Greening the economy or pursuit of the greenback?

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Two years ago, the Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva argued that the “green economy” was a term coined to disguise a grim reality: making money out of the environment without respecting people’s rights.

She referred to how seeds, land, water, forests and biodiversity reserves are being given a price and a market for exchanges.

Take carbon markets. They were established by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The principle is that carbon markets will raise billions for investments to reduce carbon emissions and slow down climate change. But the reality is somewhat different.

As a recent Bloomberg article asserts, “Wall Street firms are investing in businesses that will profit as the planet gets hotter.”

Carbon markets have entirely failed. Furthermore, according to a report by Carbon Trade Watch, the European carbon market “contributes to human rights violations and environmental crimes in the North and South, and makes climate policies dependent on the same unstable financial markets that brought us the recent economic crisis.”

Green markets could be unstable as they are poorly regulated, and an incentive for speculation and fraud.

What if the green bubble bursts? Hannah Mowat, from the environmental group FERN, recently spoke to Equal Times about this risk. “Imagine the equivalent of a subprime mortgage crisis in green markets. Communities could suddenly lose the forests they inhabit.”

It is difficult to list the benefits of “green” markets. Yet, the EU is considering the creation of biodiversity markets.

They “present real risks of leading to further biodiversity loss,” according to a recent report by the European Environmental Bureau.

The only beneficiaries of “green” markets appear to be the traders.

Reporting on climate change, Naomi Klein recently quoted a US scientist: "Our economic model is at war with life on Earth. We can’t change the laws of nature, but we can change our broken economy.”

We can and must change our financial markets. Putting a price on nature is not a solution, it is a problem.