World Economic Forum recognizes green manufacturing solutions
Thursday, January 24, 2019
This week, President Trump boasted that 2018’s 284,000 new manufacturing jobs indicate he has a "magic wand" for job growth. This number, which reflects the greatest annual manufacturing growth since 1997, sounds good. But are they sustainable jobs in line with global emissions reduction goals? Not necessarily.
When GM announced plant closure plans, it stated that it is preparing to manufacture greener electric vehicles, pitting jobs against the environment. But, according to many attending this week’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, jobs and the environment do not have to be at odds.
Or do they?
Global leaders from China, France, U.K., and the U.S. are not attending this year’s WEF. But other leaders are attending the WEF, and they are endorsing a green economic future that highlights social "well-being," too.
New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, leads this charge, encouraging optimism while facing the global environmental crisis. Also, British naturalist Sir David Attenborough gave a climate change- and wildlife-focused interview with Prince William on Jan. 22 at Davos.
This enthusiasm for green economic strategies is countered by another WEF agenda that superficially asserts an environmental/economic balance. This supposed balance actually results in dangerous environmental deregulation, most notably witnessed in the U.S. and Brazil today.
In his first overseas speech since taking office, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro "alarmed" climate change activists at the WEF by insisting on a "balance" between economic development and environmental protections. Brazil’s Amazon rainforest was under governmental protection as indigenous reserves until Bolsonaro transferred oversight to Brazil’s agriculture ministry, which is controlled by the agribusiness lobby.
This controversial move opens the reserves, formerly supervised by the indigenous agency Fanui, to mining and farming that threatens the globally significant ecosystem. This is happening while Brazilian deforestation is up by 13.7 percent.
While Trump is not attending the Davos forum alongside Bolsonaro, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on hand via satellite to espouse Trump’s economic agenda. That pro-growth agenda is antagonistic to the green future embraced by others attending the Forum, which again displays the ongoing rift between governments seeking real practical climate solutions, and those, like Brazil and the U.S., promoting environmental deregulation, pro-business agenda.
WEF’s Accelerating Sustainable Production plan recognizes that climate urgency must shape global production: "Global manufacturing consumes about 54 percent of the world’s total energy and a fifth of its GHG emissions. With global temperatures remaining catastrophically on course to exceed the 2-degree Celsius goal of the Paris Climate Agreement, action by the manufacturing sector remains slow and incremental."
"Slow and incremental" is hardly Trump’s tone when describing the U.S. manufacturing sector today. It is, however, the tone of environmentalists and social progressives seeking a solution that reflects the urgency of our times.
As if we needed any more reminders, the WEF exhibits wildly different visions of the future.
One vision has Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., proposing a 70 percent tax rate on earnings above $10 million per year to fund a Green New Deal that includes sustainable manufacturing initiatives.
A tax rate increase will be at the center of the next presidential election: "The idea appears to have bipartisan support: A recent poll found that 59 percent of voters were in favor of the idea, and even 45 percent of Republicans signaled approval."
Economic sustainability requires more than mere job growth, as attendees and the viewing public are reminded this week at the WEF.
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