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5/5/12 and 6/5/12: Climate Change and the Financialization of Nature

Climate

Food & Water Watch

By Wenonah Hauter

Through coordinated actions this weekend, activists will be Connecting the Dots between climate change and the severe weather, droughts and sea level rise that communities are already experiencing. A project of 350.org, led by climate activist Bill McKibben, the May 5 Day of Action will be happening mere weeks before the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20—where global leaders will meet to make commitments towards carbon reductions 20 years after the UN’s first Conference on Sustainable Development. They will also use the opportunity of the multilateral forum to map out the so-called “green economy."

That’s where 6/5/12 comes in.

There is an urgent need for communities around the world to send a message to their elected officials participating in Rio+20: We want a truly green economy, not a greenwashed economy. We want an economy that supports communities, not multinational corporations. And we want an economy that upholds our common resources like water as a public trust, not a commodity, and recognizes the human right to water.

Take Action!That’s why June 5 is another day of action here in the U.S.: A day to tell our government to get Wall Street out of Rio. The Rio+20 “green economy” agenda is being driven by interests that seek to privatize nature by further deregulating industry and handing our common resources over to companies for profit. It is part of a push to give each aspect of nature a monetary value, thus locking natural resources management into the vagaries of the market for generations to come.

How do we know this is the plan for our essential resources? The United Nations Environment Program’s Green Economy report, a seminal tool in advancing sustainable development, was authored by a career banker from Deutsche Bank. UNEP states in its Ecosystem Management report that “UNEP collaborates with international financial institutions to develop methods of integrating ecosystem services into their global and national strategies and operations.”

Here’s what the Chief Economist at Citigroup, Willem Buiter, envisions for water:

I expect to see a globally integrated market for fresh water within 25 to 30 years. Once the spot markets for water are integrated, futures markets and other derivative water-based financial instruments—puts, calls, swaps—both exchange-traded and OTC will follow. There will be different grades and types of fresh water, just the way we have light sweet and heavy sour crude oil today. Water as an asset class will, in my view, become eventually the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals.

Many economists and market-oriented environmentalists have bought into the notion that we should let the market decide when it comes to pricing water and putting a price on pollution, noting that the higher the cost, the more wisely people will use water and the less likely corporations will be to pollute. But pricing water higher for a public resource that has no substitution and that is essential for human life will only price out the poorest. Likewise, pollution trading is, simply, paying for the right to pollute. It does nothing to stop pollution like good old-fashioned regulation. It’s a way to let corporations continue to use and abuse our essential resources, business as usual.

Privatization and market-based mechanisms like water markets and pollution trading are not a part of a truly green economy. It is the financialization of nature. And if Citibank’s vision for water comes to fruition, water will be traded in the same fashion as bad mortgages. But we can’t afford a mortgage crisis for water.

Sign up to learn more about our June 5 day of action to tell the U.S. not to sell out nature to Wall Street at Rio+20.

For more information, click here.

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