Copenhagen: Self-Assembling Structures in Dynamic Networks;
A Dangerous Development for Globalisation?
London, UK - 23rd December 2009, 13:55 GMT
Dear ATCA Open & Philanthropia Friends
[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]
We are grateful to:
. The Lord Howell of Guildford, President of the British Institute of Energy Economics, from The Palace of Westminster, for “Self-Assembling Structures in Dynamic Networks”;
. Prof Prabhu Guptara, Chairman, UBS Think Tanks, and Executive Director, Wolfsberg, Switzerland, for “A Dangerous Development for Globalisation?”;
in response to The Copenhagen Socratic Dialogue:
. Hervé de Carmoy, Vice-Chairman, Trilateral Commission Europe, and Chairman, ETAM, Paris, for "Convergence of National Interests";
. Dr Harald Malmgren, Chief Executive, Malmgren Global, Washington DC, who has worked for Four US Presidents, for "Dynamics of 21st Century Power Structures"; and
. Prof Jim Rollo, Professor of European Economic Integration, University of Sussex, England and Editor of the Journal of Common Market Studies (JCMS), for "Carbon Trade War?";
. Bill Emmott, Distinguished ATCA Contributor and Independent Writer, "Is the Copenhagen Analysis Right?";
. The ATCA Briefing, "Copenhagen Accord Heralds Geo-Political Power Shift".
Self-Assembling Structures in Dynamic Networks
Dear DK and Friends
Please allow me to join, after a bit of reflection, in the Diet of Copenhagen post-mortem.
The maximalist approach at Copenhagen -- the search for a great global, and even legally binding, deal -- was always bound to fail. Too many of our governing and political class do not understand that our world is created and organised via LOCAL RULES -- and increasingly so in this age of world-wide web empowerment.
As any good scientist will tell you the protein molecules which make up the living process come together to form living cells or embryos on a basis of self-assembly. There is NO overall plan or top-down imposed blueprint. Every molecule is driven by its own local rules. The whole behaviour pattern is bottom-up. The same goes for the formation of crystals. Ditto in the Copenhagen case! The world energy transition, and the advance of green technologies, products and lifestyles, is going to come about through the behaviour of peoples and their governments and societies, not through some universal carbon-limiting master-plan.
If investors in green energy systems are going to wait for a globally applied limiting and pricing system for carbon they will wait in vain. We just need in each nation state to get on with our own transition measures. And we need to understand that China, with its tiny per capita emissions and its total dependence on hugely increased energy consumption to lift hundreds of millions more out of mediaeval rural poverty, is right to do exactly the same. So why don't we just get on here in the UK and bring in a settled carbon tax/price which will give the green light to EDF and others -- at present amber or red -- to start building new nuclear plants and to provide a clear path for real Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) research and development?
Let others catch up as they will. At least we would then be on our own sure path to energy security and cheaper, not more expensive, non-fossil energy. In short, let's follow our own local rules and see how they adhere in due course to the evolving wider global pattern.
A word on power shifts, West to East. Of course there is nothing new here. Some of us have been pointing out the changing world balance for fifteen years now. [Easternisation circa 1995] But it is NOT a question of superpower status simply being transferred to China, because the central lesson of the network age is that there are NO more super-powers.
Power has not only drifted away from America and the Atlantic West. It has been dispersed into the myriad source points of the world-wide web and its media outlets. Not only is the mindset of Western superiority (and the quaint idea that an American President can 'fix' everything) completely out of date. The similar mindset that the Chinese are capable of world leadership is equally dated. They will be very hard pressed to manage their own internal affairs and respond to the forces of change and innovation welling up from beneath.
The maximalist approach and its authors have done great political damage to our future. If Copenhagen brings that home to some of them then it will have at least done some good.
I should add that despite the misguided distraction of the Diet of Copenhagen -- and the snark-like hunt for a global deal -- in practice technological and innovative brilliance is meanwhile breaking out in all sorts of societies and regions round the planet, where it is allowed and encouraged to.
Namely, The whole Green Gulf project: the Mediterranean green energy plans of Prince Hassan and others; the endless American ingenuity (driven by the desire for energy independence and security);The Japanese with their constant low carbon innovation at every level; our own British inventiveness (especially in key fields of vast efficiency improvements in energy generation and transmission); masses of initiatives along the low carbon path in China (they are way ahead of us in many areas!); France's glorious civil nuclear programme (done, I recall, without any concern about carbon emissions whatsoever!); and a million other greening developments in rich countries and poor, in cities and in rural areas (and forest regions); all driven by the inextricable link between energy and prosperity, plus the imperative need to produce that energy cheaply and reliably.
Let's forget the Diet of Copenhagen and move on, And let's have accountable political leaders and advisors who really understand what moves the human spirit at its grassiest roots to be at once creative, provident and generous.
Enough said - for the moment!
The Right Honourable Lord (David) Howell of Guildford, President of the British Institute of Energy Economics, is a former Secretary of State for Energy and for Transport in the UK Government and an economist and journalist. Lord Howell is Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords and Conservative Spokesman on Foreign Affairs. The Lord Howell of Guildford also Chairs the Windsor Energy Group. Until 2002 he was Chairman of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group, (the high level bilateral forum between leading UK and Japanese politicians, industrialists and academics), which was first set up by Margaret Thatcher and Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1984. In addition he writes a fortnightly column for The JAPAN TIMES in Tokyo, and has done so since 1985. He also writes for the International Herald Tribune and the Yorkshire Post. David Howell was the Chairman of the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, 1987-97. He was Chairman of the House of Lords European Sub-Committee on Common Foreign and Security Policy from 1999-2000. In 2001 he was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure (Japan). His latest book, 'Out of the Energy Labyrinth' has been described as 'a serious and thoughtful attempt to grapple with the complexities of the energy challenge and foreign policy', by James R Schlesinger, and as 'a terrific book, not least because of its topicality' by Sir Simon Jenkins.
A Dangerous Development for Globalisation?
Dear DK and Friends
Many thanks for the ATCA Briefing on Copenhagen and subsequent postings by Bill Emmott, Hervé de Carmoy, Dr Harald Malmgren and Prof Jim Rollo.
My personal view is that the G-2 would not have been the G-2 if China had not found common interest -- in avoiding the drastic cuts proposed by the EU -- on the one hand with the US and on the other hand with at least India, Brazil and South Africa.
It is fairly clear that the interests of the US will not always coincide with China's, and it is equally clear that China's interests will not always coincide with those of India, Brazil, South Africa and other developing countries.
Whenever these differences surface, and they will surface more and more from now on for the foreseeable future, we will succeed in having fewer new global rules, and even less agreement on the implementation of whatever global rules have existed till now. I submit that that is a dangerous development for globalisation, keeping in mind that, for globalisation as for economics, the natural obverse of lack of growth is not stability, it is shrinkage.
I submit further, therefore, that we have to be alert to the fact that the stage is now set, whether through carbon trade wars -- as noted by Prof Jim Roll -- or through other means, for continued protectionism and competitive devaluation of currencies (China has been leading in the latter for a couple of decades, with the US, the UK and other countries not far behind, and even Switzerland has occasionally joined in the game).
Those two factors, protectionism and competitive devaluation of currencies, are exactly the fundamental factors that led to the last World War. So, post-Copenhagen, even if we entirely ignore the climate dimension, we are in a much more dangerous world simply in terms of trade, economics and politics, than we were earlier.
We may or may not like the outcome from Copenhagen, but we are now in a situation where the US alone cannot carry things, and where even the US and EU together may not be able to carry things without the agreement of China, India, Brazil, South Africa and so on. Given that democracy is still relatively thin outside the US, the EU and India, what does that portend for the future of the globe?
And what of the main burden of Copenhagen itself? We may summarise as follows: China and the US (with India and the rest) successfully resisted EU pressure to move the whole of the globe in a disputedly-sensible direction.
China is now well set to emit more environmentally-damaging products into the atmosphere and the waters in the next 30 years than what the US did in its entire history. If the scientific consensus on climate chaos is wrong, then whatever the consequences for China's own environment, that is no great environmental problem for the rest of the world. But if the scientific consensus turns out to be right, the result of China's pollution will be global environmental disaster that will deluge more Chinese than people of any other country in the world.
The effect of India's -- 2nd largest-deleterious -- emissions will be, similarly, that India will have the second-largest "hit" from the rise in sea-levels, the disappearance of Himalayan snow-cover and water-flow, and other environmental disasters.
In brief, while China and India are crowing about their "victory" at Copenhagen, if the climate consensus is right, China and India will find that crowing is replaced by the even-louder wails of the dead, the dying and the mourners. Developing countries, far from being delighted with their new "power" will turn out to have simply shot themselves in their own hearts. The developing countries have sought to stymie global pressure to stop doing the wrong things. Yet, they may have successfully stymied that global pressure to do the right things...
This is a historic reversal from the global trend towards morality, democracy, human rights and environmental concern which increasingly marked the globe from the sixteenth century due to the Protestant Reformation and its impact in fields as diverse as education, morality, the rule of law, and the creation of nation states -- as distinct from kingdoms -- which were increasingly forced to trim their "sovereignty" to moral concerns such as decent treatment of minorities, the notion of just war, and the use of regulation to force responsibility on the elites. We may call this the secular impact of Protestantism. As I have demonstrated in detail elsewhere -- eg in Joseph Straus (ed) -- the consequent gains to humanity started being reversed with the rise in the popularity of an attitude represented by Ayn Rand, and given political expression by Reagan and Thatcher. That attitude we may slightly caricature as: "greed is natural, greed is good, and provided we can be successfully greedy (with perhaps a few crumbs thrown to the hoi polloi) the rest will look after itself".
The non-agreement at Copenhagen can therefore be considered the triumph of the Randian approach, at least for the moment.
May I close, in spite of all, with best wishes for Christmas and 2010!
Prabhu Guptara is Distinguished Professor of Global Business, Management and Public Policy, William Carey University, Meghalaya, India; Member, Organising Committee, stars09, Switzerland; and Executive Director, Organisational Development, at Wolfsberg -- The platform for Business and Executive Development, a Swiss subsidiary of UBS, one of the largest banks in the world -- where he organises and chairs the famed UBS Think Tanks and the Distinguished Speaker series of events. Prof Guptara has professional experience with a range of organisations around the world, including Barclays Bank, BP, Deutsche Bank, Kraft Jacob Suchard, Nokia, the Singapore Institute of Management and Groupe Bull. A jury member of numerous literary competitions in Britain and the Commonwealth, he has been a guest contributor to all the principal newspapers, radio and TV channels in the UK, as well as media in other parts of the world. Professor Guptara has been Visiting Professor at various other international universities and business schools. He is a Freeman of the City of London and of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists; and Fellow of the Institute of Directors, and is included in Debrett's People of Today.
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