APEC good for business, not so good for humanity


APEC good for business, not so good for societyThe theme for the 2007 Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation Forum is 'Strengthening our community: Building a sustainable future', an honourable one. The questions should be asked who’s involved in the co-operation and why, and sustainable for whom? Visit the APEC website and it’ll tell you that this is the most significant event of an economic kind that Australia has hosted.

Look further and you’ll get a glimpse of the priority the Australian Government has for things economic, acknowledging the role the business community has in driving and shaping the APEC agenda. As well as the meeting of 21 national leaders from the Asia Pacific rim, there will be a Business Summit for the region's most prominent business leaders: an invitation only event initiated by Australia. APEC is good for business.

APEC’s agenda is trade liberalisation and economic growth. The preparations have indicated what kind — BIG! Big security, big business, big voices, big spending! According to AFTINET, the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, 'The cost to taxpayers of hosting APEC is now reaching $330 million, $170 million of which will be spent on security arrangements. There are even greater costs to democratic rights and civil liberties.'  Though APEC makes recommendations about issues affecting the whole society it does not engage with civil society groups. Is this the way to strengthen our community and build a sustainable future?

The social and economic differences between the 21 countries are huge and the challenges many and complex. In 2003, Dr Mahatir from Malaysia voiced the concerns of the poorer countries, telling the rich nations they were not giving due consideration to the poor nations. On the table are the issues of climate change, energy, security and non-proliferation. When the interests of the profitability of large corporations are at stake, human rights and the needs of all are further down the pecking order.

Climate change is the most urgent issue. Clive Hamilton in his book Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change details the influence of a 'greenhouse mafia' of executives from the mining, coal, aluminium and energy sectors on government decision making. He points out how the alternatives to the fossil fuel industry,  insert and the renewable energy sector were marginalised in Australia and denied research funding. He describes the Australian Government’s strategy on climate change as 'do nothing at home and work hard to prevent others taking action.'

After 11 years of obfuscation and denial, Prime Minister Howard has finally been forced to acknowledge that climate change must be acted upon and has made it a focus of APEC. Under the banner of economic cooperation, the 21 countries will come up with a Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development. A copy of the draft statement was leaked last week. On the surface it sounds hopeful for those who are looking for leadership in a new sustainable direction. Cutting through the persuasive language however, it is business as usual.

APEC good for business, not so good for societyIt does recognise the need for reduction in energy intensity and for research into renewable energy which, though late, is positive. But there are no firm specific targets to cut greenhouse gases, just aspirational targets with focuses on improving energy efficiency, using nuclear energy and so-called clean coal technology, and increasing forests to use as carbon sinks.

The document is the result of the Energy Working Group which received significant input from Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Chevron Oil Company but no corresponding input from environment or community groups. It is clear that the APEC agenda on climate change is dominated by the interests of the USA, Australia and those who want to sidestep the Kyoto agreement. Using the term sustainability in this context is about maintaining destructive consumerism.

The scientists tell us we have till 2015 to reverse the most damaging effects of climate change. The need is to act fast. We need a paradigm shift now. Sustainability must include a consistent ethic of life, not the economic bottom line for the big end of town. Archbishop Migliore in a statement to the United Nations put it well, 'In a word, the world needs an ecological conversion so as to examine critically current models of thought, as well as those of production and consumption.'



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Existing comments

My word, Christians are such an unforgiving lot, so reluctant to embrace the four-letter core of their faith -love.

How often...oh, so often, do we hear the politcal wailing that continues on even when a political leader sees the error of his (or her) political ways and takes the path of retracing steps..with the sharpest stones being flung by the very critics whose criticism is met!

And so it is, unfortunately, here in Anne Lanyon's piece as she gets stuck into John Howard "..After 11 years of obfuscation and denial, John Howard..acknowledges climate change must be acknowledged."

He is doing that, Anne, and more, and he's been doing it rather solidly in recent times.. Time surely to pat him on the head rather than sinking a boot into his backside?

St Paul must be glad you weren't around in his times or else he might have simply given up.

Don't encourage and urge people to change and then smother them with detailed recollections of their errors.

On that basis who'd ever squeeze through even the narrow way?

Brian Haill | 06 September 2007  

This article is political diatribe and is not constructive. It trots out the selective view of the left while pretending to reflect Catholic thinking.

REF | 06 September 2007  

I'll leave the forgiving of Howard to the Creator. Forgiving is not in question but forgetting that Howard has done nothing that would impede economic growth madness during his time at the wheel with the sorry consequences, is what makes me glad that we'll be seeing the back of him. Howard must suffer the consequences of his inactions and that is why voters will follow the person offering hope for recovery...like St Paul! Keep up the good work Anne. The article inspires me.

Michael Randall | 06 September 2007  

I am responding to this piece now because I attended the anti-Bush/anti-war rally during APEC in Sydney on Saturday 8th. I attended with my 16 y.o. daughter and was deeply affronted by the proto-fascist Police response to what was overwhelmingly a peaceful, good humoured and middel aged crowd. The Police had a militarised presence: kevlar body armour, kevlar padded gloves, paramilitary uniforms, overwhelming numbers. Police behaviour was consistently provocative, aggressive, hostile. And then of course there was the water cannon which is a weapon designed specifically for use aginst large numbers of people in open spaces.

And all of this was necessary ... to protect trade?

But a particular type of trade: so called 'free trade' with countries where independent unions do not exist (China), corruption is the sin qu non of political life (Russia), where unionists are routinely murdered (Phillipines) ... and on it goes.

It was abundantly clear on Saturday that the 'free traders' are prepared to criminalise and treat as potential terrorists and security threats any of us who as citizens want to propose peace and fair trade as a more realistic and human response to global needs.

The issue of the militarisation of Policing in NSW, and especially the water cannon, is not going to go away. The state is preparing to manage crisis...but doesn't know exactly what form the crisis will take as yet. It might be popular opposition to AWA's and the loss of work rights as we engage in a global 'race to the bottom' of industrial and citizen rights in order to compete ina global market with countries where citizens enjoy nothing like the social conditions we have in Australia. It might be a crisis of access to resources.

But it is clear that our freedom of assembly and right to protest are under attack.

In the name of trade.

anthony nolan

anthony nolan | 12 September 2007  

As an atheist, I'm not sure my opinion will be of any value. It's a great article. Most commentators completely missed the dark side of APEC with respect to the environment. John Howard tried to pretend he was doing the world a favour with his Sydney Declaration. In reality it was an attempt to undermine the Kyoto treaty which is genuinely carbon constraining. Acid test - if it saves the coal industry, it doesn't save the planet.
You have a great mind Anne Lanyon. Regards, CS.

Carl Sparre | 20 September 2007  


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