Climate Home News reports angrily that an industry-led deforestation project in Indonesia that had wound down in 2014 just got a new government-funded lease on life courtesy of those international climate funds that are supposed to be saving us from global warming. By turning the site into a biomass plantation, and promising that the government electric company would buy the power, it actually subsidized deforestation. Like the old Soviet central planning, climate central planning makes very crude guesses about key indicators and then forces everyone to act in accordance with those guesses rather than in response to what real people actually want. It always ends up in tragedy, but meanwhile, and from a safe distance, there is an element of comedy. Such as Japan subsiding a coal plant in Bangladesh as part of its climate pledge.
“ITALY helped a retailer open chocolate and gelato stores across Asia. The United States offered a loan for a coastal hotel expansion in Haiti. Belgium backed the film ‘La Tierra Roja,’ a love story set in the Argentine rainforest. And Japan is financing a new coal plant in Bangladesh and an airport expansion in Egypt.”
Dang. That coal plant’s gotta hurt. As for the airport, well, they can put another thermometer there and get their UHI money’s worth. Reuters thinks the problem is that:
“Developed nations have pledged to funnel a combined total of $100 billion a year toward this goal, which they affirmed during climate talks in Paris in 2015. The funding helped crown Japan and the United States as two of the top five contributors. Although a coal plant, a hotel, chocolate stores, a movie and an airport expansion don’t seem like efforts to combat global warming, nothing prevented the governments that funded them from reporting them as such to the United Nations and counting them toward their giving total. In doing so, they broke no rules. That’s because the pledge came with no official guidelines for what activities count as climate finance.”
They want an agreed international set of planning targets. They would. But the trouble is that targets reward hitting targets not making people happy. (Thus, infamously, if the Soviets set window factory quotas by square footage they got thin windows that shattered, and if by weight, ones too thick to see through.) And indeed:
“Japanese officials consider the power and airport projects green because they include cleaner technology or sustainable features. A U.S. official said the hotel project counts because it includes stormwater controls and hurricane protection measures. A Belgian government spokesman defended counting the grant for the rain-forest movie as climate finance because the film touches on deforestation, a driver of climate change.”
Apparently Italy couldn’t explain the chocolate. But who needs an excuse? Maybe it fights the depression attendant on knowing we’re all doomed by global warming. Or uses fair trade beans that fight deforestation. You can always find an excuse. Whereas you cannot track out all the consequences of your behaviour unless you let market pricing dictate that resources go where people actually value them. The one thing nobody wants to do.
On the other side of the ledger, except it’s another case of real-world data clashing with political estimates of “value”, The Economist offers an exposé “Who is keeping coal alive?/ The financiers saving the world’s dirtiest fuel from extinction” that notes all those pious promises by banks and investment firms not to back coal and praises those seeking to disrupt shareholder meetings. “Yet King Coal looks brawnier than ever.” Yes, because the world needs it to keep the lights on, so it’s profitable, so coal companies get money selling it. How weird is that?
Also, some of the apparent rules against financing it can be gamed, and are being. Also apparently unforeseen. “In short, few banks are ready to hurt their top line or their country’s supply” gasps a publication whose name apparently does not describe its typical mode of analysis.