In the years I have been attending and contributing to the World Bank / IMF Civil Society Policy Forum, I have witnessed a distinct and ongoing evolution. Multilateral institutions like the World Bank and IMF, which are funded by and directed by governments, and which do business with governments, have direct impacts on elements of society that are not in the room when decisions are made. So civil society organizations have an important role to play in highlighting and reducing major risk areas, and in shaping policies that lead to better outcomes.
Initially, the role for civil society seemed to be to raise the alarm, to be a grievance mechanism for people who suffered negative impacts from decisions made far away. Top officials at the World Bank and the IMF, in those days, would often respond with explanations and justifications. They were effectively defending against criticisms from outsiders that people working at these institutions felt did not reflect their intentions, their capacity or their experience. Now, the relationship is far more collaborative and constructive.
Last week’s World Bank / IMF Annual Meetings and Civil Society Forum were a breakthrough opportunity for ciitizen engagement and grassroots policy advocacy, on the inside of two of the world’s most powerful institutions. Citizens’ Climate Lobby was there, advocating for responsible climate policy, in line with the Pathway to Paris core principles. View my full Storify archive of tweets and links from the 2014 World Bank / IMF Annual Meetings and Civil Society Forum, by clicking here: storify.com/poeteconomist
[ The Note for September 2014 ]
The Cafe Cash Register Standard
There is a cafe I like to visit whenever I am near Villanova University, where I studied and taught for many years. A few years ago, someone staged an informal experiment, putting a stamp on a dollar bill to make it easily identifiable. Staff at this cafe reported receiving the bill in payment no less than 30 times in a 60-day period. That one dollar bill became $30 in gross domestic product (GDP). In this sense, the local economy of the cafe is a phenomenally efficient engine of economic productivity.
We need all hands on deck.
On the day of the UN Climate Summit, Sept. 23, 2014, Citizens’ Climate Lobby released its fully annotated Global Strategy Whitepaper, and launching its effort to pull together a coalition of stakeholders, thought-leaders, businesses, nonprofits and governments, to achieve an economically efficient, value-building plan to price carbon and transition to climate-smart economic and investment policies. Read More
The climate system is a complex of thermodynamic energy transfers, moving between the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. Our local experience of weather—hot summers, breezy autumns, monsoon rains, tropical cyclones, droughts, floods, blizzards and mudslides—is an expression of the way climatic forces play out over time.
[ The Note for August 2014 ]
Inaction to confront and reduce the risks of ongoing climate destabilization is bad fiscal policy. That is the message coming from the International Monetary Fund, the world’s leading fiscal rescue institution. The IMF deals with countries in default, or whose fiscal solvency is so delicate as to verge on catastrophe. In late 2013, one island nation saw 15% of annual GDP wiped out in 3 hours of unprecedented rain. Such sudden, unpredictable impacts make reliable fiscal policy planning impossible, because the value of any one dollar of spending or investment is so destabilized.
The loss of Robin Williams leaves a great void. Of a few artists, it can be said they are both truly unique and also gifted with an ability to reach virtually any human being through their work. He was one of these. He had an unbelievable ability to make you pay attention, to watch him just be; he seemed to wear his thoughts like an aura of light and haze. He dazzled with life, and when he became quiet, he could break your heart with just a syllable, a word, a whisper.
When I heard Robin Williams had died, it hit me with a shocking amount of force. I was not ready for that, nor had I ever thought about what it would feel like. I realize now it had never occurred to me that this comic genius would leave us. Friedrich Nietzsche explained that the origin of comedy was in our fear of mortality. Because without the benefits of civilization we were once so vulnerable, surprise tends to carry with it a moment of terror. When the surprise comes, and nothing happens except curious quip, or something funny and unexpected unfolds before our eyes, someone is playing the clown, it unleashes a wave of sudden good feeling.
A Clear Price Signal to Visualize the Optimal Energy Investment Shift
[The Note for July 2014]
The single most significant obstacle to moving major investment capital into clean energy is uncertainty about the future market value of doing so. Will such a move put a business at a competitive advantage or at a relative disadvantage, if everyone else is buying cheap fuel that fits seamlessly into the prevailing infrastructure? What has long been missing is a way to move market-dominant private-sector capital into clean alternatives. In a sense, the biggest challenge everyone is facing, when thinking about the future, is how to visualize the future itself, and how to trust that one’s visualization is reliable. The most cost-effective and practically efficient way to do this is with a clear, decisive price signal that allows market players to more clearly visualize an optimal investment-transition trajectory.
Part 3: 7,200 Hours of Education for Principled Civics
With over 600 volunteers, spending between 8 and 16 hours learning, strategizing and coordinating, the 2014 Citizens’ Climate Lobby Conference provided roughly 7,200 total hours of education. That time empowers volunteers to do better work as citizens on Capitol Hill, but also delivers that training, through them, to our local groups, all across the United States.
The debate about climate change has, for too long, operated on the false premise that some scientists think one way, and some, who are equally qualified and experienced, think the opposite. This has led a large number of people, though by no means a majority, to believe climate science is pure theory. The fact is: no single issue in the history of observational science has been so widely peer-reviewed, by so many experts in so many fields, nearly all of whom concur that the actual, ongoing changes in the Earth’s climate are the direct result of the unregulated dumping of unnatural amounts of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.