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One Bank One Index

The Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank hit the ground running in 2015 with a bold agenda to create a “lean, clean and green” multilateral development bank for the 21st century.

China does not have a One Bank One Index economic-ecological accounting scheme to complement its One Belt One Road infrastructure and development plan, but it should since it is well-poised to be the leader in infrastructure and debt financing for the Global South.

However, to say that a One Bank One Index (OBOI) accounting scheme does not exist is simply another way to unveil strategies for an ecological post-pandemic economy that could potentially fill a vacuum caused by a series of economic downturns that began with the Wall Street collapse in 2008 and culminated into the miasma of our global pandemic economy. 

China’s leadership in the implementation of the Paris Agreement, SDGs (esp. poverty reduction) would be confirmed and enhanced by supporting an economic-ecological index. 

We need to explore more equitable accounting schemes to address the problem of global leadership, national/regional development, and sustainable local and rural livelihoods

The recent G7 summit and Biden’s Build Back Better World (B3W) suggests that the Western economies will seek to push forward an aggressive model for ecological accounting and this is not likely to bode well for the Global South.  We need to explore more equitable accounting schemes to address the problem of global leadership, national/regional development, and sustainable local and rural livelihoods.  China, who retains its position of solidarity with the Global South, is well-positioned to be the normative source of economic value and infrastructure financing that should be considered dominant.

When the UN Statistical Division announced their revision to the GDP System of National Accounts last March, the framework may have lacked specificity as to how accounts would be treated, but the language is clear: national accounting systems will no longer “be heedlessly allowing environmental destruction and degradation to be considered economic progress.”

Taken at face value, there is a lot to celebrate with that expression. But considering that most of the proposals for natural accounting systems were devised by institutions in the advanced economies with little participation from the South, indigenous or other impacted peoples, it is difficult to see environmental accounting as a truly global initiative.

Those in ecosystem financing are mostly aware of controversies with Cap and Trade, or the exclusionary policies of Big Conservation where large swaths of blue/green spaces of oceans and forests would be managed and accounted for by the large economies using technologies from Dept of Defense sub-contractors. Yet, apart from a few critical minds, there remains little in the way of addressing these flaws.

Much of the logic behind the adoption of these conservation enclosures is simply the urgency of something needing to be done, and since Western interests continue to paint China as a bogeyman across all sectors, it would appear that if there is nothing better on the horizon, then the global initiative is to pursue the hegemonic enclosure with all its flaws intact.

The China-led One Belt One Road is operationally an infrastructure and development initiative, delivering the Global South new access and opportunity in trade of goods and services. While it does bring advantages to China, it does not accomplish this through privatization regimes, enclosures, destabilization of democratic governments, or economic rights abuses that it is often accused of.

What is factual, is that without interference, the Belt and Road Initiative has the technological and institutional structure that would support countries and regions to participate in a much more viable market without being compromised by the neoliberal financialization and militarization of containment, obstruction and destabilization.  

When we trace the evolution of the UN SEEA for example, beginning in the 1990s, textual language marks the evidence of how institutions shifted from “degradation and depletion” to corporatization and private investment. This arrangement was not simply that of a practical matter, it was a structured and deliberate agenda motivated by the very groups that would seek to benefit from our ecological crisis.

Revising our national accounts to include ecosystem services does not preclude that this was merely an exercise in corporate conspiracy, but rather an existential necessity if we are to ever restore our environment. And while the potential crisis that awaits is the competition for global climate leadership, ecological economic accounting schemes like our Intemerate Equation provides an equitable approach to the distribution of global wealth by providing a comprehensive accounting scheme whereby ecological-economic benefits are equitably received.

Foreboding initiatives already suggest that remote peoples may soon be desperate enough to be manipulated into abandoning their homes without a fight. Australia, for example, has proposed that Tuvalu swap national territory for citizenship. Each extreme weather event brings impacted peoples that much closer to embracing the faux-generosity of exploitative interests.

But what of a One Bank One Index?

The combination of several factors that include our present global pandemic: the rise of the Belt and Road Initiative and the benefits it provides for the Global South, new multilateral institutions like the AIIB, the BRICS-led Contingency Reserve Arrangement, the Cross-Border Interbank Payment System, advanced communication technologies including the release of Huawei’s Harmony OS, open-source AI technology like the ARIES for SEEA, and a new data economy all cohesively line up for a relatively seamless transition into a new ecological-economic global economy.

This global transition should be a boon for the Global South. New infrastructure and alternative financing alignments provide regions with an opportunity to choose ecological restoration over degradation and depletion. It is a roadmap to reverse decades of exploitation and embraces new service sectors for labor, development of specialized technologies and intellectual properties, and open the door for new financial sectors where entire communities can own, package, market, and invest in restoration schemes with or without already established financial institutions.

A People’s Prospectus could circumvent Wall Street, bypass hedge fund managers, ignore transnational privatization regimes, and engage in financial markets where they would hold the equity and benefit from their own services in what we might call trans-local, inter-global trade. 

What a People’s Prospectus could deliver is a missing piece of the puzzle for the global economy, which is how we foster sustainable livelihoods in rural and isolated communities that complement highly risky involvement in agricultural or extractive  production.  

What happens if the people manage their data commons? What happens if our ecological data were stewarded by those who are customarily engaged with local biodiversity? Who profits when ecological restoration packages are created by those very communities who would benefit from local restoration services?

The “ownership” or management of that data would not fall under the manipulations of insurance companies or Wall Street investment funds, but rather the communities that would seek to ensure their own wellbeing and profit from investing in their own labor and intellectual property.

To reduce socio-ecological and economic risk and uncertainty requires local control of “private property” in the form of local intellectual property. This type of control would strengthen ties to rural communities, allow poor families to plan families around sustainable income and reduce the risk involved with urban-rural migration. In other words, ecological data promotes social cohesion and a sense of belonging, while providing a sustainable alternative source of income or credit to local authorities, even as data is aggregated and channeled through national and global infrastructure, in alignment with our vision for a One Bank One Index program within the BRI.

A People’s Prospectus: one bank and one index, community data flows, international transactions, indigenous auditing, trans-local market capitalization. A People’s Prospectus could circumvent Wall Street, bypass hedge fund managers, ignore transnational privatization regimes, and engage in financial markets where they would hold the equity and benefit from their own services in what we might call trans-local, inter-global trade. 

While there is no promise that a People’s Prospectus will provide large payouts for communities, it will provide access for a wider distribution of funds and build new opportunities for local services, invariably stimulating local communities.

The Intemerate Equation provides one option for an ecological accounting roadmap for the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Island Countries (ACP). How we facilitate that is open for discussion, and while international financial institutions are caught in the middle of a system struggling to define new rules for global trade and development, unable to predict or contain the risks, an intemerate accounting side table could fill the economic gap resulting from decades of economic and ecological malfeasance.

Faced with lack of infrastructure, access to labor, and environmental sustainability, we have designed a regulatory and auditing infrastructure to prove proof-of-concept.  

The combination of a global economic downturn, a global pandemic, and our looming environmental crisis should not be seen as an opportunity for exploitation just as Wall Street did by creating a Water Futures market behind everyone’s back.  A post-pandemic economy should be seen as an opportunity to reset the global economy to one that is more just and equitable.  If that cost can begin with One Bank and One Index, that might just be enough to derail the neoliberal impetus that seeks to manage and privatize our ecological biodiversity.

An intemerate accounting scheme leveraged against debt may be a crude quid pro quo, but with the amount of funding necessary to fulfill proof of concept, a One Bank One Index proposal seems like a very small risk to define a more just and equitable global economy.

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Accounting for Military Systems

Why are High GDP economies often war economies?



The rationale over how we account for GDP is important. The United States has a disproportionately unfair and unjust advantage over most other countries over how it accounts for military expenditures.

The US BEA pushed for these accounting revisions before the UN System of National Accounts back in 2008. Arguing that “national security” benefits our national income as a fixed asset is a spurious logic that only benefits militarized economies, especially considering that the more just, fair and equitable “ecological security” was rejected.

Fixed assets are essentially infrastructure, or “common good” accounts that CANNOT easily be converted into cash. What the US did was change how we accounted for weapon systems, away from being an inventoried expenditure, something we account for when we take it off the shelf.

Imagine that in 2008, we could just as easily have had environmental degradation and resource depletion and household work accounted for in our national income estimates.

Here is the argument from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis as to why Military Weapon Systems need to be treated as a fixed asset:

“The 1993 SNA states that destructive military weapon systems designed for combat, such as warships, fighter aircraft, and tanks, should be treated as intermediate consumption by general government rather than as fixed assets. This treatment is problematic for several reasons: 

  • It fails to recognise that weapon systems provide a nation with economic benefits by protecting the liberty and property of its citizens. 
  • It fails to recognise the role of capital in the production of defence services. 
  • It fails to recognise that existing military equipment have value and can be sold. 
  • When a government sells or transfers used military equipment, the treatment requires a counter-intuitive accounting entry of negative intermediate consumption. 
  • The distinction between destructive equipment and non-destructive equipment that can be used for peaceful purposes is difficult to make in practice. 
  • The treatment of military equipment used by the military is inconsistent with the treatment of the same equipment (for example, armoured vehicles) used by internal police. 
  • The treatment is inconsistent with the latest international public sector financial accounting standards. 
  • Many countries now maintain military equipment for long periods and are concerned about scheduling and providing for its replacement. “

To be clear, high GDP does not always mean that countries need to focus on military systems. Sometimes, as in the case with China, it really does mean positive growth of national income. The difference is that in China, the evidence is tangible with the rise of living standards and the hundreds of millions of people having moved out of poverty over the last two decades. Contrast that with the United States where millions have fallen out of the middle class and stagnant wages have only increased the cost of living. If people have less financial security and environments become more fragile when GDP increases, then clearly there is something wrong with how we account.

Imagine if ecological justice hawks and warrior accountants were sitting at this table rather than war department weapons industry and war machine lobbyists.

This is why ecological revisions to our national accounting system needs the participation of developing countries, indigenous and customary peoples and poor and impacted peoples. We would never allow this….

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Reweaving the Ecological Mat: WCC/PCC Webinar

The World Council of Churches and the Pacific Conference of Churches hosted a webinar on the Reweaving the Ecological Mat program conducted by the Pacific Theological College, the Pacific Conference of Churches and the Oceanic Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies, University of South Pacific. The REM program was a three year program that explored how our ecology, economy, and cultural wellbeing could be a viable and tangible way to account for our future.

If climate change is the greatest threat to our existence on this planet, what the REM program did was to offer a solution on how to reverse climate change and pollution while promoting wellbeing and development for our region. This was done not by asserting another top down program demanding our consent, rather, through a bottom up program that respects and values people and planet.

Dr. Reverend Cliff Bird discusses the Oikonomics, a return to the ecological, economic, ecumenical and cultural relationship from which these terms derive;

Dr. Elise Huffer introduces the cultural and wellbeing factors necessary for any Pacific development scheme;

Arnie Saiki lays out what is behind the intermerate accounting scheme; and

Daphne Kiki, provides a view of the role our Pacific youth will need to play to shape our way forward.

What I think is clear is the role our churches and other religious institutions are going to need to perform to promote a new accounting framework if we are to survive the greatest existential challenge we have ever had to make.

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SEEA Intervention from the Intemerate Working Group on Data, Statistics and Valuation


DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS STATISTICS DIVISION UNITED NATIONS
     

System of Environmental-Economic Accounting—Ecosystem Accounting

UN SEEAEEA REVISION

Global Consultation on the complete document:

General comments

Question 1: Do you have comments on the overall draft of the SEEA Ecosystem Accounting?

SEEA intervention from the Intermerate working group on data, statistics and valutation

Ecological accounting is the foundation that we, as an interdependent global society, require to determine economic value and to safeguard that which cannot be given price. The SEEA and our preferred approach to ecological accounting both spring from the recognition of this fact.

This is because these values are unreliable indicators of the overall impact of production on our lives and our planet, being based on the exchange prices of labour, land and other factors or resources which are in turn skewed by exchange rates, historical conventions and the relative scarcity of the item in the market in which it is purchased and consumed.

The logic of the SEEA is, as often repeated in the draft document, the provision of reliable data and information to facilitate decision-making.

Indeed, the document does provide clear definition on ecosystems, their extent, condition and interaction with the economic.

We applaud the effort to develop a platform that would allow adoption of environmental-economic accounting by national statistical offices and countries across the globe.  

Historical Background

However, considering how the SEEA has progressed since the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1983;

Proceeding to the formation of the Integrated Environmental Economic Accounting workbook in 1992 where it was affirmed that “the economy was a part of nature and that integrated environmental and economic accounting should not consist in an economic accounting of the environment; rather, the economy should be treated as part of an environmental accounting system;”

Recognizing that the revision of the SNA in 2008 rejected environmental degradation and resource depletion because it was “too experimental”, while moving Military Systems from an inventoried account to a fixed asset, which embraced a value of National Security over our global ecological security;

Recalling that the 2012 Central Framework where environmental accounting structures are being harmonized for private investment regimes;

And concerned that the current 2020 Ecosystem account where our ecological asset valuations are set to be standardized to investment markets;

As a working group we feel the need to intervene with a People’s equation for an ecological-economic account  

Alternative: Intemerate Accounting

We present our alternative: the Intemerate Accounting Equation.

We submit that biodiversity underlies both current and future factors of production. Climate change and environmental degradation constitute a massive factor in reducing wealth creation, and pose imminent danger to effective democratic and economic systems.

We submit that environmental assets and ecological services are defining features of our choices with regards to civilization and human settlement. Individual administrative areas, especially cities are already historically defined by environmental conditions, most notably the availability of water and arable land. It is fundamental for the maintenance of human civilization that reference conditions be established and restored in a manner that combines the advantages of technology, democracy and traditional stewardship. We submit that ecological accounting will only be effective if it increases communities’ sense of engagement and efficacy in recording, safeguarding, and increasing ecological value.

We respectfully reject this initiative, and ask you to support a People’s Revision of ecological-economic accounts, and submit our equation to be considered for the improvement and democratization of the current national accounting system.

Comments by sets of chapters

Question 2. Do you have comments on Chapters 1-2 of the draft SEEA Ecosystem Accounting?

1.4.3 Connection to the System of National Accounts   In earlier iterations of the SEEA (2003), the aspiration for reversing climate change was to fold GDP into the SEEA. At face value, that would suggest that degradation would be accounted for as a deficit rather than to enhance the value of depletion. We feel that in principle, it is disingenuous to expand the value of ecosystem assets in order to compensate for degradation and loss.   This inversion of now folding the SEEA into the consumption and production values of GDP will do very little to reverse climate change and instead seeks to use ecological accounts to enhance  GDP by expanding the value of ecosystem assets, which benefits further privatization of our public assets like water.

Our intemerate equation does not put a value on our ecological biodiversity, anymore than we would put a value on immaculate conception. If we believe that existentially, our ecological biodiversity is sacrosanct, one would not undervalue degradation by overvaluing depletion. In our accounting matrix, we acknowledge GDP and the function of investment markets and service industries. What we have done was to  put the value on what we call the intemerate offsets, thereby treating restoration as a service, and allowing states to transition away from GDP at their own rate, while measurable indicators value restoring our ecological biodiversity towards the intemerate baseline.

While GDP may very well reflect the US and privilege NIPA over other accounting systems, by definition, our national accounts are supposed to mirror a country’s economy. For developing countries, GDP has never adequately reflected the productive interactions between peoples and their environment. Hence, our intemerate accounts, establishes an accounting sidetable for developing countries who will benefit from a restoration economy.  It will not take anything away from already existing industries and partners, but our accounting sidetable will adjust GDP towards our intemerate assets, and place well being as a modulator to the country’s GDP.    

Question 3. Do you have comments on Chapters 3-5 of the draft SEEA Ecosystem Accounting?

Addressing 5.8x, While we understand the need to mainframe and standardize aggregated values, particularly for investors, the weighting of values does not properly account for the relationship that people have with their land and resources. Our ecological data must remain the property of the state/community. It will be far too easy to perpetuate economic disparties through capitalizing data if we standardize the measurements of standards and fllows. It will be far too easy to undervalue that which is sacrosanct, and overvalue that which primarily values degrading and depleting industries.

Our intemerate model values the offsets and monetizes the incremental restorative offsets rather than commodify ecological assets, and weighs values according to people and their relationship to their resources. What is standardized are the offsets, and those can be valued to the marketplace.

Question 4. Do you have comments on Chapters 6-7 of the draft SEEA Ecosystem Accounting?

The benefit of the SEEA has been an in depth analysis and description of linking biodiversity and ecosystem services. I would only add that we all have the opportunity to measure, to count, to examine, to protect, to nurture, to analyze, to collect, to describe, to compile, to publish, to monitor and manage our environments.  This is a service, and it is  how we interact with the environment. Global peoples need to play a greater role in ecosystem services. It is the Peoples interactions that  should be accounted for in our national economies.  

Question 5. Do you have comments on Chapters 8-11 of the draft SEEA Ecosystem Accounting?

Understanding that there are different strategies for monetizing ecosystem services, the SEEA has an opportunity to promote a system where traditional and customary peoples who have stewarded their lands and environments for generations will  benefit as we move towards a restoration economy. It is also important for people to “own” and manage their own ecological data. The environmental data will be a tremendous revenue source for people, especially as markets for environmental data become more defined.

The intemerate accounting framework includes a financial scheme that includes equalization, promoting just, fair and equitable  accounts.

Question 6. Do you have comments on Chapters 12-14 of the draft SEEA Ecosystem Accounting?

In 12.30 of this draft, it states that it was considered that there was no market of institutional mechanism by which the restoration costs are confronted with the benefits associated with the change in environmental quality.

I beg to differ, and would cite that the justification of moving weapons systems to being a fixed asset was extremely imaginative, even if it does not make sense in the context of valuing peace. Valuing weapons systems according to the value of national security is a slight of hand that is also, probably very difficult to justify when weighted against the value of our environment, our ecological biodiversity and our general welfare.

The best accounting minds in the UNSD might easily dismiss our intemerate equation because it does not fit into conventional aggregates or standards, but then, those same accounting minds should also put to task the same energy to remove how weapons systems are accounted for.   The best accounting minds should also consider how intemerate accounting– how a people’s accounting framework– can reverse the impacts of climate change and move the global economy forward in a way tht embraces the spirit of the 1983 World Commission on Environment and Development, and find ways to enhance the global economy rather than to manage it under the same economic system of management that led to the ecological miasma we are currently in.   Thank you for your time and the opportunity to submit this intervention.
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President Konrote of Fiji considers Ecological Accounts

Officiating the Voices in the Deep (VOID) art exhibition, it’s really good to hear the President of The Republic of Fiji, His Excellency Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konusi Konrote, speak so favorably about the Reweaving the Ecological Mat movement.

With his attention fixed on these issues around our ecological biodiversity and the process for national accounting, the hope that he references might turn to practice and action.

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