Lending Interest

Lending Interest
by Jo Abbess
11th November 2007

Having had the benefit of an Evangelical Christian upbringing, with plenty of Bible teaching at Sunday School, I have always been aware that the Jewish Scriptures contain an injunction against lending money for profit.

To be obedient to God, you should not charge your brother or countryman interest when you make him a loan – that would be indecent and oppressive. Neither should you charge the poor for loans – and you should return their cloaks at sundown if they used them as security for a debt.

In Islam, it is forbidden to lend or borrow money at interest, haram under Sharia Law. Those Muslims wanting a halal mortgage from a Western bank often have to pay an agreed but fixed charge for the loan.

Imagine what the world would be like without percentage rates on loan repayments.

Economic models assume that the way that Capital works most effectively is to incentivise labour and production through debt, with interest added on to the repayments.

You borrow and pay back more, in the case of house loans, roughly three times what you borrowed.

And this interest, charged on every single lend, whilst it could be considered to be a valid financial charge, implies that the money supply has to continue to increase, as all trade and industry rely on debt.

Whether the new money is minted, printed or exists only as electronic signals, it has to emerge to keep the whole system of debt creation working.

And as the money pool increases, the supply of products expands to soak up that pool of money.

Increased provision of goods and services imply increased consumption of natural resources and increased use of energy and fuel.

So in effect, charging interest on loans is causing Climate Change.

There are checks and balances on economic growth – one of the levers is to reduce interest rates when there is inflationary pressure on prices.

Interest charged should tend to zero if there were to be a continued stress on natural resources and energy supplies.

And that is very well what we may see : with Peak Oil upon us, and Peak Energy not far behind.

With the exponential rates of increase in commodities and minerals prices due to a combination of Peak Oil and Climate Change damages, there is every chance that prices of all goods and services will rise wildly.

An environmental price for Carbon, and Carbon Energy prices continuing to be subject to high demand and decreasing supply, will inevitably have a knock-on effect on the rest of the Economy.

As costs spiral, interest will need to be reduced for the Economy to survive.

It seems like this could be the end of the line for Usury.

When this idol topples, what else will it drag down with it ?

Carbon Intervention

Carbon Intervention
by Jo Abbess
9th November 2007

The UK Government’s draft Climate Change Bill proposes a 60% cut in national net Carbon Dioxide emissions by the year 2050. The big question is : how are we going to do that ?

Just imagine that we keep the level of home heating, transport, manufacturing, construction, and public facilities where they are now : no new airports, no new roads, no new libraries, hospitals, supermarkets or schools, no new high-energy homes.

Even then, it still means that almost 60% of our current energy consumption needs to be dropped, because over 90% of our energy comes from Carbon sources : fossil fuels.

It’s no good asking cows and sheep to stop passing gas. Over 80% of our Carbon Dioxide emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels.

But what about Carbon Trading, people will ask ? Can’t we ask people in other countries to make the Carbon cuts, and receive Carbon Credits for that and trade with us so that we don’t need to make any changes to our own energy consumption ?

In fact, the European level policy is a system of Carbon Trading between high energy nations and low energy nations. VERs (Voluntary Emissions Reductions) and CERs (Certified Emissions Reductions) are being worked up in various countries under the auspices/aegis of the United Nations Kyoto Protocol and other international efforts, in anticipation of a global Carbon Market.

There are problems with this however. Recent news shows that alarmingly, Carbon Credits are being held back from the “pipeline” to the Carbon Market, and in some cases, Carbon Credit schemes are being officially rejected.

We will see the full scenario emerging within a few years, but it seems likely that that there will not be enough bananas in the banana market for the people that need to buy bananas.

Although the United Kingdom directly produces only around 2% of global Carbon Dioxide emissions, it is indirectly responsible for roughly 15%, through imports of foreign manufactured goods and food, and foreign investments.

Add in the effects of air travel and shipping, which are excluded from official Carbon accounts of the nation, and it seems that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is responsible for around 20% of global Carbon Dioxide emissions through trade, transport, manufacture and domestic energy consumption.

Which countries are going to have to make which emissions reductions in order to trade with us for our 60% Carbon cuts ?

Let’s see now…the United States is directly responsible for roughly 25% of global Carbon Dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, and China, Russia, Europe, Brazil, Japan, Russia and Mexico are responsible for most of the rest.

So, which country will we be able to persuade to cut their emissions in order to feed our need for Carbon Credits if we make no reductions ourselves ?

We can ask Indonesia and Brazil and other countries rich with forest to stop deforestation, even pay them to do so, but after the first bans on logging and agricultural incursion, there will be no extra Carbon Credits to come out of preserving forests and peat bogs.

The bananas are getting a bit thin on the ground here. Clearly, we need to be making Carbon cuts in our own back yard.

Which leads me back to my original question : if we are committed to a 60% cut by 2050, how are we going to do that ?

We can imagine that through complex accounting and quite a lot of cost, we could Carbon Trade about 10% of our Carbon emissions away.

But what about that 50% of our current Carbon Dioxide emissions that we cannot trade away ? How are we going to tackle that ?

Can we ask one sector of our national energy life to reduce by 90% to allow the other sectors to stay as they are ? Or do we need to consider a 50% cut in emissions in all sectors ?

The sector of energy consumption that creates the most Carbon Dioxide emissions is space and water heating : how can we make a 50% cut in our heating requirements, given the current state of the UK’s housing stock ?

With calls to take voluntary action to cut Carbon, only about 20% of people have made changes to their home energy consumption, affecting only about 20% of their total. Are voluntary changes going to be enough ?

And how are we going to reduce our transport needs by 50% ? About 20% of the nation have taken steps to reduce their travel by choice. Can we rely on more people making the change for themselves, or are we going to need social direction ?

Will we have to ban air travel advertising ? Are we going to have to stop advertising cars because nobody is driving them any more ? Are we going to have to stop selling cars ?

Are we going to have to ban shopping trips, the school run, family visits, work travel ?

How are we going to stop buying half of all the gadgets and machines we currently purchase each year ?

How are we going to stop heating our public buildings for half the time, or half the heating ?

How are we going to stop half of all retail and half of all construction of homes, roads and schools ?

The plain fact is that despite the rapid increase in Renewable Energy in the United Kingdom, it still only accounts for about 10% of the electricity sector, which is only 20% of total energy demand.

Most of the rest is provided for by the burning of fossil fuels, which causes new Carbon Dioxide to be released to air, where it can float for a thousand years, adding to the Global Warming greenhouse effect.

We haven’t yet heard from the Government about how they intend us to de-carbonise all the energy sectors of our lives, although we have heard a lot about them answering the call for electricity Carbon cuts.

If the majority of current energy use cannot have the carbon taken out of it, we had better start asking serious questions.

Are we going to have to have a massive increase in Renewable Energy and use the extra electricity for electric cars and electric home heating ?

Are we going to have to abandon centralised electricity generation ? These old thermal power plants are so energy wasteful. Will we need to have to invest in town-scale combined heat and power stations in order to cut the Carbon ?

Are we going to have to insulate all homes, by law, to a certain standard ?

Will local councils be obliged to remove central heating systems from people’s homes as citizens prove they cannot control their use of Natural Gas supplies ?

And how are we going to re-generate community and local employment for people when centralised Carbon-hungry businesses start toppling ?

And how are we going to eat if the Supermarkets are told to stop emitting half of their greenhouse gases and have to close half their stores ?

The Climate Change Bill makes provision for a Committee on Climate Change, and a series of graduated phases of Carbon Dioxide emissions reductions targets, with reporting and the power to regulate and issue measures for Carbon cuts.

But is the Government going to raise a Carbon Tax to pay for all the alterations that are necessary to the energy infrastructure ?

And which companies will get the contracts ? And will they be British ones ?

Is the UK Government planning a radical shake-up in the way that public transport services are provided, to compensate for the private vehicle transport that will have to be shed ?

Do the UK Government envisage massive green services employment creation programmes to make the Carbon cuts happen ?

When will the UK Government admit that they need a total stop, a moratorium, on high energy public spending, including transport, and legally halt energy-hungry private property development ?

Are you ready for 60% Carbon cuts ? Have you any idea how we’re going to do it or how much it’s going to cost ?

Whose Economy ?

Whose Economy ?
by Jo Abbess
30th September 2007

Setting the scene for international cooperation over Global Warming in New York this week, the President of the United States of America said :-

“For many years, those who worried about climate change and those who worried about energy security were on opposite ends of the debate…It was said that we faced a choice between protecting the environment and producing enough energy. Today we know better. These challenges share a common solution: technology…”

“Each nation must decide for itself the right mix of tools and technology to achieve results that are measurable and environmentally effective…We must do it in a way that does not undermine economic growth or prevent nations from delivering greater prosperity for their people…”

George W. Bush, September 2007

Economic growth…economic prosperity…But, I ask you, whose economy is this ?

It’s certainly not an economy that works for the poor, even in the United States. Citizens of the United States are commonly working too long for too little each day, and many are suffering social deprivation, health problems and unrepayable debt.

The fact is, that despite uttering what appear to be lofty aspirations about putting in place policies to contain and reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions, voluntary measures will not protect the economy, or the climate.

Climate Change will continue unabated unless clear global regulations are put in place, and the damages from Climate Change will exacerbate poverty around the world, both the poverty of incomes and the impoverishment of the environment.

Climate Change is already crippling food production, trade systems and the basis of the “economy” beloved of the US President.

It is no good to believe that free trade policies can continue to promote development, when the environmental foundation of production is being destroyed, and the trade with it.

It is no good saying that the American Economy must not be compromised by efforts to tackle Climate Change, because if the Americans do not accept a certain cost to their measures, and a certain cap on their emissions, then the Climate Change damages will wreck their economy, in their own country.

At some point, the paradigm of economic growth will break down.

What will the Americans do when their balance of imports to exports is permanently negative and they have no means to reverse it ? As they squander their resources of fossil fuels, and burn more and more of the global supply as well, their wealth is being eroded.

As their fields of grain and corn turn to dust because of excessive heat, lack of water and disease, how will they feed themselves ?

As they have to divert ever-increasing sums into homeland disaster recovery, and fulfil their international obligations in Climate Change emergencies, how will they continue to afford the development of energy-efficient technologies ?

Need I mention that these things are happening already ?

Technological research is being squeezed, food production is in danger, problems with oil supply are regular news and imports have overtaken exports in many sectors for the last few years.

The US President thinks he presides over a healthy economy, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

It is ridiculous to continue to assert that Climate Change must be tackled without some cost – all that technology he proposes will require a good deal of investment, diverted from economic production.

By talking about energy efficiency and new technology, the President of the United States is denying the science – that we must not merely have better machines : actually we must run less of them.

The Americans, just like the rest of us, must start to accept that they need to ration their consumption. This means a contraction of the energy-dependent economy, including industrial manufacture, good transport, personal transport, high-energy home equipment.

It means using less fossil fuels.

If they do not, there will be no economy left to speak of in a very short time.

Economic insurance policy ? Renewable energy, energy demand reduction measures, re-localising public life, small food production lots in every town, home insulation, electric cars, natural building ventilation, regional and not national companies.

How Can We Be A Radical Low Carbon Borough ?

[ An address by Jo Abbess to Barkingside 21 Group, Fullwell Cross Library, 28th October 2006, 1 – 3 pm.

[ Meeting Speakers :-
Chris Church, Community Environment Associates and London 21
Jo Abbess, Poole Agenda 21
Lee Scott MP, Ilford North
Harry Cohen MP, Leyton & Wanstead
Jean Lambert MEP, Greater London
Cllr Hugh Cleaver, Redbridge Council ]

[ Put a large wastepaper basket on the table ]

Hello. My name is Jo Abbess and I’m a member of Poole Agenda 21. We have launched a national campaign called “Take Global Warming Seriously” and we are members of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition.

As campaigners for the Local Agenda 21, we frequently come up against the deeply
entrenched conflict between DEVELOPMENT and CONSERVATION.

Until recently, our proposals were considered “ahead of our time”, but it seems that time has finally caught up with the Sustainability Agenda. If the Earth cannot absorb the impacts of DEVELOPMENT, then we must take the CONSERSATION route.

Continue reading How Can We Be A Radical Low Carbon Borough ?

Surviving Climate Change – Some Geopolitical Indicators & Markers

[ Proposed chapter for the book “Surviving Climate Change”; finally published in “Time Up” the Climate Camp publication for 2006. ]

Surviving Climate Change – Some Geopolitical Indicators & Markers
by Tim Helweg-Larsen and Jo Abbess
23rd June 2006

“I kind of startled my country when, in my State of the Union [Address], I said we’re hooked on oil and we need to get off oil…we’ve got to diversify away from oil. And the best way to do it is through new technologies.” George W. Bush, President United States of America 21st June 2006

“We find that clean and more efficient technologies can return soaring energy-related CO2 emissions to today’s levels by 2050 and halve the expected growth in both oil and electricity demand” Claude Mandil, International Energy Agency, 22nd June 2006

Continue reading Surviving Climate Change – Some Geopolitical Indicators & Markers

One World Week at Ealing Abbey

Ealing Abbey Personal Presentation for One World Week
Speakers : Bishop John Oliver, Laurie Michaelis, Jo Abbess

Hello. My name is Jo Abbess, and I get nervous when I have to speak in public, so please forgive me if I start to resemble cranberry jelly…

Over the last few years I have been busy reading and reporting on Energy Trends, Climate Change and Resource Depletion; and as a direct result I am morphing into an environmental campaigner. Along the way, I became a member of Christian Ecology Link, gratefully recognising there are others of faith who are on a similar journey.

Continue reading One World Week at Ealing Abbey

Shall We Go Nuclear ?

Shall We Go Nuclear ?

The way I see it, it’s not a simple straight choice between one energy production technology and any other. It’s quite a lot more complicated than that. There are issues of national energy policy, the method of financing and influential key players, practical details, economics, security and surety of supply, safety, security of installations, and also historical experience, when considering each option.

Continue reading Shall We Go Nuclear ?

Eleven Practical Ideas to Combat Climate Change

Very little of what follows is original thought. But after much reflection, I feel these ideas are worthy of attention, and so I have expanded them for your consideration.

1. Contraction & Convergence Video Conferencing

Yet another international meeting on Energy Efficiency, Climate Change, Renewable Energy. Yet another brace of airline tickets for big speakers, engineers, policy-makers and scientists (and reporters) to fly in and confer.

In order to demonstrate the Contraction & Convergence framework in action, the delegates at all these meetings and conferences should reduce their carbon emissions to be in line with the lowest emitter of them all. Everyone will contract their carbon emissions, and everyone will get in line. Equal rights to pollute. The Principle of Equity.

There is enough cable and wire laid under all the world’s oceans and through the world’s rivers and soils to hold every single meeting by videoconferencing. And so it should be done.

No more flying for people of green persuasions. Follow Aubrey Meyer of the Global Commons Institute and the UNFCCC papers for development of Contraction & Convergence.

Continue reading Eleven Practical Ideas to Combat Climate Change

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