early twenties, wearing sunglasses and hoodies. One of them also wore a 'Make Poverty History' bandana; the other carried a barrel drum. I introduced myself with a hushed voice lest an underground official hear us, caught up in the rebellious nature of the protests, despite the fact that hoodies, bandanas, drums, long hair and woolly, green hippy jumpers clearly shouted 'demonstrator'. Only moments earlier, a poor tourist with a strong French accent was collared by security for taking an interest in the control room next to the ticket machines. Not on the Undergound son, that's just asking for trouble.

My fellow protesters turned out to be from Azerbaijan, studying in London, veterans of previous protests and on their way to join the G20 Meltdown processions. We hopped on the tube and headed towards Liverpool Street. I wasn't sure if this was a good idea - Climate Camp had warned that police would be targeting the major stations in the City - but the Azerbaijanis seemed to know what they were doing. When we arrived we pulled up our hoods and I covered my face with my scarf. There was a clear police presence inside the station but apart from a few stares nobody approached us.

Outside, on the actual Liverpool Street entrance, there was already a crowd of protesters corralled by the police in the street. They stood in absolute silence but there was a palpable tension in the air. Just as many onlookers were gathered around taking pictures and other protesters were arriving behind us, unsure of what to do after seeing the police block. We headed back through the station and out the second exit, a new recruit amongst us; a white-haired middle aged lady (who I later learnt was once sectioned) with a packed shopping trolley in tow.

Outside this entrance a larger, boisterous crowd had gathered on the steps and pavement with little if any police. Composed mainly of young people dressed brightly and in fancy dress, the atmosphere was excited and jovial and made for a picturesque sight in the spring sun. I ditched the hood and scarf realising it would be both hot and futile to keep it up all day. With so many others carefree and scarf-free, it would also likely invite hostility from the police. A few drums starting banging and the numbers spilled on to the street. An impromptu procession, led by the formative corps of a samba band, marched around the corner to join the other protesters. With the Climate Camp 'swoop'' not due for another hour I decided to join in.

As we brought up the rear the police line turned and began to walk us through the streets of the city, towards the Bank of England. The samba beat led us past the Deutsche Bank building, where workers stood at their windows smirking but ignored by protesters who thronged the streets below and halted buses full of bemused passengers as cheers, jeers, horns and whistles rang out through the canyons of capitalism.

Soon we arrived at Prince St, a short, narrow road down the side of the Bank of England leading to Threadneedle St. At the end, our march converged with the other protesters and the full scale of the protest dawned on us. The entire square swarmed with protesters, literally thousands of them. People stood on statues, railings and above Underground stations, waving flags, placards and whooping and whistling. But minutes after our march converged, a single line of flourescent clad policemen formed across Prince Street.

The atmosphere changed instantly, from angry, yet peaceful, to angry and edgy. The police weren't wearing riot gear but their sheer presence was enough to irritate protesters. A few chants of 'fascists' rang out, attracting dozens of photographers and cameramen to this particular 'frontline'. A couple of protesters shoved the police and vice versa, it was hard to tell who did what first, and the click and whurr of cameras was audible. It soon calmed down and for about five minutes the march was on tenterhooks as police and protesters exchanged the odd push. All the time the samba band banged their drums and with no particular signal, our procession spontaneously stepped forward as one and continued going, breaking through the flimsy but symbolic police line. Cheers rang out around the square as we were once again united in protest.

With my slightly mental older friend, who refused to share her name, I ventured into the square itself. Police lined all the exits, but they were letting people in and out. People of all descriptions had assembled and few wore the telltale accessories of the violent anarchists. This early in the day, peace still reigned supreme. We hung around for a few minutes before deciding to head off and seek out the climate camp, collecting some other girls who were also looking for the camp. The police let us through the line with no questions asked and we started on the two minute walk to Bishopsgate where the camp was supposed to establish itself. There had been rumours that the camp would locate elsewhere as the police were aware of our intentions, but we arrived to a scattered but ever increasing crowd of onlookers and protesters. Police and meat wagons were parked down Bishopsgate and the campers simply stood on the pavement, unsure of what to do as workers and tourists streamed by.

We headed further down, closer to the junction with Wormwood St, when it began. A small band of campers, led by People and Planet, sprung their pop-up tents in the road. The police pounced and tried to remove them forcefully but a crowd of protesters and media surrounded them. The crowd swelled and disparate cries of 'get in the street!' and 'pitch your tents' rang out. Within seconds pop-up tents appeared out of nowhere amongst cries of laughter and a fevered hustle and bustle. The police were overwhelmed - many onlookers turned out to be campers themselves - and retreated to the pavement. Within minutes traffic disappeared, the streets filled with smiling people and the huge 'Nature doesn't do bailouts' banner had been stretched between traffic lights. We'd reclaimed the streets!

Bishopsgate was now a hive of activity. More tents popped-up, bunting was strung between lamp-posts, protesters in costumes had climbed on top of a bus shelter with a boom box and flags and somebody circled the camp handing out chunks of coloured chalk. I spotted a friend from Leicester who works for People and Planet and parked my sleeping bag by his tent. He'd been one of the first to set up camp and the police had tried dragging him away by his ankles before everybody else just piled in. Some of the West Midlands campers I recognised from the Spotted Dog turned up out of nowhere and set up their camp next to the People and Planet tents whilst Camila and Rose, the two girls I'd met at the Bank, sat watching a game of Twister unfold.

At either end of the street, bicycles had been lashed together and stretched across the thoroughfare to create a barricade of sorts. Policemen lined these limits but most were smiling and people could come and go as they pleased. Again, workers in the buildings that towered over us stared and pointed from their windows, but we didn't care one jot. I grabbed a piece of pink chalk and had a moment of inspiration. A well known slogan from the May 1968 protests popped into my head and I ran to the pavement to scrawl "Under the paving stones, the beach", as people hurried around me. One bolshy female cop grabbed my arm and heaved me up shouting "Enough of that, that's criminal damage!" but it was too late, I'd already drawn on the pavement. It was an apt slogan I thought. Here in the heart of the City, the heart of capitalism, a band of 'crusties', 'hippies' and curious young party-goers had taken over the cold concrete streets and turned them into a back-to-basics festival of sustainable living and respect for one another and the environment. Just beyond the Northern limit, cranes heaved materials up the side of the half finished Heron Tower, in stark contrast to the tents and bunting below.

My chalking was rudimentary compared to the artworks on the other side of the street, with detailed pictures of the globe, planes, fire and other climate change-related iconography now adorning the sidewalk. We were at the Northern limit of the camp, mainly a tent city, but a few hundred metres further south was the business end. A white gazebo was assembled with astonishing speed and was soon dishing out vegan food from its carbon-free kitchen, whilst a number of pedal powered sound systems doled out reggae vibes as the smell of cannabis wafted through the air. Three spaces had been set aside throughout the camp, marked clearly with chalk as workshop areas one, two and three, and within a couple of hours these were occupied by the bums of campers who listened attentively to such speakers as Oscar Reyes of the Transnational Institute, speaking about the fallacies of carbon trading, sparking debate and discussion from the audience.

By now, I'd hooked up with a Spanish friend, Paty, who studies at the University of East London and she was telling me about the dismay amongst the students who had planned an alternative G20 summit there only for university authorities to scupper it at the last minute, out of 'security concerns'. We sat chatting in the sun, which beat down strong in a cloudless sky, talking about the climate, protest and apathy, inspired by what was happening around us.

A middle-aged man with short brown hair, a white t-shirt and black trousers stood in the middle of the tents holding a sign saying something like 'protest is wrong' and started booming about how disruptive we were. Campers turned and listened to his little soliloquy. "I've lost my five hundred grand a year job and you're out here taking over the streets" he shouted with a wry little smile and then we realised he was a wind-up. He turned over the placard and it read 'Everything is OK'. People started cheering as he turned the tired old anti-protest arguments on their head and fired them back at the bankers. As he finished more people shouted and applauded and I caught sight of his t-shirt which said: "God is too big to fit into one religion."

Continue reading... Part 2

Friday, 3 April 2009

Carbon Trading

(Originally posted to Facebook Notes, 30th March 2009)

An all too brief introduction to carbon trading

Come April 1st I will be heading into the City of London with a sleeping bag and plenty of munch to take part in the Climate Camp in the City, a protest and form of direct action organised by environmental campaigners taking advantage of the G20 Summit to draw attention to something called carbon trading.

So what is carbon trading and the carbon market? It's complex, very complex, which is probably why it's rarely talked about, so here's my effort at explaining what it is, how it's supposed to work, and how it actually works.

The basics

Carbon trading, or to be more precise emissions trading, is a mechanism which seeks to encourage industry and business to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by making it more expensive for them to engage in activities which produce such gases. It is commonly referred to as carbon trading as it originally dealt only with carbon dioxide but has since expanded to include other gases. This market based approach has been taken to reconcile the need for change with the need for economic growth.

Trading schemes use something called Cap and Trade. Businesses are granted permits from a central authority to produce so many tonnes of greenhouse gases and a cap is placed on the total emissions to be allowed which is then gradually lowered over time. 'Trade' comes into this as permit holders with more permits than they require are able to sell them to those who find they don't have enough. Over time, the market raises the price of these permits, making it expensive to produce greenhouse gases, thereby forcing businesses to turn to green alternatives to reduce their costs and remain competitive.

Forces for change...

Since the Kyoto Summit in 1997, emissions trading schemes have become the main weapon in the fight against climate change. Following the Kyoto Protocol, carbon markets adopted 'flexible mechanisms' within the cap and trade system, which in turn split the world into two groups. These are Annex I countries, chiefly the global North (ie the developed world) and the non-Annex I countries, chiefly the global South (ie the developing world).

The first flexible mechanism is 'International Emissions Trading', whereby Annex I parties may trade permits with one another at a regional or national level.

The second flexible mechanism is 'Joint Implementation'. Annex I countries may invest in emissions reduction projects in other Annex I countries and receive permits for their actual carbon emissions, a kind of offsetting. (Offsetting is where you 'offset' your carbon emissions by doing something to counter the carbon use, such as planting a tree)

The final mechanism is the 'Clean Development Mechanism', whereby Annex I countries can gain ETS carbon permits, or credits, by investing in emissions reduction projects in non-Annex I countries (offsetting). It's essentially the same idea as Joint Implementation, but is instead an effort between developed and developing nations.

...or against change?

The main weakness of emissions trading is that it ignores the real problem. Global warming is caused chiefly by the burning of fossil fuels. The obvious solution? Stop burning fossil fuels. However, under the trading scheme fossil fuels are still being used. As somebody at a recent Climate Camp meeting said, they are going about it the wrong way, by trying to find the money to pay for the solution, before implementing any actual solution.

Kyoto has been fairly criticised as setting too low a target for cutting emissions. The aim is to cut emissions in the years 2008-2012 only by 5.2% below 1990 levels, whilst excluding from the treaty aviation and shipping and more famously, the United States, who produce 25% of global emissions.

According to the European Climate Exchange, the UK is just above its target for reductions, yet there is good reason to believe these figures may be false. In December 2007, a report from Oxford University claimed that emissions had actually risen by 19% since 1990, when taking into account aviation as well as those we import (the carbon produced by buying a product made in China), minus the likewise emissions we export making products we sell overseas.

Last summer, the government's own environment department, Defra, admitted that one of its own studies showed UK emissions were higher than what the government were declaring them to be (18% growth between 1992 and 2004). Finally, last month, the World Development Movement claimed that although "the UK’s climate change targets carbon emissions need to fall by 4 per cent every year... they fell by just 1.5 per cent in 2007" and accused the government of using 'creative accounting' to hide the real figures.

Clean Development Restraints

The Clean Development Mechanism has quite rightly been the victim of stinging criticism.

- First of all, carbon credits can only be obtained by investing in projects outside of those already planned and which wouldn't otherwise have been implemented. But how can one know what is going to happen in the future? Who is to say that the wind farm in Botswana funded by BP wouldn't have been built if it wasn't for the CDM?

- In addition to the above point, according to Oscar Reyes of the Transnational Institute: "a recent survey by the NGO International Rivers found that 76 per cent of CDM projects were already completed by the time they were approved as eligible to sell credits." Aren't they supposed to be 'additional' projects to those already under way?

- Measures to protect natural forests within the CDM were excluded by Kyoto, yet deforestation accounts for around a fifth of all carbon emissions.

- In a combination of both of the above, Russia, Canada and Australia have been arguing "we have these extensive forests, if we cut them this would release carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. If we don't cut these trees we should get credit for that against our 5.2%. At every conference Russia finds a new forest in Siberia. What they argue is that modernization leads to cutting trees, and by forbearing they should be credited as much as if they actually did something."

- Carbon reduction projects on the other side of the planet often have invisible victims. What's wrong with building a hydro-electric dam on the Bhilangana in India? How about the acres of land destroyed as a result, land which is tended in an ingenious and low-carbon manner and whose inhabitants won't benefit from the hydro-electricity. Or the Tata produced wind farm in Maharashtra, India? Land owners are displaced and met with repression when they complain, all so that permits can be sold to the North to allow them to continue producing greenhouse gases.

- The North is still producing greenhouse gases.

In the first phase of the trading scheme, the cap was set far too high by businesses over-estimating their actual emissions and subsequently failed to act as a cap at all. In the second phase (2008-2012), the price of carbon has actually fallen, providing no incentive for polluters to turn away from it.

Carbon trading doesn't wean us off our addiction to fossil fuels. We suffer from something called 'lock-in', where certain technologies become engrained in society despite better alternatives being available. Carbon trading allows fossil fuels to still be used; rather than curing us of our addiction it merely prolongs it.

Carbon trading privatises the atmosphere, which was previously part of the global commons. Now, those most responsible for polluting it have been granted the control of these rights whilst individuals and marginalised communities have none whatsoever.

Sub-prime 2.0

And perhaps most pertinent of all, carbon trading is based on exactly the same economic principles and mechanisms as those markets that have led to the current economic crisis. It should be noted that one of the key architects of the carbon market, Richard Sandor, was also an influential architect of the futures market that has crashed like a house of cards.

At a lecture presented to the Warwick Economics Summit by Patrick Birley of European Climate Exchange, he produced a slide entitled "Who is the market?" The answer was 'hedgers, investors, arbitrageurs and speculators'. Exactly the same people responsible for our current mess. These money driven machines (sic) are helping control the price of carbon. Rather than the market being left to industry to tackle climate change, bankers and speculators are getting involved and gambling on the market to get a cut of the lucrative profits from a market which could be worth $2 trillion by 2020. Do you really think they have climate change at heart?

Marc Stuart of EcoSecurities, in the wake of his firm's crash in spring 2008 said: "I guess in some ways it's akin to subprime... You keep layering on crap until you say, 'We can't do this anymore.'"


A common complaint is the cost of renewable energy sources but this is often misrepresented. Wind energy is becoming more competitive, price-wise, with fossil fuels and can only get cheaper, whilst solar power energy is also getting cheaper all the time. If governments and business would invest more in research and development rather than continuing to use fossil fuels, green technology would be even cheaper. Even BP admitted as far back as 1996 that solar energy would be cost effective if panels were produced on a large enough scale.

Asking for alternatives presumes that carbon trading has some sort of merit that justifies it being included in the arsenal in the first place. It does nothing to effect change. Simply put we shouldn't rely on it. There are cheap green technologies already there and other technologies crying out for investment, as well as financial alternatives such as carbon taxing and technology transfer to be considered and not to mention the possibility of personal carbon allowances.

Any of these could help us move away from the act of removing fossil fuels from the ground in a manner that is also socially just, something carbon trading fails to do at all.