Saturday, January 09, 2010

Green grows the opportunity

Lift a stone and it's interesting to see what crawls out. Lift several on same patch and other creatures emerge in the unaccustomed daylight. Are they related? You bet.

Go back in time for the first stone, way back to December 1996, and we see a technical paper written on an obscure subject that would not normally get a second glance – but for the lead authors. They are Ritu Kumar, Nick Robins, both known to readers of this blog.

At the time, Ms Kumar (or Dr Kumar – as she sometimes allows herself to be called) is a research officer at the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). She works out of the Vienna International Centre in Austria and is evidently well-paid for so doing.

Three years later she is able to quit her job and travel to London to set up house with her husband - who just happens to be Nick Robins - in deepest Merton. They pay £250,000 cash for 27 Albert Grove, which is then registered as the head office of Rajendra Pachauri's Outpost of Empire in London, TERI Europe.

Back in 1996, Nick Robins is working for the environmental "charity", the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) based in London. It is so well endowed that, last year, it took £12,736,870 in income.

Anyhow, the charitable Mr Robins and his bride Ritu have got together to publish this paper which is entitled, "Incentives for Ecoefficiency Lessons from an Evaluation of Policy Alternatives: a Case Study of the Steel Sector in India" – just the thing for those dark December nights.

Of special interest is that the pair (with local authors) are carrying out a study of the suitability of schemes for reducing "pollution" in the steel industry. They conclude that the "regulatory model" is less effective when the regulators are corrupt – which is certainly the case in India. On the other hand, they report that the "incentive model" is "feasible even if we assume that regulators are prone to corruption."

It is, of course, a complete coincidence that the case study is conducted with the assistance of the Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO), which is later to benefit so much from the "incentive model" so earnestly recommended by the Kumar-Robins duo.

Needless to say, their endeavours do not stop there. In early 1999, they are beating the same drum, with a joint paper about sustainable cities. Nick is still working for the IIED but Ritu has moved to London and is working as a consultant to the Commonwealth Science Council. Shortly, she and "Patchy" are to set of TERI Europe.

The revered Dr Pachauri, some time later, is to take the chair of a founder member group setting up the India Climate Exchange. This will in time exploit the "incentive model" so assiduously promoted by Ritu Kumar, who now works for him in a "voluntary" capacity.

As for Nick Robins, in December 2000 he joined Henderson Global Investors as head of SRI Research. This is a company which seeks to exploit his "charitable" work on the "incentive model" for pollution control. While there, Robins sets up the "Carbon Disclosure Project" which aims to convince corporations of the "desirability" of publishing their "carbon footprint", so disposing them to pay to reduce it.

He, with Ritu and others, on 27 April 2009, also set up their own company called "Investor Watch," which seems to have a similar objective.

Meanwhile, two years earlier, Robins has been recruited by HSBC as head of their Climate Change Centre of Excellence, further strengthening the company's ability to exploit the "incentive model" for pollution control, advocated now for more than ten years by the charitable Mr Robins and a UN official called Ritu Kumar.

As for the IIED, in seeking "to help shape a future that ends global poverty" - as its mission statement so earnestly tells us - it has now acquired as one of its partners an organisation called TERI Europe, of which Ritu Kumar is director. They are part of a coalition called the "Working Group on Climate Change and Development," producing a number of joint reports, such as this.

No doubt, the association is beneficial to TERI Europe. As the IIED is keen to assure us, it is not a "grant-making institution." Instead, its £12 million income is "shared with collaborators and partner organisations in joint project activities".

Nothing here, of course, is remotely illegal. These are just kindly, dedicated people toiling in the vineyard to save the poor, earning a modest crust in the process - some might say. Others might note – not always with approval – that "saving the planet" seems to be a hugely profitable enterprise.

Or, as little Nick once put it, "Green grows the opportunity".