Category Archives: politics

Panel Discussion on Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations

Bill McKibben has argued that “it’s possible that there’s no greater example of corporate irresponsibility than climate change – I mean, these companies melted the Arctic, and then rushed to drill in the open water. ”

With the recent revelations that oil giant Exxon has known about the likely catastrophic impacts of continued fossil fuel use as far back as 1981, it seems McKibben is spot on in his assessment. After all what could be more immoral and irresponsible than knowingly destroying the habitable climate of the only home we have – planet Earth! Continue reading Panel Discussion on Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations

Robert Manne Launches Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations

On Tuesday last week at RMIT in Melbourne, leading public intellectual and La Trobe University Emeritus Professor, Robert Manne launched our new book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations. We are indebted to Robert for agreeing to launch our book, as he has been one of the most articulate and considered commentators confronting the issue of climate change and its poisoned political legacy.

Robert’s regular analyses of climate politics had a deep impact on my own thinking about the climate crisis. In particular, I remember having started the research that would result in our book back in 2010,  reading one of Robert’s insightful analyses of the political impasse over climate change in The Monthly magazine during a trip to Europe. As the train hurtled through the countryside between Frankfurt and Amsterdam, I looked up from the article to see row upon row of wind turbines turning in the late afternoon sunlight; the contrast with fossil fuel addicted Australia couldn’t have been more obvious. Continue reading Robert Manne Launches Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations

Creative Self-Destruction and the Climate

Leading public intellectual and Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University, Clive Hamilton very generously wrote the excellent Foreword to our new book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: processes of Creative Destruction.  Below is an adapted version of that Foreword recently published in The Conversation.

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In his 2006 landmark report on how we should respond to the climate crisis, Nicholas Stern characterised global warming as an ‘externality’, a damage to others due to market activity whose cost is not met by those who cause it. Continue reading Creative Self-Destruction and the Climate

New book on Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations

Our new book Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction has just been published. Based on research that Daniel Nyberg and I have been conducting over the last 6 years, the book explores the complex relationship that the corporate world has with climate change and the central role corporations play in shaping political and social responses to the climate crisis.

In the book, we explore the different processes through which corporations engage with climate change. The principal message is that despite the need for dramatic economic and political change, corporate capitalism continues to rely on the maintenance of ‘business as usual’. As outlined in this short summary in The Conversation this involves the myth that ‘green’ capitalism is a viable response to the climate crisis. This response enables the incorporation of critique and the maintenance of corporate capitalism despite the dire environmental consequences. Continue reading New book on Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations

Naomi Klein talks about Capitalism Vs. the Climate

In her latest book, This Changes Everything (2014), Canadian writer and activist Naomi Klein argues that unrestrained capitalism is at the root of the climate crisis and that the global response to climate change has, thus far, been shaped by wealth and power.

Earlier in the month I had the chance to speak with Naomi Klein on the eve of her appearance at the Sydney Festival of Dangerous Ideas. The transcript of our discussion is set out below and you can listen to the podcast of our discussion here. Continue reading Naomi Klein talks about Capitalism Vs. the Climate

Fossil Fuel Divestment as Effective Climate Change Action

Earlier in the year I was asked to talk at a Politics in the Pub event on the subject of ‘How Effective Is the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement in Speeding up Action on Climate Change?’.  I shared the stage with Blair Palese, Australian CEO of 350.org, and it was an opportunity to talk about how divestment might contribute to a more effective political response to the climate crisis. Below is an abridged version of my talk and you can view a video of the presentation at the bottom of this post.

Continue reading Fossil Fuel Divestment as Effective Climate Change Action

Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations out in September

Our new book Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction will be released in both paperback and hardback in late September. You can view the website for the book here.

Based on research that Daniel Nyberg and I have been conducting over the last 6 years, the book explores the complex relationship that the corporate world has with climate change and examines the central role of corporations in shaping political and social responses to the climate crisis. Continue reading Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations out in September

Road to Paris and Science Based Targets Initiatives

On May 1, the Balanced Enterprise Research Network (BERN) at the University of Sydney Business School  hosted an event in collaboration with the UN Global Compact, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and WWF Australia on the Road to Paris and Science Based Targets Initiatives.

This forum launched the initiative ‘Science Based Targets‘ – which aims to encourage businesses to set new, ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in the run up to the COP21 talks in Paris later this year. Formed as a response to the urgent call by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to decarbonise the economy, the initiative adopts a scientific approach to climate action in line with the latest IPCC report, and highlights the central role that business must play in responding to the climate threat by reducing GHG emissions in line with the best climate science. Continue reading Road to Paris and Science Based Targets Initiatives

Climate change as a moral issue for business?

Last Monday Greens Leader Christine Milne delivered a landmark speech at the University of Sydney on the next steps for global warming policy around the world and Australia’s role as we approach the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris this year.

I participated in the event as one of the respondents to Senator Milne’s address and was asked to comment on ‘what role business should play in effective climate change response?’ My response is set out below, but one theme that emerged in the discussion is whether business has an ethical responsibility in its response to climate change? I argue that it does, and this excellent article by David Roberts today highlights the broader way in which climate change is being viewed as a moral imperative and why this frightens those opposed to action on climate change. This an issue business seems unprepared to deal with, but as the climate crisis worsens and its moral implications become more apparent, it is one businesses need to increasingly engage with. Continue reading Climate change as a moral issue for business?

Fossil Fuels as Stranded Assets?

Recently, the Balanced Enterprise Research Network (BERN) at the University of Sydney hosted a visit by Ben Caldecott, Director of the Stranded Assets programme at the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at the University of Oxford. During his visit, Ben presented a number of very well-attended talks on the issue of fossil fuels as stranded assets and the implications for Australian investments in coal mining. Continue reading Fossil Fuels as Stranded Assets?

Book Review: This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate

It’s hard to know how to approach the phenomenon that is Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate. In case you’ve been living in a remote cave for the last six months, this is the book that came out last September to rave reviews in the world’s major newspapers, which has been serialised on the front page of The Guardian over several days, and which has both left-wing commentators and even some conservatives singing its praises. There is also a documentary film coming out to accompany the book and sell out presentations by the author around the world linked to climate activist events. So this book comes with huge media fanfare and expectation. Continue reading Book Review: This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate

The Future of Fossil Fuels in a Climate-Challenged World

Open cut coal mine - Hunter Valley

The politics of climate change is becoming ever more complex. Just last week in Australia we have witnessed the spectacle of our major political parties voting against moves to prohibit coal and CSG mining on agricultural land; one of the country’s most influential conservative radio commentators supporting a Greens’ politician in her efforts to limit fossil-fuel developments on farming land,  and the conservative NSW government approving a massive expansion of coal mining in the Hunter Valley (which will include the relocation of an entire village!). Continue reading The Future of Fossil Fuels in a Climate-Challenged World

The corporate creation of an engaging ‘green’ spectacle

The following is an extract from our forthcoming book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-destruction (Cambridge University Press) - out in bookshops later this year.

Corporate marketing and branding around sustainability and ‘green’ themes has undergone dynamic growth over the past decade as social concern over the environment and climate change has spiralled. Many major consumer brands – including Walmart, Ben & Jerry’s, GE, Toyota, Patagonia, Frito-Lay, Timberland, Tesco and even Shell – have embraced a ‘green’ message in their marketing.

A principal aim has been to successfully tap into consumers’ increased environmental awareness while avoiding allegations of duplicity or ‘greenwashing’. Guy Pearse has documented that there is often a disconnect between the ‘green’ boasts of corporate advertising and the reality of environmental impact. A selective focus on specific products and activities is sometimes exposed, as are assertions that are simply inaccurate; but what remains unmistakable in all such activities is an emphasis on evoking positive emotions among consumers and the public in general as part of an alternative emotionology of challenge and opportunity.

Continue reading The corporate creation of an engaging ‘green’ spectacle

Economic growth and climate change

With the coming G20 talks about to kick off in Brisbane, the focus of the agenda centres on economic growth as the panacea for all our troubles. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey have been adamant in their focus upon the need to increase economic growth globally. It’s rare, if not impossible to find anyone in the mainstream public debate who questions the wisdom of ever-increasing economic growth. And yet there is a major underlying problem in our collective worship and addiction to growth – climate change.

Continue reading Economic growth and climate change

Climate change and the curse of creative self-destruction

Daniel Nyberg and Christopher Wright

Published in Mercury Magazine 2014, Summer/Autumn (Special Issue on Sustainability), Issue 7-8, pp. 042-049. Artwork by Bojan Jevtić.

As any student of economic history knows, the notion of destruction has been a grim constant in attempts to characterize the relationship between capitalist dynamism and ever-spiralling consumption. Marx and Engels warned of enforced destruction. Joseph Schumpeter championed a dauntless culture of creative destruction. And now we find ourselves in an era of what we might call creative self-destruction.

Continue reading Climate change and the curse of creative self-destruction