The memory of leadership and leadership abandoned
“All men are created equal” ABRAHAM LINCOLN
“Quit India” MAHATMA GANDHI
“We shall never surrender” WINSTON CHURCHILL
“I have a dream” MARTIN LUTHER KING
“The ideal of an equal society… It is an ideal for which I am prepared
to die.” NELSON MANDELA
“In December, the world will come together at the UN Climate Conference
in Paris, and we will see whether or not we can muster the collective
political will to reach an ambitious, comprehensive agreement.” JOHN KERRY
“Ha ha” NELSON MUNTZ
The United States of America comports itself among nations as a global
So when the US Secretary of State speaks we should listen.
In the lead up to what has been billed as the world’s penultimate
climate summit, The current US Secretary of State, John Kerry gives an
address outlining America’s approach to combating climate change.
Though obviously well meant, John Kerry’s address contains two main
flaws. These two flaws are interrelated :
1/ A lack of courageous and inspiring leadership from the front prepared
to take risks and go out on a limb.
In past summits the US and the EU have not been been prepared to meet
the Third World leader’s calls, for First World financial help to help
them make cuts demanded of them.
There are several themes raised by John Kerry in his speech that are
worthwhile, particularly his comments about the future of oil and coal
and the certainty of climate collapse if we do nothing. But overall I
think Kerry and other global politicians failings are this; They are all
waiting till they can achieve universal global agreement, and are too
hesitant to agree to do anything meaningful themselves until this
universal agreement is achieved.
What Kerry misses is that real leadership comes from the front.
What other country will be prepared to make the painful cuts in green
house gas emissions the scientists tell us are necessary, when the
richest and most powerful nation on earth refuses to do so?
When what is required is one leading nation to make a unilateral break
from the herd, and lead from the front. The take home message from John
Kerry’s address is this; the US will not be that nation. Instead the US
is looking to impose big cuts in emission cuts on the whole world, which
the First world, the US and the EU, and possibly China and India will
then all agree to match, but which look likely to fall particularly hard
on those countries trying to lift themselves out of poverty. The rich
countries, (which historically are the most responsible for climate
change, and who can most afford to make these changes), will not agree
to compensate or fund the poorer nations to make these same changes. So
no one will change, and so business as will usual continue in both the
developed and the developing world, unchecked to any major degree.
This is the rock on which the last global climate summit floundered on.
Without massive First World funding, those countries that are trying to
climb the development ladder will keep milling the rain forests and
building new coal power plants. (After all that is what we did to get
where we are.)
With John Kerry’s first world superpower view of the world, the Paris
climate summit, like all the preceding summits before it, will not find
agreement, because no nation, not even the US, wants to be the first
take the lead, and take the hard but necessary decision to make the
massive cuts in emissions that the science says are the only way to save
our world .
In his speech John Kerry praises great political leaders of the past
that took risks, but he and most (if not all) of the other mainstream
politicians and leaders taking part in the talks in Paris are very
hesitant to take any political risks at all. Each waiting for the others
to make the first move.
The approach of trying to get universal agreement before committing to
anything will undoubtedly fail, (again).
Start at 36:11 minutes in
“Through my life I believe that you can take certain kinds
of risks in the course of public affairs and life. My heroes are people
who dared to take on great challenges without knowing for certain what
the outcome would be.
Lincoln took risks, Ghandi took risks, Churchill took risks, Dr King
Mandela took risks. That doesn’t mean that every risk taker is a role
model. It is one thing to risk a career or a life or on behalf of a
principle, or to save or liberate a population, it quite another to
wager the well being of generations and life itself simply to continue
to satisfy the appetites of the present.” JOHN KERRY
The dance between leadership and people is a subtle one.
It is an inescapable fact, anything worth doing by humans requires
teamwork, whether it is building a house, or a road, or crossing an
ocean. (or fighting a war). Teamwork is our greatest strength as a
species. It is also another inescapable fact, teamwork requires leadership.
Notice that John Kerry tempers his praise of leaders of the past that
took risks with a qualifier, that not all risk takers should be
followed. I think that Kerry’s dilemma is that he knows that leadership
that gets too far ahead from the mainstream risks becoming isolated. And
this is a risk that he and other mainstream politicians are currently
not prepared to take. It is safer to hide in the herd.
As our climate more obviously decays, if real leadership on climate
change is not forthcoming from the top, it will have to come from the
streets. As people demand action from their government’s, and raise the
demand that they can not to wait for any other country to act first.
Then, we may be able to see the rise of the sort of political leadership
that John Kerry longs for.
2/ As well as shying away from leadership, Kerry’s address contains one
other major flaw.
John Kerry’s speech on the climate is a worthwhile contribution to the
global debate on climate change, and the possibilities for changing
course, coming as it does, from a top world politician. But John Kerry’s
speech however, does in my opinion, deliver one particularly bum note.
Giving up on his wistful wish for inspiring political leadership, in the
last ditch, John Kerry makes a misguided call to hand power over from
political organisations to the autocratic top down dictat of the big
faceless global corporates.
In his speech on the climate John Kerry, expresses his ambition to
somehow, (using America’s dominant hegemonic position of power in the
world), force the changes he wants onto other nations. John Kerry
expressing the view, that handing more power to global corporations to
control, other formerly independent, nation’s affairs through the TPPA
and the TAPA, that these corporations will get the nations subject to
the TPPA and TAPA to make the changes he seeks.
Completely at odds with the rest of his speech, Kerry espouses an
autocratic top down approach to climate change that is a retreat from
the cooperative approach that the Paris talks are supposed to be about.
Start 28:16 minutes
“We have to strengthen legal and regulatory frameworks in
countries overseas to help spur investment in places where it is
insufficient. It is much easier for businesses to deploy capital when
they have confidence in the local legal and regulatory policy, and to
attract money we need to control risk, the more you can minimise the
risk the greater confidence people, investors will have to bring their
capital to the table.
We also have to continue to push for the world’s highest standards
in the environmental chapters of the trade agreements that we are
pursuing. Just like, we are doing in the Trans Atlantic Trade and
Investment Partnership, and the Trans Pacific Partnership, and just like
labour standards in other agreements, these environmental agreements,
(nervous cough), have to be really fully enforceable.” JOHN KERRY
End 29:11 minutes
Talk about US superpower political hubris.
If change is to come, it will come through international cooperation,
delivered from inspirational and visionary leadership, leadership that
appeals to the best in humanity. It will start when the leading powers
start making the necessary changes and set the pace. Positive change
will never come from imposition by faceless global corporates, because
as well as having a vested interest in exploiting the natural and human
world to the point of destruction, generally these multinational
corporate investors operate behind the scenes and on their own secret
profit driven agendas, (except under extraordinary circumstances) never
having to bow to any democratic, or any other sort of public input.
In my opinion, John Kerry’s hope that giving these global corporates,
legislative oversight over sovereign governments, (even his own), will
see them use this legislative power for the good of humanity and the
environment, is wishful thinking.
Hopefully, with more leaks of the secret draft of the TPPA, we may soon
be able to verify if John Kerry’s lofty claims for the TPPA, ‘that the
TPPA contains the protections for the environment and the climate’, that
he says it does, are actually in the TPPA. Or whether this is just
wishful thinking on his part.
Frankly, I personally strongly doubt John Kerry’s claims for the TPPA.
We also have to ask ourselves; Is John Kerry’s shameless plug for the
TPPA in his climate speech, politically naive as it sounds? Or is John
Kerry’s artless insertion of his administrations support for the TPPA, a
politically necessary nod to the corporate lobbyists and donors and
political backers, to which the Obama/Kerry administration are beholden
to? Are these the ones that are really forming the Obama/Kerry
administration’s global stance on the climate?
No matter how much Kerry wistfully praises political leaders of the past
for taking risks.
It is a fact; That it is the global corporations that Kerry wants to
hand legislative oversight power to, to maximise their profits have a
financial and economic incentive to wreck the environment, particularly
It is also a fact; It is these global corporates, that leading world
politicians, like John Kerry, are the ones, that leaders like him are
hesitant to take the risk of opposing.
Witness the Obama administration granting Shell permits to drill in the
Arctic. Or their shilly shallowing over the XL pipeline.
Or the Obama administration’s granting permits for more unnecessary and
dangerous coal mining.
Carbon pollution from publicly owned coal leased just
during the Obama administration will cause damages estimated at between
$52 billion and $530 billion, using the federal government’s own
methodology for estimating the social cost of carbon. In contrast, the
total amount of federal revenue generated from those coal lease sales
only amounted to $2.3 billion. Nationwide, the value of federal coal to
a domestic coal burning power plant averages $35 a ton. For this, the
federal government collects a mere $2. This is a giveaway of a vast
public resource – a taxpayer rip-off virtually unparalleled in the 21st
In my opinion, in his speech on the climate, raising the example of the
courageous leaders of the past, John Kerry has expressed a subconscious
wish to have the courage of these past leaders, to stand up to the
corporate driven agenda destroying our planet.
It is up to all of us to give him and leaders like him the courage he seeks.
Pat O’Dea is the Mana Movement Spokesperson On Climate Change