Thursday, February 16, 2006

Earth economics

The saga of the Clémenceau, the decommissioned French aircraft-carrier is only the tip of the iceberg. Now the Norway (formerly le France, and once the largest cruise-ship in the world) is rejected by the authorities in Bangladesh. The Clémenceau has put the spotlight on the global issue of the disposal of decommissioned vessels. Whether decommissioned ships should be considered hazardous wastes has been for many years a test-case for the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes.

The saga of the Clémenceau is a classic inspirational case of the ability of a few (called them David) to beat a giant (call it Goliath). I have for example witnessed at meetings of the UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO) the passion of Greenpeace's campaigner Martin Besieux driving delegates (and the Secretariat) a bit crazy over this issue (a couple of years ago, because he knew my past affiliation with Greenpeace, the DG of the IMO asked me -- gently -- if I could "do something" to calm Martin down, and I simply said "mission impossible, and why should you want him to calm down?").

A lot of the merit for the progress made in the last fifteen years on the issue of the dumping by rich countries of hazardous wastes in developing countries (now formally banned under an amendment to the Basel Convention adopted a few years ago), goes to Jim Puckett, another member of the Greenpeace dispora, who now runs the Basel Action Network. Together with our friend Dave Bakter, Jim has recently set up Earth Economics to challenge conventional economic theories and promote environmental economics.

Knowing these kick-ass guys well, I'm sure Earth Economics won't be "just another think-tank" !

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