Debt, Climate and Global Justice: April 2004 conference

A conference jointly organised by Feasta and the Debt and Development Coalition Ireland on the links between climate change, the debt crisis and global inequity

Held in association with the New Economics Foundation, Jubilee Research, the Global Commons Institute, Friends of the Irish Environment and GRIAN, the Irish arm of the Climate Action Network. With contributions via a live video link from a simultaneous conference on the same topics in South Africa.

Thanks to the Development Education Unit of Development Co-operation Ireland for part funding this conference.

Wednesday 28th of April 2004 09.00-17.30

€20.00 – Concessions available

This conference was held as part of the 2004 Convergence Festival at

Sustainable Living Centre, SS Michael and John’s,
15 – 19 Essex Street West, Old City Temple Bar, Dublin 8

Creating a Climate where Everyone Wins

Most international negotiations involve one group of countries winning and another set losing. Take developing country debt, for example. If the rich countries actually cancelled a few poor countries’ loans, the most trivial loss would be the actual money involved. Much more important would be the loss of the rich countries’ power to use the debts as a lever to force poor countries to restructure their economies to export more to earn the foreign exchange to repay the loans. The trouble is, as several other indebted countries are always being forced to increase their exports of the same products simultaneously too, this forces down export prices and enables the rich countries to make huge savings as a result of the increased competition.

Or take climate change. If the rich countries did anything about that, they would have to give up boosting their productivity by using so much fossil fuel. As a result, they would be unable to increase their citizens’ incomes and corporate profits every year. Indeed, profits and incomes might fall and their economies crash.

In both cases, as the prospective losers are the most powerful nations on the planet, nothing significant gets done and the problems worsen year after year.

So, how can we move ahead? If

· the risk of global climate change
· the threat of oil and gas scarcity in the next few years
· the widening gap between rich and poor
· the fundamental instability and unfairness of the world’s money system, and,
· poor country debt

are all the products of the economic system that has evolved over the centuries, it might be a mistake to try to tackle each of them one by one. The conference will therefore explore the argument that the only solution is to tackle them all simultaneously by changing the global system in a way that would not be blocked by the rich countries because it would enable everyone to win. Oh sure, the rich countries would have to give a lot of ground in some areas, but they could make substantial gains in others.

The conference will discuss proposals for changing the global system which Feasta suggested in the run-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 and which were adopted by all the Irish environmental NGOs. The ideas were refined at a meeting Feasta organised in London in November 2003 for a number of British NGOs including the New Economics Foundation, Jubilee Research, the Institute for Public Policy Research, ActionAid and Friends of the Earth. You can find the paper that emerged from that meeting here and anyone planning to attend this conference is invited to read it first.

Those attending the conference will be invited to suggest improvements to the paper after the meeting. The paper will then be amended and published jby Feasta and the New Economics Foundation so that it can be discussed around the world. The hope is that the paper will evolve into a set of linked policies to which a wide range of NGOs from many countries can give their general support.

Programme for the Day

09.00-09.30 Registration

09.30-09.45 Introduction by David Healy linking the problems of climate change, oil depletion, growing inequality and poor country debt with a dysfunctional economic system.


09.45-10.00 Mark Lynas with the latest information on the climate problem and the need to limit the temperature rise to under 2deg C.

10.00-10.15 The likely effects of climate change in the South, probably by a South African contributor via video link

10.15-10.40 Review of problems with the Kyoto Protocol and an outline the range of possibilites post-Kyoto. Joint presentation by Pat Finnegan and Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Mr Enele S Sopoaga of Tuvalu, one of the Pacific states threatened by rising sea levels.

10.40-11.00 Q&A session with the audience

11.00-11.30 Coffee


11.30-12.30 Ann Pettifor. The current status of the poor country debt negotiations and the question of environmental debt.

12.30-13.30 Lunch

A Just Solution

13.30-14.00 Aubrey Meyer. Introducing the Contraction and Convergence approach to managing global greenhouse gas emissions. Aubrey will use computer graphics to show how different distributions of emissions rights between North and South are possible using the C&C approach.

14.00-14.50 Richard Douthwaite. Emissions trading, oil depletion and the need for a new world currency.

14.50-15.15 Question and Answer session on the need for global money reform.

15.15-15.30 Coffee at three discussion locations

15.30-16.30 Small groups in discussion locations talk about and answer list of prepared questions

16.30-17.30 Rapporteurs from each small group report the answers to the questions followed by panel discussion to reach conclusions from the day. The South African group will relay their answers to the questions by the video link and a South African will take part as a panelist by video.

What this conference will do

· Generate a greater understanding of the systemic links between climate change, oil and gas depletion, the global money systems, third world debt and North/South inequity

· Allow those attending to help shape a set of policies designed to slow climate change, end the debt crisis and to alleviate widespread poverty.

· Enable Irish and South African participants to exchange views and information via a live video-conferencing link to a parallel event in South

Speaker Profiles

Mark Lynas is an environmental campaigner, broadcaster and journalist who has worked on climate change issues for the past four years. His book High Tide: News from a Warming World was published at the beginning of March. He was a co-founder of ­ the world¹s most-accessed internet portal for human rights and sustainable development issues. He was born in Fiji in 1973 and lives in Oxford.

Ann Pettifor was head of the Jubilee Research division of the New Economics Foundation in London until the end the end of March this year. From now on she will oversee NEF¹s work on international finance and debt, while continuing as editor of the very successful Real World Economic Outlook. She was born in South Africa. In 1994 she was appointed director of the Debt Crisis Network, an alliance of British NGOs, and in 1996, she co-founded the campaign which was to grow into the international Jubilee 2000 movement for the cancellation of the debts of the poorest countries. She lives in London.

Enele Sopoaga is the ambassador to the United Nations of Tuvalu, a nation of 11,000 people living on nine small islands in the South Pacific and the first country in the world to have its entire water supply salinated because of rising sea levels due to climate change. During his tenure as Ambassador, he has made the topic of global warming and its adverse effects on low-lying regions of the world his top priority. He is based in New York.

Pat Finnegan is co-ordinator of GRIAN, the Irish climate NGO that campaigns nationally and internationally for climate solutions, concentrating particularly on long-term sustainability and equity issues. He has over 25 years of environmental campaigning behind him, mostly on climate issues. GRIAN is the Irish member of the worldwide Climate Action Network. He lives in Dublin.

David Healy has degrees in law and environmental science. In his work for Friends of the Irish Environment he has paid particular attention to climate change issues, attending UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conferences and engaging on behalf of FIE in all the relevant governmental consultation processes in relation to climate change policy, carbon taxation and emissions trading. He lives in Dublin.

Richard Douthwaite is a writer and economist. His interest in the way different types of money have different effects on society, the environment and the economy led him to develop proposals for an new international currency, the ebcu, to combat climate change. He has acted as economic adviser to the Global Commons Institute for the past eleven years. He lives in Westport, Co. Mayo.

Aubrey Meyer was born in England but grew up in South Africa. He co-founded the Global Commons Institute in London in1990 and is largely responsible for the development of the Contraction and Convergence approach to dealing with greenhouse gas emissions which has now been backed by a majority of countries in the world. He lives in London.

Topics to be covered

· How the way that money is created leads to debt and global inequity.
· The latest information on the pace at which climate change is taking
· How developing countries and vulnerable peoples will be affected by global
· The range of options for future international climate change policies.
· How the Contraction and Convergence emissions control model works.
· The implications of emissions trading for poor countries.
· Proposals for a new global currency based on emissions rights.
· How developing country debts could be easily paid off.

Who should attend

This conference has been planned specifically for everyone involved in development education or who is in any way concerned about poverty, debt and development overseas. It will also be of great importance to those involved in climate change negotiations and emissions trading policy development. It provides a unique opportunity to discuss key issues with some of the world’s leading activists and out-of-the-box thinkers.

Background paper for the conference 

Sustainable Living Festival 2004

April 22nd to May 1st at Cultivate: Sustainable Living Centre.
15-19 Essex Street West, Temple Bar, Dublin 8, IRELAND

A multi-faceted programme, of over 100 events, makes Convergence the largest
and most diverse festival, of its kind, in the world. Mixing content from
researchers, policy makers, and business, with that of artists, poets, and
designers, Convergence takes a multicultural and inter-disciplinary approach
to sustainability.

Note: Feasta is a forum for exchanging ideas. By posting on its site Feasta agrees that the ideas expressed by authors are worthy of consideration. However, there is no one ‘Feasta line’. The views of the article do not necessarily represent the views of all Feasta members.