Babylonian Times

Hooray! We have a global deal!

If only mainstream media coverage, or the lack of it, would stop for one second and peep behind the palpable relief displayed by environment ministers that the UNFCCC show is still on the road following the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico in December 2010. To be discovered are the same corporate-influenced, market-based mechanisms that have been failing to fight climate change ever since the Kyoto Protocol was first signed in 1997. Take the example of Carbon Capture and Storage projects (CCS), which are now permitted as offset-credit generating projects under the UN Clean Development Mechanism. CCS was deemed to be a “relevant technology” to the “attainment of the ultimate goal” of stopping climate change. So, a failing mechanism that provides ample opportunity for corruption, and credits that permit multinational corporations to continue emitting in their core business, will now also provide added legitimacy, investment and testing ground for CCS. That is providing the technology can be deployed in an “environmentally safe” way that avoids carbon “seepage”; so an unproven technological excuse for the burning of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, is included in the global mechanism designed to stop runaway climate change. Great.


The unpublic inquiry into the public bank

As holders of 84% of the Royal Bank of Scotland's (RBS) shares, you would think the public (or the government, rather) would be entitled to read the Financial Services Authority's (FSA) inquiry, which concluded on 2nd December that no “instances of fraud or dishonest activity” have been identified at the failed bank. RBS executives were merely, according to Lord Turner, the head of the FSA, “doing what executives and boards in other sectors of the economy do: sometimes getting judgements right and sometimes wrong.” That 'getting it wrong' meant the largest corporate losses in UK history, contributing to bring down the global economy and causing a massive recession, seems irrelevant. How this does not equate to 'governance failings' is unclear, but that lack of clarity is, according to the FSA, just something we'll all have to get used to: confidentially legislation means the regulator is unable to publish the findings. Well, we wouldn't want to overturn the matrix of laws protecting corporations, and the financial sector in particular, from acting with impunity without fear of comeuppance now, would we? Oh, hang on, it's all OK now: Lord Turner has promised a brief report (though not a "detailed blow-by-blow account") outlining the key events in the run-up to the bank's near-collapse and its bail-out by the government. The FSA just need RBS's agreement, which the bank is currently withholding, to proceed.


Rent a cop

Police are leading the way in responses to the UK public spending cuts: bringing in the private sector, just as the coalition government would want. A conference sponsored by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in January 2011 aimed to create “intelligent [seriously?!] and carefully crafted relationships between the police and industry.” The programme includes a “strategy panel of police leaders and industry” focusing on IT, custody, command and control, call handling, air support, forensics and the police estate. Legislation appears to remain a “formidable obstacle” to the privatisation of policing, so expect that to change soon. But have no fear, this gathering of luminaries thankfully includes “serious contributions” from Sir David Omand, a senior civil servant who apparently “now thinks deeply about business strategy.” We can't help but wonder whether Omand was 'thinking deeply' when he recommended to Jack Straw and Tony Blair that John Scarlett, author of the infamous Iraq WMD dossier, head up MI6, or when he helped decide that David Kelly must be pursued for talking to the media about the 'dodgy dossier'.


Portaloo shortage in 2012

Glastonbury Festival supremo Michael Eavis has denied reports that the festival is taking a break in 2012 because the London Olympics will cause a shortage of portable lavatories (portaloos). He did admit, however, that the Olympics played a part in his decision to make 2012 one of the festival's regular rest years, due to the police being over-stretched. But it remains likely that a distinct lack of portaloos may have been a contributing factor in the decision, given that portaloos are only provided by four suppliers and that 2012 would be a toilet-supplier's dream year, with piss prices inevitably being pushed up.