Category Archives: politics

The Rich Don’t Pay Their Taxes Yet They are the Biggest Polluters

 Just published on Impakter:

Doctor Vijay Mallya’s personal aircraft. Kingfisher Airlines  Source: Michael Davis  CC BY-SA 2.0 

The Rich Don’t Pay Their Taxes Yet They Pollute The Most

by Claude Forthomme – Senior Editor

“The secret IRS files” is a trove of never-seen-before tax records showing how the 0.01%, billionaires like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, and Mark Zuckerberg, actually get away with paying nearly no taxes. Just obtained from the US tax authorities by ProPublica, a non-profit newsroom that investigates the abuses of power, it is the first result of an ongoing investigation with assuredly more revelations to come. For the first time, we have indisputable evidence that the ultra-rich do not pay taxes that could be remotely considered as commensurate with their wealth or fair to the rest of the taxpayers. 

This is all the more shocking if you confront the ProPublica finding with a report from Oxfam, published in September last year, that showed how the lifestyle of the rich destroys the environment: The One Percent – just 63 million people out of the planet’s total 7.9 billion – are responsible for 15% of the carbon emissions.

Let’s take a closer look at the findings. In so doing, I think we’ll end up agreeing with what historian Rutger Bregman, the author of Utopia for Realists, told a room full of billionaires at the Davos World Economic Forum 2019, that they need to “step up and pay their fair share of taxes”:

See the video on Impakter, click here to read the article.

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Filed under climate change, Environment, politics

A Serious Idea the G20 Should Consider: A Sustainable World Commission to Achieve the 17 SDGs

It took me weeks to develop the idea and many, many discussions with friends willing to listen to me and read all my various drafts. Here is the result, just published on Impakter:

A (Non) Modest Proposal for the G20: A Sustainable World Commission to Achieve the SDGs 

by Claude Forthomme – Senior Editor

The next G20 Summit Meeting of heads of state will be held in Rome on Oct. 30 and 31, 2021, under the Italian G20 Presidency. The agenda, with the title “People, Planet, Prosperity”, addresses major obstacles to achieving a sustainable world; a series of lower-level “working” meetings prepares the Summit, including, most recently: G20 Empower to identify measures to accelerate women’s empowerment; the Youth 20 Inception Meeting to open a two-month (virtual) dialogue for young delegates (between 20 and 30 years of age) to discuss global challenges; the G20 TechSprint Initiative under the sponsorship of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) Innovation Hub and the Bank of Italy focusing on the most pressing challenges in green and sustainable finance.

With “People, Planet, and Prosperity” focused on achieving a sustainable world, the G-20 agenda is fully in line with the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that covers the whole gamut of sustainability issues from environment/climate change to social justice issues and economic development. The hope is that this G20 meeting will be powerful enough to move us toward a more sustainable world as defined by the SDGs – something we all seek, including advanced industrialized countries, according to the latest OECD paper calling for a “Green Transition”.

But how to get there? The time has come to decide not what should be done – the UN 2030 Agenda tells us that – but how to do it.

No doubt, there are many possible solutions, but here, I offer a (non) modest proposal. Not modest because it is very ambitious. But it has the advantage of being practical. And it is addressed to the G20 and everyone involved in the run-up to the upcoming Summit. 

Why the G20? Because today this is the one international organism most representative of the world’s geopolitical composition, as it includes both the most important leaders and the largest economies. 

The idea is simple and could be summarized in five points:

  • The goal of a sustainable world has been clearly spelled out in the UN 2030 Agenda and the 17 SDGs but the implementation – how to get there – has been left in the hands of national governments: 
  • No international organization as presently organized is equipped to carry through the necessary coordination to achieve the 17 SDGs; the UN cannot deliver, it has no coercive authority over its member states and in the hands of geopolitical powers;
  • A new governance system needs to be set up to achieve the 17 SDGs, an international institution able to coordinate national governments in a way that the United Nations system cannot: Strong, independent, and innovative, it could be modeled after a successful government agency such as NASA was after it was tasked by President Kennedy to take a man to the moon ;
  • Call it the Commission for a Sustainable World (CSW); while it could follow the NASA model, it would be mandated to achieve a far bigger task – namely, to make the world sustainable for eight billion people – and therefore require adequate funding and regulatory powers;  
  • The CSW must be independent like the European Commission is in its relations with EU member states; it would report on progress to the UN General Assembly and the G20, subject to review, say every 3-5 years, and limited in duration by a “sunset clause” to ensure that once the SDGs are achieved, the CSW would be terminated.

The key idea here is that the CSW is a hybrid institution, modeled after the European Commission but anchored in the UN systemyet much stronger than the UN. 

But it should not become a permanent new international organization or replace the UN.

Also, the CSW would pose no threat to national sovereignty as it would only operate in the areas agreed to by the UN General Assembly: UN 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. That means only two broad areas: The environment (which includes Climate Change) and social justice. And the CSW would regularly report to the UN and the G20 (should the G20 take it upon itself to promote and fund it) and be subject to review to ensure that management flexibility does not cause it to sink into corruption and that it remains within its mandate.

A note of caution: Some flexibility will be needed as the SDGs’ general timeframe is 2030 except for SDG13 (Climate Action) that includes the Paris Climate Agreement’s target to achieve zero-net emissions set at 2050. Also, problems evolve and unexpected events occur – for example, the COVID pandemic was barely mentioned under SDG#3. It would seem wise therefore to have the Commission established for at least 10-15 years. By going for even 10 years you have it running beyond the 2030 Agenda’s current life.

The goal is to give the new governance system a chance to show its worth and, if need be, adapt it to new circumstances. Here is what it would take to create such an institution. And it starts with our changing view of the role of government.

Sounds like a good idea? Interested in finding out more about the Sustainable World Commission? Click here to read the rest.

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Filed under climate change, Economics, Environment, European Union, politics, Uncategorized

The U.S. and Europe Announced New Climate Goals: Will They Be Enough?

We keep hearing about wonderful new goals for fighting climate change, but will they be enough to save us from the worst effects of global warming? The numbers, by themselves, mean little. What matters is what is behind them: Investment in “green” innovative projects and a government’s environmental regulatory framework. I explored the issue in the following article for Impakter, here is the opening:

Can the New US and EU Climate Goals Save the World?

by Claude Forthomme – Senior Editor

Last week in April was marked by the announcement of new, more ambitious climate goals from two of the world’s largest polluters, the United States and Europe. Could they be a turning point in the fight against climate change? The question really is: Are the new climate goals going to be game-changers? Or are they just so much powder in the eyes of the beholders?

On 21 April, the European Parliament and Council reached an informal agreement to raise the EU’s 2030 emissions reduction target to at least 55% below 1990 levels, compared with the previous 40% goal. And on 22-23 April, the U.S. announced its own ambitious goal of cutting its 2030 emissions by half. This announcement, given at the Leaders Summit on Climate convened by President Biden, was viewed by everyone as a major attempt by the U.S. to reclaim climate leadership.

Read the article on Impakter, click here: https://impakter.com/new-us-eu-climate-goals-save-world/

Let me know what you think.

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Filed under Business, climate change, Environment, European Union, politics

Seaspiracy: A Must-Watch Documentary but Don’t Believe the Message!

Recently, some of my friends called me in anger after watching Seaspiracy, one of those highly controversial documentaries streaming on Netflix. They said the documentary was spreading nonsense and hurting the work of dedicated environmental activists and that I should watch it. So I did. And yes, I found my friends were right to be angry. So I published an article about it on Impakter, here is the opening of my article:

Seaspiracy: Shocking Revelations but Wrong Data and Wrong Message

by Claude Forthomme – Senior Editor

After the award-winning 2014 Cowspiracy documentary funded by Leonardo di Caprio and the 2017 What The Health film, now we have from the same people Seaspiracy – out on Netflix since 24 March 2021. Cowspiracy argued that animal farming is the primary source of environmental destruction, What The Health advocated for a plant-based diet. Seaspiracy,  directed by Ali Tabrizi, a British filmmaker using the same narrative framework as Cowspiracy, aims a powerful “J’accuse!” to the sustainable seafood movement and suggests that the Dolphin Safe and Marine Stewardship Council labels probably do not give the assurances consumers expect. 

George Monbiot, the noted environmentalist and Guardian columnist who was given a prominent role in the documentary as a commentator, described it on Twitter as “a brilliant exposé of the greatest threat to marine life: fishing”.

Read the rest on Impakter, click on the title or click here.

You may not agree with my conclusions – but surely it seems rather absurd to call on people to stop eating fish as a way to address the deep and complex problems of our oceans – not to mention the fact that a lot of artisanal fisheries and coastal populations live off fishing (and their type of fishing does not destroy the oceans). 

In short, to solve the problem, much more needs to be done, stopping our fish consumption is just plain silly. Do read my article and see if you agree!

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Filed under Health, politics, United Nations

They are ALL lying to you: The world’s top brands are NOT going green

 This is one major article, published on Impakter, that I don’t want you, my dear readers, to miss:

For the World’s Top 100 Brands, Sustainability Is Elusive Despite Claims

by Claude Forthomme – Senior Editor

For the 2020 Top 100 Global Brands, a list derived from Forbes World’s Most Valuable Brands, the goal of sustainability continues to be out of reach, despite their many claims to the contrary. This is what the findings of a three-month analysis carried out by the Impakter Index team has just revealed (results published on 18 December 2020). 

The conclusion is clear: Most companies have a long way to go before they achieve full sustainability in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and targets pertaining to their area of activity – if ever. 

A high level of “greenwashing” is still prevalent among major household names. Some of them haven’t even started on the road to sustainability, others can never make it because of the very nature of their activities (based on/using fossil fuels or dangerous chemicals). Most are doing an average job though they claim otherwise, and none is one-hundred-percent sustainable. Not one. 

I know that many of my readers who’ve read my article when the Index was launched this summer (31 July), or saw Common Place editor, Quincy Childs’ endorsement, will want to go directly to the Impakter Index and check out their favorite brand (go to the Impakter home page or click here to see). You may well be surprised (or perhaps not) to find that in most cases, there is a stunning gap between what companies claim and what they actually deliver in terms of sustainability and social responsibility. 

Look at the findings, the table provides a summary view of the ratings obtained by the top 100 brands:

To find out how they are rated by the Impakter Index, go to my article, click here.

I promise you, you’ll be surprised (I know I was)!

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Filed under Business, climate change, Economics, Environment, politics, Sociology

The World After COVID: Back to Capitalism as We Know it or Something New?

 Last week I reviewed two amazing books that propose a new world after COVID, doing away with capitalism as we know it but using radically different means to achieve this goal. Both my reviews were published on Impakter. Here’s the opening of my article:

Post-COVID: Blueprints to End Capitalism As We Know It

Capitalism as we know it is morphing into an “awful kind of techno feudalism” that only deserves to die, says Yanis Varoufakis. A radical statement but coming from the former finance minister of Greece who famously battled the European Troika for the Greek cause at the height of the debt crisis in 2015, it is no surprise.

Can activists in their battle against shareholder capitalism use financial engineering to bring Wall Street to its knees? That is the scenario Varoufakis proposes in his latest book Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present (published in September 2020 by Vintage), arguing that finance is the Achilles heel of capitalism.  And here’s the other must-read book I reviewed:

How To Reform Capitalism – Mariana Mazzucato’s Moonshots

The Trojan horse comes from another economist, an Italo-American, a woman, Mariana Mazzucato who has already shaken up the academic world of economics with her bestselling The Entrepreneurial State, published in 2015 with the subtitle: “Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths”. 

Her solution for post-Covid reconstruction? Work from inside the system

Give back to the state the role it played back in the 1960s when America, engaged in a space race with the Soviet Union, unleashed the power of the Federal Government.

She lays it out in her new book, just out, January 28, 2021: Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism (published by Penguin).

Mazzucato is Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London (UCL) where she is also Founder and Director of the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. And her ideas have already been adopted both by the European Commission and the Scottish government. 

Both are highly recommended reads! Curious? Take a look at my article, click here.

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Filed under Book review, climate change, Digital Revolution, Economics, Environment, non-fiction, politics, Sociology

Amazing Electric Cars Make Our Sustainable Future Look Like FUN!

You know, not everything is bad about climate change: It’s forcing the car industry to THINK DIFFERENTLY for the first time in decades and come up with exciting new electric models! I spent last Sunday researching it, and here’s the amazing stuff I found, the stuff of dreams! Check it out, here’s the opening salvo of my article published on Impakter:

Our Sustainable Future: Electric Dream Cars

by Claude Forthomme – Senior Editor

Are electric cars just the cherished dream of eco-conscious consumers or a soon-to-become reality? With the coming of Biden’s strong climate policies and the Trump administration’s odious support of the fossil fuel industry finally out of the way, the United States as a whole – and not just Tesla – is back in the electric car race. Three days ago, on 28 January, GM announced that it would go much further than simply selling hybrid cars or a few electric models: By 2035, it would sell only zero-emission vehicles

This means that GM will phase out their most successful products: Gaz-guzzling S.U.V.s and pickup trucks. Thus putting another nail in the coffin of the internal combustion engine and heralding the coming of electric cars.  

The March of Electric Cars Around the World

Since GM is America’s car behemoth, employing 1 million people, more than any other carmaker in the U.S., the news made headlines and shook up the American car industry. The expectation is that much of the American car industry has no choice but to follow GM’s example. And catch up with Tesla that in the meantime has unveiled last year its famous electric trucks, the Tesla Semi and Cybertruck. Not to mention Tesla’s future roadster that should become available in three years, an astonishing machine capable of hitting 0-100km (60 miles) in 1,9 seconds flat, with a 400 km/hour top speed and a 1000 km autonomy: a supercar by any metrics (including the price: over $200,000).

And the American industry is definitely coming up with exciting new products in an “old” established category, pickup trucks, that has long been popular in the United States: 

WATCH THE VIDEO, IT’S REALLY COOL! Go to Impakter, click here. I hope you enjoy reading it (and watching the videos) as much as I did writing it!

In the featured image: Tesla Lineup Photo by Steve Jurvetson

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Filed under politics, Tech

There is no Time to Lose: Climate Change is More than an Emergency

 My latest article on Impakter:

The World Needs to Wake Up: At Risk the Survival of Humanity

At a time when the world, battered by COVID-19, is watching with dismay the rocky transition from Trump to President-Elect Biden, a group of 17 world scientists reminds us that maybe all our worries are futile. What is at risk is something far more important: The very survival of humanity. The prognosis is dire and it comes in a just-released major perspective paper: “Underestimating the challenges of avoiding a ghastly future” published in Frontiers in Conservation Science. 

On the basis of a comprehensive yet concise assessment of the state of our civilization, these scientists – experts from major institutions including Stanford University, UCLA, and Flinders University – are telling us in no uncertain terms that the very survival of all species, ours included, is threatened. 

And that the outlook is far more dire and dangerous than is generally understood.

The causes are well known: A loss of biodiversity and accelerating climate change in the coming decades coupled with ignorance regarding the state of our environment and political inaction across the planet. 

In the researchers’ view, world leaders need a ‘cold shower’ to come to their senses and plan and act in time to avoid a “ghastly future”. Professor Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University noted that no political or economic system, or leadership, is prepared to handle the predicted disasters, or even capable of such action:

“Stopping biodiversity loss is nowhere close to the top of any country’s priorities, trailing far behind other concerns such as employment, healthcare, economic growth, or currency stability.

While it is positive news that President-elect Biden intends to reengage the US in the Paris Climate accord within his first 100 days of office, it is a minuscule gesture given the scale of the challenge.

Humanity is running an ecological Ponzi scheme in which society robs nature and future generations to pay for short-term economic enhancement today”.

A year ago, Paul Ehrlich was adamant that our civilization is about to collapse

Read the rest on Impakter, click here. Share the news, let me know what you think.

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Filed under Environment, politics

A Shameful Compromise to Unblock EU Budget

Just published a piece about the shameful compromise the EU Council has reached with Hungary and Poland in order to approve the €1.1 billion EU Budget and the Covid Recovery Fund. Here is the story.

To Unblock EU Budget: Hungary and Poland Off the Hook

Updated 11 December 2020: EU Budget effectively unblocked, Veto from Hungary and Poland is lifted, rule of law in the EU is compromised. The first to announce the news was the President of the EU Council, Charles Michel on Twitter.

It is time to consider whether countries like Hungary and Poland that flout the rule of law have any place in the European Union. And the European Council, all the European leaders starting with Merkel and Macron are sending out the wrong signal. Where did “European values” go? Disappeared in the Brexit fog? Indeed, why not have a Hungarexit and Polexit? And renegotiate their status in the Union with a new treaty similar to the one with Norway?

What follows here and was published yesterday explains what happened.

To find out what happened, read the rest on Impakter, click here.

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Filed under politics

The Battle of Billionaires

By the end of last year, as is the custom when a decade ends, I started thinking about the future. Obsessively. Climate change, environmental degradation, the collapse of democracy –  if you project those facts into the future, you have to wonder: are we are living at the end of times? But there is an odd fact right under our nose, a small fact that sounds more like a piece of gossip than real news: The battle of billionaires.

Yet this is no fluffy gossip, it’s very real! We tend to discount the political role of billionaires. We shouldn’t. Consider that not all billionaires are bad news. Some fight for social justice and the preservation of the environment. A battle between the two kinds of billionaires is shaping up and could last well into the coming decade. I just wrote about this in an article for Impakter, here’s the opening:

The 2010s are coming to a close. Reviewing the decade, what can we say about the future? A tech person will look at technological progress (stunning). A sociologist will look at cultural diversity (explosive). My take (disclosure: I’m an economist) is that this decade, with growing income inequality, saw an unprecedented number of billionaires taking center stage. “Good” billionaires like Bill Gates concerned about climate change and equity, “bad” ones like Betty De Vos, defunding and dismantling America’s public education system.

This fact alone, the rise of the billionaires, will shape our future, for better (a peaceful, balanced world) or for worse (climate Armageddon).

Much depends on what kind of billionaire takes power. Some of them can be alarmingly aggressive, for example, Trump ordering the summary execution of  Iran’s General Qassem Suleimani killed last Friday at Baghdad airport via a drone strike. A strike that could escalate dangerously in the Middle East’s explosive environment.

Unsurprisingly, the 2020 campaign for the US presidency is seeing the rise of left-wing Democrat Bernie Sanders with declarations like this one (in Los Angeles on 21 December):

“Our campaign is not only about defeating Trump, our campaign is about a political revolution. It is about transforming this country, it is about creating a government and an economy that works for all people and not just the 1%.” 

I am highlighting this because it is a remarkable statement. It marks the distance we’ve covered in a single decade: This is the language of the Occupy Wall Street movement that opened the decade in 2011. And now the once derided concept of the 1% against the 99% has gone mainstream. So much so that it can buoy a candidate in his bid for the White House (Sanders, as I write, is just behind Biden and ahead of Warren).

You see rants in headlines, like this one from C-Net s Jackson Ryan:  “We see the effects of climate change and our leaders continue to ignore the science”. A rant coming not just from journalists but scientists too.

Now, in 2019, we can all agree that the “world is on fire” and that the 2010s have been a “lost decade”. Yet back in 2013, K.C. Green, a talented cartoonist could still joke about it in a stunning piece of black humor. This is the closing panel of his 6-panel piece (screenshot):

Read the rest on Impakter, click here.

Let me know what you think!

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Filed under politics