June 30, 2008

The Oil Depletion Protocol in the UK media - but no mention of SP

Michael Meacher MP, former UK Environment Minister, has written on a national newspaper website yesterday about peak oil and, in particular, the Rimini Protocol (or Oil Depletion Protocol), which received 69% support from Simultaneous Policy campaign supporters (SP Adopters) in the last annual voting round.

Sadly Mr. Meacher does not mention the Simultaneous Policy as a way to achieve action on peak oil. I have posted a comment to the website referring to the past support for the Rimini Protocol within SP and encouraging people to investigate the campaign.

The more people that can post similar messages, the more likely visitors to the site will see them and investigate.

The article is at:

Mr. Meacher's article includes the following:

“The most direct means of constraining world demand would be the proposed Rimini protocol, which prescribes that oil-importing countries cut their imports to match the world depletion rate (ie annual production as a percentage of remaining global reserves) now running at about 2% a year. Of course, the fundamental political problem remains that the most powerful oil-hungry countries will not agree. If not Kyoto, why Rimini?”

To send a letter to the Editor of The Guardian, email letters@guardian.co.uk (with full contact details):

Here is my effort:

“Michael Meacher MP, former Environment Minister, highlights the Rimini Protocol for addressing depletion of oil reserves, but raises the difficulty of oil-hungry countries being persuaded to support this strategy for weaning us off oil, which will also help in addressing climate change. The Simultaneous Policy (SP) campaign is succeeding in persuading a growing number of politicians to pledge to implement, alongside other governments, policies to effectively address global problems. Simultaneous implementation removes the fear that unilateral action will harm competition and so the national economy. The Rimini Protocol gained 69% support in the last annual round of voting. SP is not an alternative to other forms of advocacy, but has the potential to achieve far more. By registering with the campaign, participating and voting in policy discussions and/or calling on politicians to make the SP pledge, everyone can help the transformation to people-led cooperation between nations.”

Mike Brady
Coordinator Cambridge SP Adopters Group

The Simpol forum talkboard on the Oil Depletion Protocol is at:

June 27, 2008

How SP creates a parallel market in political ideas to resolve global problems

Here is an email from John Bunzl, founder of the Simultaneous Policy (SP) campaign, posted to Simpol's yahoo group (see links in the side panel).

He describes how politics currently operates in the context of competition between nations, where each government is bound to protect its own economic interests, lest it lose investment and jobs (and then in a democracy lose power), and so international progress on global problems is generally too little, too late. A parallel market of possible policies is allowed by the SP approach.

Here's John's analogy:

The idea of a "parallel market" is the essence of the Simultaneous Policy approach and in my first book I used the analogy of group of 4 or 5 boys fighting over a packet of sandwiches to describe it.

If they all simply carry on fighting they are stuck "in the current market", as it were, and the sandwiches will be destroyed to everyone's detriment (as will we and our planet if we carry on competing destructively!) Staying stuck in the current market thus spells inevitable disaster. But if one of the boys, while still continuing to fight, speaks up and proposes that he'll stop fighting if all the other boys stop too (i.e. simultaneously), then that boy has, effectively, created a parallel market. As the boys continue to slug it out in the "current market" (as they must in order to protect their positions) they are all also invited to participate in the "parallel market" and can thus negotiate for peace and a beneficial sharing of the BLTs (even while they continue to fight).

So if agreement can be reached in the parallel market, its implementation automatically brings peace to the current market - and the two markets become one (but a new, higher, more encompassing and more conscious one).

So that's what the Simultaneous Policy is: a parallel market allowing us to bring peace to the current market.
---quote ends

June 26, 2008

Take action to save Zimbabwe - and seek an end to all dictators

This is an alert from a campaign to 'Save Zimbabwe from Mugabe'. You are asked to sign a petition, which will be publicised in the press in Southern Africa. The petition states:

"Petition to Thabo Mbeki and other leaders of Southern Africa:

"We call on you to hold an emergency meeting of Southern African leaders, to work by all means necessary for a legitimate Zimbabwean government that reflects the will of its people, and to decisively isolate those who stand in the way of a peaceful, democratic future for Zimbabwe."

Click here to sign up.

I travelled to Zimbabwe when I worked as a volunteer in nearby Malawi in the 1990s. At that time Zimbabwe was seen as a much more developed African nation. Certainly the far better infrastructure and shopping opportunities were striking. Development indices such as child survival and life expectancy showed the country was doing better than many in these regards too. Now the situation has changed dramatically as President Mugabe tries to hang on to power for power's sake.

Other governments are always reluctant to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries, lest the same should happen to them.

The route being proposed by a growing number of nations for Zimbabwe is to refuse to recognise Robert Mugabe as the legitimate President of the country as he lost the first round of the Presidential election and the run-off election cannot be free and fair due to state-sponsored violence.

It struck me long ago with Iraq, when it was suffering under the sanctions regime which led to the deaths of many thousands of children, that such a route could have been followed. UNICEF suggested 500,000 children would not have died if health improvements prior to the sanctions regime had continued. See:

---extract from UNICEF press release
Ms. Bellamy [UNICEF Executive Director] noted that if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998. As a partial explanation, she pointed to a March statement of the Security Council Panel on Humanitarian Issues which states: "Even if not all suffering in Iraq can be imputed to external factors, especially sanctions, the Iraqi people would not be undergoing such deprivations in the absence of the prolonged measures imposed by the Security Council and the effects of war."

UNICEF called for better targeted sanctions and a more health conscious approach from the Iraqi regime, which used the resources it gained through the 'oil for food' programme as a political weapon of internal control.

Some argued that the 'oil for food' programme actually worsened the situation as it gave Saddam Hussein's regime great power through how it distributed the resources. During this period the north of Iraq was semi-autonomous, with a no-fly zone enforced by the US and UK. The elected authority there succeeded in reducing under-5 mortality rates from 90 deaths/1,000 live births in the period 1989-1994 to 72 deaths/1,000 live births in the period 1994-1999.

An argument for military intervention was that it would put an end to the unnecessary death toll brought about by the sanctions approach. How to evaluate whether the deaths, suffering and terror resulting from the invasion is better or worse is a difficult one.

Those in favour of military intervention asked what was the alternative. An alternative could have been to have stopped recognising Saddam Hussein and his government and instead dealt solely with the authorities in the semi-autonomous regions and a government in exile. The fact that the Iraqi government was repeatedly infringing on the no-fly zones demonstrates there would have been some level of conflict in any case in trying to isolate the government, but there may have been the possibility of strengthening more legitimate authorities.

The difficulty is, of course, that the government, whether legitimate or not, holds the levers of power. They have armed forces and police forces. They control who enters the country, unless geography and the political will of other nations undermines this. Pragmatism may suggest they have to be recognised and dealt with. An unwillingness of other governments to set a precedence where their own legitimacy may be questioned is also perhaps fundamental.

If Mugabe continues to call himself President and to govern, it will be interesting to see how the international communities refusal to recognise him will manifest itself. Perhaps a strategy for dealing with rogue regimes without necessarily going to war can be developed.

These questions come down to the willingness of nation states to act, either individually or collectively. The United Nations can provide legitimacy and strengthen alliances, but, as an institution, is limited in its ability to act.

George Monbiot argued in his book 'Age of Consent' for a democratised UN. The following extract is from his summary at:

---Quote begins

Let us start with the United Nations. In principle, it’s a good idea. In practice, it helps the strong to bully the weak, for three reasons. The first is that the permanent members of the Security Council have been granted absolute power. The second is that it is riddled with rotten boroughs: the tiny nations have the same vote as the very large ones. This is grossly unfair – every Tuvaluan, for example, is worth 100,000 Indians - and it also means that the strong nations have a powerful incentive to kick the small ones around. The third is that the dictatorships have the same voting rights as the democracies, and none of the attendant governments have any obligation to refer to their people before voting.

It seems to me that the answer here is not to junk the UN, but to democratise it. The first step is surely to scrap the Security Council and vest its powers in the UN General Assembly. The second is to weight the votes of the member states according to their country’s size and their degree of democratisation. Democracy rankings are already being developed by groups such as Democratic Audit. But we should begin to develop our own. Among the criteria we should investigate are the nation’s degree of economic democracy (the distribution of wealth) and the extent of public consultation before global voting takes place.

This weighting of votes has the double benefit of democratising global governance and encouraging national democratisation, as the quickest means by which a nation can enhance its power at the global level. It also means that the nations with the biggest votes – the largest and most democratic – are the hardest to bully and blackmail: vote-buying, in other words, becomes much more difficult.

---quote ends

There does seem to be a lot of merit in these proposals, which have not yet been submitted for inclusion in the Simultaneous Policy. Any Adopter may do so. In the case of Zimbabwe, the country's vote at a UN under this system would be radically cut if Robert Mugabe continues as President after Friday 27 June, having both symoblic and practical impact.

Monbiot also promotes an elected World Parliament, something governments, and many citizens, react to with horror as it undermines their sovereignty.

The Simultaneous Policy campaign is not about world government, it is about world governance, meaning rules-based systems to transform the competition between nations to constructive cooperation. That is not to say that the World Parliament proposal cannot be put forward for the consideration of Adopters (it has not been at the time of writing). It will be for Adopters to debate and vote.

The world has not yet worked out an effective way to deal with leaders who operate in their own interests rather than those of their people. The simple fact that the Simultaneous Policy campaign works by bringing people together to decide policies for addressing global problems and calls on leaders to implement those, may in itself play an important role in empowerment.

June 25, 2008

Climate change discussion in Second Life

I went to a meeting in Second Life, the on-line virtual world, a couple of weeks ago.

The Greenpeace group had a guest speaker who is an expert on climate change.

Second Life is great for international meetings. You can listen to and talk to speakers. The audience can chat to each other using text while the presentation is going on without detracting from it. You can show information on screens. You can play audio and film clips.

If you are so inclined you can dress up your avitar and explore, meeting people from across the planet in the process. If so, you will see how, when given a brand new world to populate, it fills with hustlers in pursuit of money and sex. And Star Trek fans.

This was the announcement for the more elevated event:

Group Notice From: PlanetThoughts Raymaker

Peter Sinclair, one of the early Al Gore-trained presenters, will give the latest on climate change Sat. June 7 at 9am SLT, including a unique how-to on answering the skeptics -- really enlightening slides with valuable details on the science.

Since January 2007, he has made this presentation to thousands of citizens throughout Michigan. He is a life long resident of Michigan, a graduate of the University of Michigan, and a long time advocate of environmental awareness in the Great Lakes area.

Here's a screenshot of the meeting:

Amongst the chat during the initial presentation were some of the climate change deniers common arguments, which were either addressed in the talk or in subsequent discussion.

One response I found particularly interesting was the suggestion that climate change is happening throughout the solar system and it is not just on Earth temperatures are increasing. The implication is that it is changes in the sun that is responsible.

Peter Sinclair commented how on the one hand doubters of climate change question the science that suggests average temperatures on Earth are increasing, yet on the other hand seem certain that temperatures on Mars and other planets are going up.

In fact there is no evidence of increased output from the sun or of the temperatures on other planets increasing in the timescales being seen on Earth.

What we do have plenty of evidence about are the temperature changes on Earth, their relationship with carbon in the atmosphere and the fact that carbon levels are leading the temperature rises seen since the industrial revolution.

There was a whole lot more in the presentation and discussion, which I believe will appear on the associated website, which is:

From time to time there are similar events organised by Second Life SP Adopters' Group. See:

June 24, 2008

Does Brazil's success under 'Lula light' mean the financiers were right?

When Luis Inácio Lula da Silva stood for election to the Presidency of Brazil in 2001 he faced a classic financial market attack, as predicted by John Bunzl in his book The Simultaneous Policy, published that same year.

Lula, as he is popularly known, had stood in the past on a radical left wing platform including policies such as renegotiating loans to the International Monetary Fund. He had lost three times before, twice to Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC) who had introduced Thatcherite privatizations and participated in Tony Blair's 'Third Way' international get togethers.

But free-market economics failed to deliver social cohesion in a country with a massive gulf between rich and poor which fuels a virtual state of civil war in the major cities where drugs gangs rule most of the slum areas or favellas. Lula was riding high in the opinion polls again José Serra, FHC's designated successor.

Bankers and investors weighed in, risk rating Brazil on a par with Angola and Nigera. Angola: swinging between civil war and anarchy. Nigeria: rampant corruption. Brazil: Lula, a left-winger, looked like he might win. The Brazilian Real fell against the dollar as investment dried up and currency fled the country. Interest rates climbed and inflation began to follow. There was talk that Brazil would go the way of Argentina that was in crisis after the link between the peso and dollar had been broken and had slid to 30% of its previous value.

Lula met financiers from São Paulo to New York, pledging that he had not only dropped his earlier policy of renegotiating Brazil’s foreign debt, but would follow FHC’s spending plans for the first year of his government. He announced as his running mate, José Alencar, a millionaire business man, in an alliance with the Liberal Party.

He was billed as ‘Lula light’ in the media, a less threatening version of the old Lula.

With the economic fears of the electorate laid to rest, he won convincingly for his promise to tackle the inequalities in Brazilian society, which have left over 30% of the population below the poverty line and crime soaring. In Rio de Janeiro, where police raids on drug gangs in the favellas prompt the hijacking and burning of buses in the city centre, the vote for Lula was 79% in the run-off against Serra.

Lula won a second term despite his party being embroiled in a scandal where public contracts had fed massive payments to many members of Congress who had joined his ruling alliance. A few were thrown out of Congress by their peers, more by the electorate. Whether the law will catch up with those involved still remains to be seen.

Lula's flagship programme has been 'Fome Zero' or 'Zero Hunger'. It was billed as support for small-scale family agriculture. After his victory it was controversially hi-jacked by Nestlé (which I monitor closely as part of my job), which used it to distribute processed food, including powdered milk, while advertising its support heavily. National and international protests resulted. The programme transformed into 'Bolsa Familia' or family income support, with families receiving payments to put them above the poverty line on the condition they vaccinate children and put them through school.

Lula's handling of the economy has been lauded (though the architect of his policy, Antonio Palocci, fell in another corruption scandal harking back to his time as a small-town mayor). Brazil's risk rating on the credit market has fallen to the point where in 2008 it was listed as an investment-grade country by Standard and Poor. As the International Herald Tribune reported in April this is: "signaling that Brazil is now officially recognized as a safe place for investors to park money." Brazil's annual growth is above 5% while other developed economies wobble on the brink of recession. The money is flowing and easy credit is fuelling a consumer boom. Coupled with discovery of new oil fields, Brazil, long billed as the country of the future, feels like it is arriving.

The impact on the poor has been documented in a report released today by the Institute for Research in Applied Economcs. The three poorest percentiles have seen their income rise up to 5 times that of the richest, reducing inequalities. The BBC in São Paulo reports those with monthly incomes in the bands R$ 206 (about US$100) , R$ 378 e R$ 422 have seen incomes increase by 21,96%, 29,91% and 15,79% between 2002 and 2008. For comparisson the three most rich (with average income of R$ 1.159, R$ 1.797 e R$ 4.853) have seen gains of 2,3%, 2,1% and 2,6%. The inequality ratio has fallen from 0.543 to 0.505.

While criminality remains so problematic that the army has been sent into some of the favellas in Rio, economic activity is booming, with small businesses flourishing (and, as an aside, Nestlé is once again targeting the poorest with a range of what it calls 'Popularly Priced Products' - again including its milk powder).

Gains are threatened by oil and food price rises. However, Brazil is protected as its domestic energy is almost entirely hydo-electric (and energy use was shocked into an efficiency overhaul in 2001 when there was a sudden realisation that the water levels were too low to sustain the country) and it has its own oil supplies for transport, making it virtually self sufficient. Brazil also has had, for decades, many cars running on alcohol from sugar cane plantations and is developing its bio-diesel production.

While much of the world is blaming the use of land for bio-diesel for increases in food prices, Brazil has much land still under-utilised - even without encroaching on the Amazon and other sensitive ecosystems. This week, Lula said he would not be following the examples of Argentina, Bolivia and Mexico, which have put a freeze on food prices and obstacles to exports (see the Folha de São Paulo). He is leaving the market to set prices while promising to make massive amounts of credit available to boost the next harvest by 5%. The sum of R$65 billion (about US$32 billion) is being made available to agrobusiness and R$13 billion to family farms (see the Folha de São Paulo).

Even the political class is recovering its reputation in Brazil, with the Senate recently refusing to renew an unpopular tax on bank account movements and currently engaged in simplifying the entire tax system.

As for renegotiating the loans with the International Monetary Fund, Lula paid them off early in 2005, along with those owing to the Paris Club of donors, saving a fortune in interest payments. He is reported in Brazzilmag: "We are making this payment because we want to show the world and the market that we are in charge. When we do things we might make mistakes or we might get things right, but we decide."

Brazil's government, through a great deal of luck as well as judgement, has played within the rules of the financial markets and is, at present, on a winning streak. There may be problems for the future in the making: consumer debt at home and the credit crunch in its export markets, peak oil and food price inflation. But no doubt the financiers look to Brazil as vindication and contrast it with other Latin American countries following very different paths.

So is a global financial system that punishes those who do not follow its decrees working? Should other countries simply follow Brazil's example?

Or are reforms already put forward for inclusion in the Simulteanous Policy necessary, such as the Tobin Tax on financial speculation and an International Clearing Union to replace the International Monetary Fund? Are those calling for a complete overhaul of how money is created correct to promote their Monetary Reform proposal? Is a country's health measured too narrowly by GDP as those proposing Beyond GDP measures suggest?

Within the Simultaneous Policy campaign those defending present global governance systems, such as the International Monetary Fund, have as much right to participate in proposing, discussing, developing and approving policies as anyone else. Join the debate and cast your vote by signing up as an SP Adopter at:

June 23, 2008

Gordon Brown in Saudi Arabia and in a political bind

There is a good analysis of the bind the UK Prime Minister is in when trying to form policy to cope with climage change and rising oil prices. It comes in an Observer article by Andrew Rawnsley entitled: "Don't rely on the boys with the black stuff, Mr Brown" and concerns Gordon Brown's attempt to get Middle East oil producers to pump more oil.

'Voters' say they want action on climate change, but call for contrary action when their own financial interests are at stake.

Another good opportunity to flag up the need for the Simultaneous Policy campaign. See:

This is the comment I left:

This is a good analysis and we have to hope that politicians can lead the debate and explain why a low-carbon economy is better than pumping more oil to keep the price down.

I do take slight issue with this comment, however: "The culprit is easy to identify. I blame the voters. When they told pollsters that the environment was high in their concerns, the politicians made it high in theirs. With the economy sagging and the cost of essentials rising, the understandable response of voters is to tell the opinion pollsters that they are now less bothered about the planet and much more agitated about taxation and inflation."

It is true as far as it goes. But we need to go further. The reason why the government tried to backtrack on its commitments to the European Emissions Trading Scheme was pressure from business interests, which threatened that investment and jobs would move overseas if UK targets were too demanding. That would harm the economy and lose votes. So such pressure works and will continue to work.

Unless the voters can regain their democratic rights. A way to do so - as well as demonstrating and writing to MPs - is to support the Simultaneous Policy campaign, which brings people together around the world to discuss and agree the policies they wish to see implemented to address global problems and calls on politicians to pledge to implement them alongside other governments. Simultaneous implementation breaks the power of vested interests. Politicians from all major parties in Parliament are already signing up. The more voters that support the Simultaneous Policy, the more MPs that will pledge to implement it and the sooner that will become government policy, moving us closer to implementation.

It's not an alternative to other action, but can potentially take us far further, such as to implementation of the 'Contraction and Convergence' approach to climate change which is gaining support in the annual Simultaneous Policy voting rounds.

This meeting takes place as a new opinon poll in the UK suggests that there is still a lot of confusion about climate change, with 60% incorrectly believing "many scientific experts still question if humans are contributing to climate change."

The information sharing role of the SP campaign has a role to play here. Amongst SP Adopters (anyone can sign up for no charge), in the last annual voting round 80% put climate change as the top global problem they want to see addressed.

The need for its strategy of putting people in charge of leading politicians is demonstrated by the lack of confidence those polled put in their leaders. According to The Guardian:

"More than half of those polled did not have confidence in international or British political leaders to tackle climate change, but only just over a quarter think it's too late to stop it. Two thirds want the government to do more but nearly as many said they were cynical about government policies such as green taxes, which they see as 'stealth' taxes."


There is a lot of action taking place at more local level, sometimes motivated by the lack of it at national level, as with New Mexico's solar panel fields and Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

As The Guardian reports: "Although 25 states have approved their own RPS, a national standard has stalled in the face of resistance from traditional coal-powered utilities and their allies in Congress."

These innovations show that contraction of carbon emissions is possible. The introduction of a global strategy of Contraction and Convergence would serve as a motor for further innovation and provide a global market for the technology, so bringing down prices.

Technology isn't the whole answer, but those in early with refining technology are likely to see great benefits.

June 20, 2008

How to send a quick message to the US Presidential election candidates

"In free governments the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns."
Benjamin Franklin

"[It is] the people, to whom all authority belongs."
Thomas Jefferson

Yesterday I asked which of the candidates for President of the United States of America will respect the sovereignty of the people. See:

You can send a message to your preferred candidate - or all of them - asking for support for the Simultaneous Policy campaign (read yesterday´s blog if this is new to you).

Here is a quick and easy form you can use:

Select ´all candidates´, John McCain, Barack Obama or enter the name of another (I guess these will be added to the list once they are formally declared). You can change or edit the suggested message which I´ll include here:

The United States of America, like all democracies, is founded on the principle that its government represents the interests of we, the people. Yet in the globalized world governments too often put business interests first and foremost, fearing the country could otherwise lose investment and jobs to competing nations. Whether it is trade, climate change, sustainability, conflict, or any other area of global importance, we, the people, want our voices to be heard and respected. The Simultaneous Policy (SP) provides a way, by bringing people together around the world to discuss, develop and approve the policies we wish to see implemented to address global problems. Simultaneous implementation of SP, after approval by the people of my country, will ensure that necessary action is taken and we will not be put at a competitive disadvantage. When I come to vote, I want to know which candidates respect the will of the people and have pledged to implement the Simultaneous Policy when all, or sufficient, other governments have made the same pledge. I call on you to make this pledge.

You can also fill in a quick form to send a link to the page to a friend. See:

June 19, 2008

Which candidate for US President will respect the sovereignty of the people?

If the support for the candidates to be President of the United States of America is as finely balanced between John McCain and Barack Obama as the opinion polls suggest, the situation is perfect for US citizens to reclaim their sovereign right to govern themselves. The easiest action to take is to send a message to the candidates via the Simpol page at:

In theory in a democracy the government is of the people, by the people and for the people. But in a globalized world the will of the people is too often neglected.

When formulating policy on addressing global issues, be it climate change, trade, access to resources or anything else at this level, every leader puts the national economy in first place. They are warned by business leaders that too extreme measures could see investment and jobs draining away to other countries. The movement of either fills politicians with genuine fear. These are not idle threats.

In international meeting after international meeting, necessary action is compromised by this economic imperative. Politicians may argue that protecting the national economy is the same as protecting the interests of the people. If this approach had delivered a way of living on the planet that is sustainable and stable, they might have a point. If people were satisfied with the choices offered to them, then perhaps all is fine.

But is the way our leaders are tackling global problems really the way we, the people, want them to be tackled?

The way to answer this question is surely by asking it.

This is what is happening in the Simultaneous Policy (SP) campaign, promoted by Simpol, an international network of national organisations. People around the world are invited to propose, discuss, develop and ultimately approve the policies they would like to see implemented.

There is no charge to take part, simply sign up as an SP Adopter, which also involves calling on politicians to pledge to implement the Simultaneous Policy alongside other governments. Everyone is welcome. If you do not like any of the policies already under discussion you can vote against them and put forward alternatives if you wish. Give your views in the Simpol discussion forum at:

This process is immensely empoweriing for a number of reasons. Firstly, the Simultaneous Policy is to be implemented by all, or sufficient, governments acting together. This changes the context. For example, at present if voters in the US election are asked whether they want the US to open its borders to trade to a greater extent or follow a more protectionist approach, they will answer based on their assessment of what it will mean for their jobs and income, considering competition with other countries. It is a very different question to ask, would you like the international system of trade to operate differently, for their to be different rules?

Proposals for encouraging greater trade - or alternatively encouraging more local production and consumption - would be based on a consensus between Adopters across the world. Policies will be linked to make a coherent package, so, for example, an ending of barriers to trade could be combined with ensuring the pollution and climate change costs of transportation are not ignored, but included in the cost of products. Transnational corporations could be expected to respect minimum standards wherever they operate, making it impossible to cut costs by moving to a country run by a dictatorship that does not protect the rights of its citizens. And so on, as the people decide.

SP aims to solve the big international problems only. It does not include perhaps 95% or more of politics, which is local and national. SP is not a way to enforce policies or ideologies on other countries, but a way to empower people in each country to decide how to address global problems considering their own best interests and in a way that is acceptable to people in other countries.

Although global in its scope and to be implemented by all, or sufficient, countries acting together, the Simultaneous Policy is not one size fits all. Countries are at different starting points, which can be taken into account. It is for SP Adopters to decide.

The Simultaneous Policy approach allows Americans and citizens of every country to reclaim their sovereign right to govern themselves, a right undermined by powerful vested interests that currently dictate or constrain global policy setting.

Once the content of the Simultaneous Policy is determined by those who choose to take part and sufficient pledges to implement it have been made by governments - prompted by their citizens - voters in each country will be asked to approve it. Implementation will only go ahead with the approval of the people of the country as a whole.

Candidates in the US Presidential election are being asked to make a pledge to implement the Simultaneous Policy alongside other governments when all, or sufficient, governments have made the same pledge. It is a statement of intent that indicates to voters whether the candidate believes in the sovereign right of citizens to have their voices heard and respected.

Until there are sufficient governments, the President will have little choice but to operate in competition with other nations, under the threat that jobs and investment will be lost if he upsets business and financial interests, so support for SP will be just one factor voters will look to in deciding how to vote. SP Adopters are asked to encourage their preferred candidate to make the SP pledge. Adopters without a preference can call on all candidates to make the pledge and vote for the one who does.

A Presidential pledge to implement SP alongside other governments will have more than symbolic value. It will bring the world one step closer to implementation of the policies chosen by the people. Politicians in much of the English-speaking world have already signed the SP pledge, including in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, as well as in developing countries such as Brazil, East Timor and India. There are SP Adopters in many more industrialized and developing nations.

In the US Presidential in 2000 a few hundred votes eventually decided who won. With the election this year also finely balanced, the candidate who supports SP could find it propels him into a winning position.

The candidates can make the pledge to implement SP in the knowledge that when implementation is triggered the global policies will have the support of the citizens of the US. It is only on that basis he would be expected to deliver on the pledge.

So the fundamental question is, which of the candidates - John McCain, Barack Obama or others - believes in the sovereign right of US citizens to have their voices heard and respected over those of vested interests?

Find out by sending a message to your preferred candidate or to all candidates calling for support for the Simultaneous Policy by going to:

June 18, 2008

Carbon trading critiques from The Cornerhouse

I have received the following email from The Cornerhouse, with analysis of carbon trading schemes. This will be useful for anyone advocating such schemes for inclusion in the Simultaneous Policy. There is a lot here, so I'll aim to digest at least some of it for future blogs.

On the Simpol discussion boards, take a look at the policy proposals: Contraction and Convergence and Tradeable Energy Quotas.

You can find a full listing of climate change related documents on the Cornerhouse website at:

---Quote cornerhouse email

'Billions wasted on UN climate programme'

'European Union’s efforts to tackle climate change a failure'

'UN effort to curtail emissions in turmoil'

'Truth about Kyoto: huge profits, little carbon saved'

These recent newspaper headlines tell the story. The world's dominant approach to dealing with the climate crisis –- carbon trading, the centrepiece of the Kyoto Protocol and the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme –- isn't working.

Yet, as if sleepwalking, international agencies and government authorities around the world continue to squander millions of taxpayer dollars trying to build or repair carbon markets.

As country after country undertakes its own complicated efforts to partition the world's carbon cycling capacity into saleable commodities, and entrepreneurs flood news media with unverifiable claims that they are increasing that capacity, fossil-fuelled industries are getting a new lease on life.

As speculators seek quick profits in a fast-growing 'wild west' marketplace, the need to find reliable ways to promote the structural change that would allow fossil fuels to be kept in the ground is being ignored or forgotten.

Why is this happening? What lies behind the belief that carbon markets can somehow be 'fixed' or 'regulated'? What can be done to move climate politics onto a saner path?

The Corner House has recently posted nearly a dozen new items on its website that shed light on these and related questions. We hope you find them useful and informative.

Best wishes from all at The Corner House


1) 'Carbon Trading: Solution or Obstacle?'


More and more commentators now recognise that carbon markets are not helping to address the climate crisis. But more discussion is needed of: how carbon markets damage more effective approaches; whether carbon markets could ever work at all; and why carbon trading has been successful in political terms despite failing in climatic terms.

2) 'Carbon Trading, Climate Justice and the Production of Ignorance: Ten Examples'


Carbon trading schemes have helped mobilise neoclassical economics and development planning in new projects of dispossession, speculation, rent-seeking and the redistribution of wealth from poor to rich and from the future to the present. A central part of this process has been creating new domains of ignorance. What does the quest for climate justice become when it is incorporated into a development or carbon market framework?

3) 'Toward a Different Debate in Environmental Accounting: The Cases of Carbon and Cost-Benefit'


Many mainstream environmentalists suggest that calculating and internalising 'externalities' is the way to solve environmental problems. Some critics counter that the spread of market-like calculations into 'non-market' spheres is itself causing environmental problems. This article sets aside this debate to examine closely actual conflicts, contradictions and resistances engendered by environmental accounting techniques and suggest what the long-term political and environmental consequences are likely to be.

4) 'Gas, Waqf and Barclays Capital: A Decade of Struggle in Southern Thailand'


Slowing and halting new fossil fuel developments must eventually move to the top of the global climate change agenda. But what are the obstacles to, and resources for, such a project? The 10-year struggle against a large natural gas development project in one corner of Southeast Asia offers lessons in some of the relevant themes of global politics: the use of military force to secure and transport fossil fuel resources; the regulation of international finance; sectarian violence; corporate social responsibility; intensely locally-specific yet internationally-reinforced, forms of class conflict and racism; and the question of how a more tenacious solidarity for the defence of community and commons might be built among diverse and all-too-often isolated movements in different geographical and cultural locations.


5) 'Pictures from the Carbon Market, Part 2'


This slide show of photographs continues a series portraying the practical, on-the-ground effects of the trade in carbon credits through the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism and the voluntary 'offset' market.

6) 'How Carbon Trading Undermines Positive Approaches to the Climate Crisis'


Carbon trading proponents often assert that trading is merely a way of finding the most cost-effective means of reaching an emissions goal. In fact, carbon trading undermines a number of existing and proposed positive measures for tackling climate change. These include the survival and spread of existing low-carbon technologies, movements against expanded fossil fuel use, and well-tested green policy measures. Carbon trading also undermines public awareness and political participation, as well as creating ignorance.


7) 'A Chicago Conversation on Carbon Trading' (at De Paul University)


A discussion hosted by the Climate Justice Chicago Coalition at De Paul University examines how carbon trading creates transferable rights to dump carbon, slows social and technological change, promotes socially and ecologically destructive practices and is ineffective and unjust.

8) 'Carbon Trading: A Lecture at Brigham Young University'



9) 'The Limits of Free Market Logic' (published in 'China Dialogue')


Carbon trading, its backers claim, reduces emissions and brings sustainable development in the global South. But in fact it may do neither, and is harming efforts to create a low-carbon economy. A Chinese version is appended.

10) 'Pollute and Profit' (published in Parliamentary Brief)


When will it be publicly admitted that the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme is not working? Industries are not switching to clean energy technology. The Scheme's guiding principle seems to be 'polluter profits' rather than 'polluter pays'.

11) 'The Carbon Neutral Myth: Offset Indulgences for Your Climate Sins' (published by the TransNational Institute)


Buying 'carbon offsets' to 'neutralize' your carbon emissions is all the rage in middle-class society in Europe and North America. This book explains why offsets are not a constructive approach to climate change.

June 17, 2008

Protecting the Congo Basin Forest

A few days ago I wrote of the possibility of polluter-pays taxes levied as part of the way to deal with climate change being used for a stewardship fund for the great forests, such as the Amazon. See:

Another candidate forest for such support is in the Congo Basin, the focus of an article in today's Guardian. See:

Here is an extract:

---extract begins
The biggest ever fund set up to battle deforestation was launched today, targeting the vast Congo basin rainforest in central Africa. Britain and Norway are providing £108m and will also supply satellite imaging technology to monitor the area.

The fund is intended to provide African governments and people living in the rainforest with a viable alternative to logging, mining, and felling trees for firewood and subsistence farming.

The Congo basin rainforest is the world's biggest after the Amazon, at about twice the size of France, but is rapidly dwindling. It is being cut down at the rate of 25,000 football pitches a week. Loss of trees is one of the biggest sources of the carbon dioxide warming the atmosphere, accounting for 18% of annual emissions.
---extract ends

The forest is a resource for the people of the Congo Basin. They can live off it sustainably, they can use it as a timber resource, they can clear the land for agriculture (as is happening with the Amazon forest). I imagine the situation is similar to Brazil where there are conflicting demands between preservation and using the forest to earn foreign income, perhaps on a managed way, more likely in an uncontrolled way.

An alternative option is to use the forest to earn income for preserving it.

Perhaps the UK and Norway are making funds available in a paternalistic way - you can find out more about the fund at:

There is the potential for the great forests to be valued as carbon sinks, with the capacity sold to carbon emitters. Instead of selling felled trees, rent the trees still standing. This provides a business for people in the region and, I think, is far better than arguing that the great forests should be internationalised or governments punished for not protecting them.

The Guardian article suggests this is a cheap way of off-setting emissions: "The estimated cost of reducing emissions by halting deforestation is £3 per metric tonne of CO2, compared to £50-100 a tonne for carbon capture schemes. Norway believes that their annual expenditure on combating deforestation could cut emissions equivalent to twice Norway's annual total."

Paying the Congo the basic cost of stopping deforestation is undervaluing their resource. The Congo can charge far closer to the costs of carbon capture schemes and still find custom, using the income to both protect and expand the forest and fund development.

The problem is there is an unequal power balance. Polluter nations feel they can offer a pittance for their carbon offsets, because there is not as yet a rigorous scheme in place such as 'Contraction and Convergence'. If such a scheme was brought in through the Simultaneous Policy, countries with forests would suddenly find they have a resource that earns them money by protecting the planet.

June 16, 2008

Our right to decide

The Irish have rejected the European Union Lisbon Treaty in a referendum by 53.4% voting 'No' and 46.6% voting 'Yes'. Turnout was 1.6 million.

While this is bad news for the EU project, it is further evidence that the Simultaneous Policy (SP) strategy is both necessary and correct.

The EU treaty has already been ratified by 18 of the other 27 Member States. In every case this has been by national governments, without consultation of citizens through a referendum. You can find a useful table on Wikipedia at:

In the UK the treaty is a hot political topic, particularly whether to hold a referendum or not. Despite promising a referendum on a proposed EU constitution (which was scrapped as referenda in France and the Netherlands opposed it), Prime Minister Gordon Brown is arguing the Lisbon Treaty is a lesser reform and so new rules apply: no referendum.

The rejection of the treaty by Ireland should derail the whole process as all 27 Member States are required to approve it. The EU Commission, the bureaucrats behind the treaty, led by EU President, José Manuel Barroso, suggest there are two options. The Irish could be asked to hold another referendum and vote yes, or the project proceeds with Ireland as a semi-detached member. The Commission argues that one 'No' should not trump the 26 'Yeses', assuming all other governments pass the treaty.

The Commission is, of course, valuing the 'Yeses' of national governments equally to the result of a referendum.

In a globalised world it is important to have supra-national agreements at regional and global level. The EU project has been flawed, however, by its democratic deficit. The unelected Commission has powers far greater than those of the elected Parliament and does dictate to or manipulate Member States. The Commission itself is the subject of much criticism for its handling of EU affairs, not least because it has been unable to get the accounts cleared by the European Court of Auditors for 13 years.

This leads to public distrust of the EU as a whole and the rejection of the constitution and now the Lisbon Treaty when the people have been asked (though in Spain the constitution was approved in a referendum). Governments, on the other hand, approve of the changes to the way the EU is to be run on the basis they will make it more effective and are a step towards a more democratic and accountable organisation. Will Hutton, writing in The Guardian, has argued that the views of the people of Ireland should be rejected on this basis:

"The European Union is a painfully constructed and fragile skein of compromises that allows 27 democratic states on our shared continent to come together and drive forward areas of common interest to further their citizens' well-being. The elite that plots this is a nonexistent phantom invented by populist demagogues. The beleaguered, unloved treaty would have improved Europe's effectiveness and tried to address its much talked about democratic weaknesses."

He concludes: "Maybe pro-Europeans can win Ireland's second referendum and then, in 2010 or 2011, our own. But referendums work best for the demagogue, the dissimulator and scaremonger, as Hitler and Mussolini, lovers of referendums, proved. Increasingly, Ireland and Britain are heading for the European exit and that could portend further break-up of the Union. Pro-Europeans look out."

This situation raises questions for the Simultaneous Policy (SP) campaign and Simpol, the growing network of national organisations that promotes it.

There are similarities and differences with the EU treaties.

A significant difference is that SP is limited to addressing global issues. It is not intended to harmonise national legislation as the EU does. There is no meddling with national sovereignty. The vast majority of politics is outside the scope of SP, as I observed in a recent blog.

The content of SP is propposed, discussed, developed and approved by SP Adopters - and anyone can sign up as an Adopter free of charge - not an elite. You can take a look at policies under discussion and the support they gained in the last round of voting at:

The policies will be finalised prior to implementation (see this blog for information on how implementation will be achieved). As the campaign develops, the number of Adopters involved in policy development and voting in all countries will continue to grow and become significant. Yet, it will still be an opt-in process. Accordingly the Simpol Founding Declaration undertakes that national approval by all citizens of voting age will be required. The only way I can see that working in practice is through 'Yes/No' referenda, like that in Ireland on the EU treaty.

SP will not be a 'one size fits all' package as Adopters in each country will have brought their views to the discussion. So hopefully the likelihood of support from other citizens will be high. We are talking about responses to global problems developed by the people, for the people.

But what if it does go wrong and a referendum in a country does not approve implementation? The politicians there who have pledged to implement SP alongside other governemnts when all, or sufficient, governments have made the same pledge can invoke the provisional nature of that pledge. If the final content is unacceptable they do not have to go ahead - indeed they should not go ahead if they do not have the approval of their citizens.

Whan all voting is in, those countries that have approved SP will still, hopefully, be sufficient for implementation to take place. If not, Adopters will have to look again. If so, then those countries who remain outside can seek changes or re-evaluate once they see the policies working in practice.

Having the country with the biggest global impact - the United States of America - involved is going to make a big difference to whether there are sufficient nations. The forthcoming Presidential election is the chance for US citizens to assert their sovereign democratic rights by calling for the candidates to pledge to implement SP alongside other governments. Whether you are a US voter or not, you can send a message using the form at:

Those supporting SP can do so safe in the knowledge that at the end of the day they can oppose its implementation. But also with the hope and expectation that SP will deliver the changes we need to address global problems and the political will to make them reality.

June 13, 2008

Fuel running out at UK petrol stations - a message from the future

There is panic buying of fuel in the UK at the moment as tanker drivers for Shell go on strike. See:

The strike is over pay, but the panic buying is a sign of things to come according to analysts who suggest that we are at Peak Oil - the point where all conceivable reserves are remaining oil are less than that already used.

Here is a graphic example of the situation with North Sea Oil, taken from the site The Oil Drum: (thanks to Chris for including this in a comment on the article I posted on Indymedia).

As I wrote recently, the price increases in oil, which have also caused panic, is explained by some by this reality (some say it is down to speculators playing the market). See:

The suggestion from the British Prime Minister that prices should be reduced by increasing pumping from the North Sea shows how blinkered politicians are over this problem. We have a finite resource, past its peak and demand is rising. How is increasing supply to reduce prices a sensible management strategy?

Take a look at the queues of motorists at petrol stations in the UK, stations running dry and the knock on effects, which could tip the UK economy into recession. You are looking at the future under the leadership offered by both the current government and the opposition.

There needs to be a better thought through strategy. One proposal put forward by a Simultaneous Policy Adopter is the Oil Depletion Protocol. You can find out more about that on the talkboard for the policy suggestion at:

Also see the website of the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre.

I'll write more on this and alternative policy suggestions in future blogs. Please do sign up as an SP Adopter and join in the discussion on the talkboards.

Call on your elected representatives to sign the pledge to implement the Simultaneous Policy alongside other governments as a parallel strategy to any other action you may take.

June 12, 2008

Outside the scope of the Simultaneous Policy

The lead story in the UK today is the resignation of an opposition politician (David Davis) to force a byelection which he says he will contest on the sole basis of the government's plan to increase the time that terrorist suspects can be held before the police have to file charges. The government won a vote in Parliament yesterday increasing the time period from 28 days to 42 days. See:

So what does this have to do with the Simultaneous Policy? Not a lot. Which is the point I want to make. The vast majority of politics is outside the scope of SP.

SP is intended for those issues where governments cannot take action because they fear doing so would put the country at a competitive disadvantage and so lose investment and jobs. Climate change is a good example of where action is compromised. For example, the British Confederation of Industry pressured the UK government to go to court in Europe in an attempt to loosen limits on polluting companies. See: UK victory rips hole in EU's pollution trading scheme. Although that attempt was ultimately unsuccessful, the CBI was saying just last month "All of us support the case for the auctioning of carbon allowances to sectors where this does not threaten their international competitiveness."

The CBI has campaigned against unilateral action in the past by suggesting that investment and jobs can easily drain away to other countries. Although to some degree it is bluster, businesses do shift investment and jobs when it improves their profitability and governments are justifiably wary of not responding to pressure from business leaders.

Most issues are not affected by destructive competition between nations. The detention period is an example. Countries have very different approaches to detention and the way investigations are conducted. SP is not intended as a method to impose a view on other countries and so it would be inappropriate for Adopters to propose a global limit on detention without trial, for example.

That's not to say that some may wish to do so, as is their right. But such a proposal is unlikely to gain widespread support.

think we can trust SP Adopters to only back policies that are necessary to address global problems and are sensible. No disrespect for Esperanto speakers, but that proposal gained just 13% support in the last round of voting (perhaps suprisingly high, but then the overall number of voters is still small). SP is not going to impose Esperanto on the world.

June 11, 2008

Protecting the Amazon

Last week pictures went around the world of natives in the Amazon rainforest firing arrows at the aircraft taking the pictures (here's a video news report on the BBC). The aircraft was from FUNAI, a Brazilian government organisation that exists to protect the interests of indigenous people. Official policy is to leave uncontacted tribes alone having learned from past experience that populations are devasted when they come into contact with new diseases for the first time.

FUNAI took the pictures to prove its case that there was an uncontacted tribe in the region and so they should be left alone. The tribe is believed to have arrived there having moved across the border from Peru to escape loggers.

Who owns the Amazon? Is it these tribes which date back thousands of years? The Brazilian government, which has sovereignty in international law for that on its territory? Or is it a resource that belongs to the whole of humanity?

A story popular in Brazil - that has been claimed to be an urban myth - is that in school books in the United States the Amazon is shown separately from Brazil as part of a plot to deny Brazilian sovereignty. Certainly there are calls for the rainforest to be taken into global stewardship as it locks up so much of the carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere.

We all have reason to be concerned about the Amazon. Ashleigh Meyer of the Global Commons Institute, which proposes the Contraction and Convergence approach to dealing with climate change (see yesterday's blog) talked of this at a past Simultaneous Policy forum. There is a risk that carbon sinks such as the Amazon could become carbon sources if climate change dries them out to the extent that forest fires start to become commonplace, so releasing the stored carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Apparently the frequency of forest fires is increasing. You can hear Ashleigh's presentation on SL-SPAG radio, which broadcasts a programme of talks on SP at:

We have had meetings about this in the virutal world Second Life SP Adopters' Group (SL-SPAG).

I was very fortunate to be able to visit the Amazon delta last month. I was speaking at Brazil's National Breastfeeding Conference on regulating the baby food companies, including a policy proposal I have submitted for inclusion in SP. I'll say more about that another time.

After the conference I was able to take a trip into the delta. Natives are living from the forest, collecting fruit to sell in the city.

In the course of the tour I spoke with Oswaldo, our guide, of the need to protect the Amazon as the 'lungs of the world'. He objected to this. Firstly on the basis that the Amazon does not produce all the oxygen we use (he cited a figure of 22%) and that at night it emits carbon dioxide. I corrected the terminology so we spoke instead of it being a carbon sink, locking up carbon in the timber.

Secondly he objected on the assumption that my next suggestion would be that the Amazon should be taken into global ownership to protect it. But this was not where I was heading and in the end we found ourselves in agreement.

It seems to me that if the Amazon is such a vitally important resource for locking up carbon dioxide which industrialised countries are churning into the atmosphere, most having largely destroyed their own forest cover, then it needs to be respected. It is a resource that benefits the world as a whole and so the rest of the world should help to pay for its maintenance, just as we pay a country for other resources, such as oil.

A polluter-pays approach to climate change would see collect taxes from polluters. This would provide an incentive to improve efficiency and so pay less tax. At the same time, the taxes raised should be used to address climate change too, both nationally (such as for investment in renewable sources of energy) and for a stewardship fund for important resources such as the Amazon.

The Brazilian government is trying to protect the Amazon with satellite surveys and armed authorities to enforce protected areas and licenses for permitted economic activity. But the place is absolutely immense. The stewardship fund could help pay for policing the Amazon.

But we need to go further. Brazil also wants to improve the living conditions of Brazilians and this places conflicting pressures on the Amazon. Around its edges, it is being cleared for agriculture. An analysis in the news weekly in Brazil, Veja, calculated that it is cheaper for a farmer to clear virgin forest than maintain cleared land for sustainable agriculture. Whatever the regulations may say, money talks. People in every country use their resources to improve their standard of living. So let us see if maintaining the forest for the benefit of others can me a more profitable use of it.

Farmers could receive funds for stewardship of the land, as is increasingly the case in European countries. Legally a licensed Brazilian farmer has to maintain 80% forest cover on owned land. This rule is often breached and poorly enforced. If farmers received payment for forest cover then the situation would change radically.

No doubt there would be all sorts of problems, as with 'set-aside' schemes that have paid farmers not to farm in industrialised countries. But perhaps those problems will be easier to deal with and less catastrophic than the Amazon dwindling away.

It was very interesting to have a Brazilian perspective on this idea. Unsurpisingly it is much more appealing - and practical - than the rest of the world trying to take over responsibility for the Amazon.

It would be great to have much more feedback and, ideally, a group of interested SP Adopters who can develop and promote any such schemes they have thought up. A good place to do this is on the 'Contraction and Convergence' discussion board at:

June 10, 2008

Let's shout about the price of oil

Being selfish could kill us all, but could also save us. That's my thought on reading of protests arising in disparate countries over the price of fuel and its knock on effect on the price of food.

Roads have been blockaded by angry truckers in the France, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The Guardian is reporting today:

---extract begins
Protests at rising fuel prices are not confined to Europe. A succession of developing countries have provoked public outcry by ordering fuel price increases. Yesterday Indian police forcibly dispersed hundreds of protesters in Kashmir who were angry at a 10% rise introduced last week. Protests appeared likely to spread to neighbouring Nepal after its government yesterday announced a 25% rise in fuel prices. Truckers in South Korea have vowed strike action over the high cost of diesel. Taiwan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia have all raised pump prices. Malaysia's decision last week to increase prices generated such public fury that the government moved yesterday to trim ministers' allowances to appease the public.
---extract ends

An article in the same newspaper reminds us of the need to cut emissions of greenhouse gases: "According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global emissions must be slashed by 50% to 80% by the year 2050 to avoid severe environmental disruption from global warming."

One proposal receiving high levels of support for inclusion in the Simultaneous Policy is Contraction and Convergence, which proposes a per capita limit on emissions, leading to a country total, which some countries are currently below, while others are well above it. The proposal is they converge so everyone has their fair share. Overall emissions are to be steadily contracted to sustainable levels which, as the IPCC suggests, are far lower than at present.

The price increases being experienced at the moment will have some impact as they will reduce the number of journeys taken, encourage local consumption (through increased prices for goods transported long distances) and not only result in less carbon gases going into the air, but less oil being used. It is, after all, a precious resource and some suggest we are at Peak Oil - the point where we have already used half of total conceivable resources, meaning we will fairly rapidly be reaching the bottom of the barrel.

Instead of welcoming high prices as part of the solution our leaders are doing exactly the opposite. They are calling for pumping of oil to be increased in the hope that extra supply will dampen the price.

The protests teach us two things. Firstly, our leaders think precious little about the future of the planet when faced with hostile headlines and people blockading roads. They think of lost votes, harm to the economy and their own political mortality. Hence the immediate response is to cut prices rather than, say, slapping a windfall tax on the bloated oil companies to invest in sustainable energy while appealing for efficiency improvements everywhere possible.

Secondly, people think precious little about the future when faced with increased prices for everyday necessities such as transport, energy and food. Yes, we want to save the planet, but living in a financial system that relies on loading people with debt, we also want to save ourselves from tipping into penury.

Because we are selfish, the politicians act as they do, for their own survival. Governments will fall if they cannot manage the crisis - or at least convince us the other lot would have done no better.

The problem with out-of-control and generally unexpected sudden increases is they have not been managed. They are a sudden blow to the wallet in the rich world and missed meals in the poor world. In the scramble to secure oil supplies, there is no targeting, no amelioration for those who end up being losers. As it is with oil and food, so it could be with many other aspects of our world if controlled transitions to new realities are not achieved.

Our leaders are ill-placed to achieve them, because they are driven by economic and political realities. Long-term planning may include some aspect of moving to a lower carbon economy and away from dependence on fossil fuels, but will more likely be focused on protecting the national interest and securing as much oil as possible, through coersion, blackmail and even force if necessary.

If something like Contraction and Convergence was in place things would be very different. The cut backs called for by the IPCC would not be aspirations, forgotten in the face of economic realities. They would be hard and fast limits, in the knowledge that failing to meet them would cause severe environmental disruption. The IPCC may keep saying it, but without an international agreement - ideally with some carrots and sticks to make it work - no targets will ever be hit.

We, the people, can take the lead by saying that we don't want out-of-control and unexpected price rises that can tip us over into insolvency and perhaps malnutrition, depending on where we live. We can take a look at the Contraction and Convergence proposal, alternatives to it and complementary policies. We can think about how we would like the world to be and build a consensus on how to get there, pretty darn quick. If we need to cut back on oil use, how about every person having the right to their per capita limit? If we use less, then we can sell our excess quota to someone else. If we want more, we pay those who are more efficient. If we live in a rural area, we can have a higher quota. And so on.

This would be no more complex than assigning tax codes and no harder to manage than swiping a bank card.

We learn to live within our income (including our credit limits in the calculation) so we can live within our energy limit. We can plan how to change our lifestyles as limits are cut. We can take to the streets not to protest just over the price of fuel, but over the lack of renewable energy, which could be exempt from quotas. If I want to buy my household energy from an offshore wind farm so I can save my quota for a flight to Brazil, but not enough wind farms have been built to meet the demand, then I will no longer be in a minority calling for them.

With this coming in through the Simultaneous Policy, my country will not be shooting itself in the foot by acting alone. Everyone will be taking similar action. Not identical, because countries are at different starting points, but there will be a global cooperative effort.

Today it is right to shout about fuel prices, particularly if they make it impossible to buy enough food to survive. But if we really want to protect our interests, the louder shout should be for our leaders to sign the pledge to implement SP alongside other governments so that, as quickly as possible, the various crises that threaten to spiral out of control come under effective management.

Transition will definitely happen. Let it be to a new cooperative reality, not a collapse.

The best way to shout is by signing up as an SP Adopter, which is free, by clicking here:

To preview policy suggestions before the next round of voting, or to discuss your own ideas, visit the Simpol discussion forum at:

June 9, 2008

Opportunities to comment : raising awareness of SP

There are many articles I read in the newspapers and on blogs where the issues discussed or the argument developed lead inevitably to the Simultaneous Policy (SP), but rarely actually reach it.

Articles are left hanging, perhaps highlighting a problem with no solution, or appealing for people to come together across national frontiers to address global problems, but without proposing a mechanism.

I use these opportunities when possible to leave a comment, send a letter to the editor and/or contact the author and often appeal on the simpol yahoo groups for other Adopters to do the same. The more people who send messages, the higher the profile of SP, the more likely a letter is to be published and the more likely authors will make the missing link to SP in future. The more people who are aware of SP, the more Adopters involved in discussing and voting on policies and the more likely politicians - and in consequence, governments - are to support and implement SP.

I'll write about some of these success stories in the future and also flag up chances to respond to articles as they arise, tagged 'opportunity to comment'. If you come across any other opportunities, please do post them to the yahoo campaign group, set up by simpol (the organisation that promotes SP). See:

Here's an article on The Guardian website from European Union Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, entitled: "Globalisation is Good" and my comment under the name spdevcambridge. Please do add your own comment to the article and recommend those on SP. See:


Peter Mandelson says above: "Rather than worry about a relative decline in their economic weight, or retreat from international engagement, the US and Europe should recognise that in an interdependent world, they have nothing to gain from a stalling of growth in the developing world. Instead they should focus on renewing the global institutions needed to hold this new mix of states together through difficult debates on climate change, energy security and trade."

Certainly we live in an interdependent world. Climate change, where pollution in the industrialised world, impacts on the planet as a whole is perhaps the clearest example. Our leaders are not doing a very good job of tackling it because each country puts its own economic interest first. Bush was blunt in saying he would do nothing to harm the US economy. But his successors are unlikely to be radically different and the UK's Labour Government tried to weaken its commitment to the European carbon trading scheme under pressure from business.

So what hope do we have that the global institutions will be reformed in any sensible way? Not much, I venture, if the debates at the World Trade Organisation, for example, are anything to go by.

Fortunately there are people with vision and proposals for addressing global problems through policies that have been proposed for inclusion in the Simultaneous Policy (SP). Anyone can take part in the discussion, put forward proposals and vote by signing up as an SP Adopter, which is free to do at:


Politicians from all main parties in the UK have signed a pledge to implement SP - the policies developed by we, the people, of the planet - alongside other governments. Simultaneous implementation removes the fear of first mover disadvantage. It also enables a coherent package of polices, where climate change is linked to trade reform is linked to improved regulation of transnational corporations and so on, as decided by Adopters.

SP is not an alternative to lobbying for change through conventional campaigns, but it does enable us to focus on the policies that are necessary not just those that will be tolerated. Join the discussion at:


Globalisation is only good if democratic accountability keeps pace.

June 7, 2008

Hear from your MP

If you are in the UK you can sign up to receive emails from your Member of Parliament. This is how I was alerted to a forthcoming event on climate change I sent to people on the Cambridge SP Adopters' Group email list (contact me if you are in the Cambridge area and want to be added).

Hear from your MP is a great site. Your MP gets emails encouraging him or her to use the service if not doing so already. As well as putting you on the mailing list, it allows you to post replies or email your MP directly. See:

This is what I have posted in response to the announcement for the event "How do we meet the climate change challenge?"


Action is required at every level: personal, local, national and international.

Significantly, however, national action faces an obstacle because governments fear it will harm the economy to act if other countries are not. Business leaders lobby for carbon caps and taxes to be as limited as possible, threatening to move production overseas. To overcome this genuine fear simultaneous action is needed. But at the international level action is watered down as countries put their own national economic interests first.

Overcoming the problem of competition between nations is the aim of the Simultaneous Policy (SP) campaign, which brings people together around the world to discuss the policies they wish to see implemented to address global problems. On climate change the policy of 'Contraction and Convergence' has gained significant support in annual voting rounds, though other proposals may eventually win through in the democratic process.

MPs are asked to sign a pledge to implement SP alongside other governments, when all, or sufficient, have made the same pledge. This is not an alternative to other action, but could take us so much further. Mr. Howarth has not yet signed, unlike many of his colleagues in the LibDems, and I ask him to do so. The more MPs that sign, the sooner this becomes government policy and the sooner SP can be finalised and implemented.

If you think this is a good approach, you can sign up as an SP Adopter to take part in the policy development and to send a signal to politicians that you will favour those who sign the pledge to implement SP. Find out more and join the discussion at: http://www.simpol.org.uk/forum/

June 5, 2008

World Environment Day: Alain Robert calls for action

Today is World Environment Day and an email drops into my inbox about Alain Robert climbing a sky scraper in New York to raise awareness of climate change.

You can send a message to world leaders gathering for the forthcoming G8 summit through his website:

The email alert explains more:

---email alert quote

He says "The Solution Is Simple":

1 – Stop Cutting Down Trees. Plant More Trees.
2 – Make Everything Energy Efficient.
3 – Only Make Clean Energy.

The cost of action is a simple matter of math. The cost of acting
NOW is far smaller than the cost of acting TOO LATE. But the time
for action is running out, fast.

World leaders know this, but are still not acting fast or bravely
enough. Last year in Bali, they failed to agree to ANY emissions
reduction targets, but rather to two more years of more talk.
TALK is no longer cheap; but we can't afford any more of it
instead of ACTION.

But there is hope in the changing of the guard among world
leaders. America's next President could help lead the way.
There's reason for hope. We urgently need a global agreement for
at least a 50 percent cut in emissions.

World leaders meet again next month at the G8 conference in
Japan. YOU can help make sure they get the message. Go to
http://www.thesolutionissimple.org and join your voice with ours.
Together we WILL be heard.
---email alert ends

But why are leaders not taking action and is the changing of the guard really that much cause for optimism? Certainly we have to try, but there could be another element to this campaign: supporting the Simultaneous Policy (SP).

I sent the following message in response:

---Mike to I Am an Activist email alert campaign
Many thanks for your email and link to:

I’m passing it on. What would be great, however, is if the message included a call for politicians to pledge to implement the Simultaneous Policy (SP) alongside other governments. The reason action is so lacking is because each government puts its own national economic interest first in international negotiations and is limited in what action it can take at home because business leaders oppose strong action with the threat that production and jobs will move overeseas.

Certainly we need to lobby politicians to stand up to this pressure and look beyond winning the next election (which is won on the economy, not environmental issues) to the future of the planet and our place on it.

At the same time people around the world are coming together to discuss the policies they wish to see implemented to address global problems. Simultaneous implementation of these policies overcomes the fear of putting the country at a competitive disadvantage. In annual voting rounds, the ‘Contraction and Convergence’ proposal has gained significant support, but other proposals may win through in the democratic process.

Campaign supporters, known as SP Adopters, call on their politicians to pledge to implement SP alongside other governments when all, or sufficient, governments have made the same pledge. Politicians around the world are doing so, bringing us closer to the point when SP can be finalised and implemented.

You can find out more about the campaign and the policies already put forward by Adopters at:

For me, SP has many benefits as a parallel strategy to other campaigning. It allows us to focus on solutions, rather than simply opposing. It allows us to think beyond what policies will be tolerated by powerful vested interests (the incremental approach) to what is really necessary. It allows us to make links between different areas (such as climate change, trade and disarmament – see the latest policy update on ‘Turning weapons into windmills’:

SP transcends national boundaries, so does not impose the policies of activists in the rich world, but invites and encourages people in all countries to discuss, develop and ultimately approve the policies to be implemented.

I hope it is something you can investigate and perhaps add a call to support SP to your campaign messages.

Best wishes,

---Mike's message ends.