Gordon Brown Saves the World

Gordon Brown is obviously a very clever man. But why is there something so strange about his widely lauded proposals today? (How do we raise trillions of dollars to fight the climate crisis? The answer is staring us in the face).They seem to operate in a world with no history or power, or relations between things.

Brown’s analysis starts promisingly: “Last year, the oil and gas industry across the world banked about $4tn, according to the head of the International Energy Agency. This represents one of the biggest redistributions of wealth from the world’s poor to the richest petrostates. The record energy prices that have produced these unearned gains have not only caused dramatically rising poverty and debt in the global south, but have also stymied decades of progress in extending power into homes, villages and towns that were previously without electricity.”

The figures are indeed staggering “…$4tn is a bigger sum than the entire UK economy and about 20 times all the international aid budgets of the world. It is 40 times the $100bn-a-year target for the global south that was pledged in 2009 for 2020 but never reached.”

This is the backdrop to COP (*checks notes* 28!!) the climate summit hosted by (*checks notes* the United Arab Emirates). The summit, Gordon tell us, will be chaired by Sultan Al Jaber, the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, which is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the windfall. No shit.

What is the answer to the climate problem? Well, its staring ‘us’ in the face and it’s to throw (oil) money at it. And who will be the great benevolent forces to save the planet?

Saudi Arabia.

Brown explains:

“A $25bn global windfall levy on oil and gas profits, paid by the richest petrostates, would amount to less than 1% of global oil and gas revenues and only 3% of the export earnings of these major producers. Each of the richest petrostates can easily afford to pay. The UAE has seen its export earnings rise from $76bn to $119bn; it can afford to contribute $3bn without any impact on the energy prices paid by its domestic consumers. And it is not alone: with Qatar’s export earnings, mainly from gas, rising from $53bn to $86bn it too could easily afford $3bn, as could Kuwait with its export earnings increasing from $63bn to $98bn.”

Such funds Brown explains would be combined with the ambitious Bridgetown Agenda (devised by the prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley) and the Summers-Singh plan which would bring the total funding for development kickstarted by the global windfall levy to $1tn.

To do what exactly?

It’s not exactly clear but he talks of how “to meet the climate and development needs of the global south.”

Seriously though, if Saudi money can be diverted to pay towards the Loss and Damage Fund all well and good, but the ideas from Brown seem to be afloat in the world – put forward as if change can happen without changing anything at all.

It’s certainly clear that the mayhem being unleashed on the global south by climate breakdown is horrific, escalating and incomprehensible. It’s certainly true that the petrostates profits are off-the-scale and grotesque. And it’s certainly true that mitigating the disaster is going to be costly. But little else of this makes sense.

Gordon is worried that a “breakthrough at Cop28 will elude us” but doesn’t seem to ask why a breakthrough eluded us at COPs 1 – 27? (!) He is entirely in rapture to a process that has completely failed.

Nor is this a one-off ‘windfall’ tax type situation. Brown suggests that: “…with oil and gas profits remaining high not as an accident but because of a deliberate Opec Organisation decision to continue to restrict production, there is no reason why the levy should not be paid on an annual basis.”

So just to run that by you again, we won’t do anything to alter the nature of the economy that is driving us into destruction, we’ll just ask nicely the most filthy-rich beneficiaries of that system if they’d mind giving us a trillion dollars to help out with the consequences of their product?

Brown himself admits that since Bretton Woods in 1944: “With the notable exception of paying for UN peacekeeping, no one then or since has ever agreed how the costs of funding global public goods would be shared.”
So there is no vehicle or precedent (or motivation) for the proposals. Gordon Brown is as likely to succeed in this as he was in “Abolishing the House of Lords” or “Creating Federalism in Britain”.

He is the $1 Trillion Dollar Man …

Comments (22)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Graeme McCormick says:

    but remember, before he was Chancellor his financial management experience was Edinburgh University Students Union board

  2. gavinochiltree says:

    When Brown intimated an early election ( Alexander the election coordinator/Miliband preparing a manifesto) but then lost his nerve, his political career was done.
    Then, his team were planting stories in the media, about Brown heading up every major world institution looking for a Boss.
    No offer came from international institutions (aware of his talents and faults) and he looks more pathetic with every passing year, with nothing but his “charity” and British nationalism to occupy him.
    A Peerage might have assuaged his giant ego, but for reasons hidden from us, no such “elevation” has happened.

    The Anglo-Brit nationalist media detested him as a Scot, but now they pander to his daft notions in case they they need to wheel him out at some future referendum.

    1. John says:

      Very good summary-AngloBrits got very upset when he was PM & Alastair Darling was Chancellor.
      I think he is still trying to outdo his old rival Tony Blair and his foundation.

  3. James Mills says:

    Brown – a dinosaur trying to be relevant 65million years too late !

  4. Tom Ultuous says:

    The Labour PM who had the opportunity to nationalise the financial sector but well and truly bottled it. Nye Bevan he’s not. Now just a yoon clown.

    1. Niemand says:

      ‘Yoon clown’. How enlightening.

      1. 230925 says:

        Unfortunately, that’s the level of impoverishment at which so much of our political discourse in Scotland operates.

      2. Tom Ultuous says:

        What is it you disagree with? Yoon, clown or both? He’s certainly a yoon and IMO any Labour PM who let the holy grail slip through his fingers is a clown.

        1. 230926 says:

          I don’t disagree with the ad hominem. I just don’t see how it adds anything substantial to the critique of his (albeit flawed) proposal as to how we might redistribute wealth from the rich countries of the global north to the impoverished countries of the global south.

        2. John says:

          It may be your opinion but many people (including myself) see this type of talk as offensive.
          It does the cause of independence no good to castigate our opponents in such a way. Possibly more importantly this type of slagging off opponents only appeals to hard line supporters of independence and will probably make people who are considering supporting independence hesitate and think again.
          We can and should robustly criticise opponents of independence without resorting to name calling.
          I appreciate many people who oppose independence also talk in a similar disrespectful manner but this only appeals to the unionists hard line supporters as well.
          As Michelle Obama advised when they aim low aim high.
          Lastly being an opponent of independence does not mean that people have interesting and useful opinions on other subjects.

  5. Graeme Purves says:

    I’m pretty sure the trope that Gordon Brown is a man of ‘formidable intellect’ was launched by the journalist Harry Reid in the 1980s. It has been repeated by dutiful hacks ever since. Reid was a staunch Presbyterian and evidently mesmerised by Brown’s credentials as a son of the manse and his student activism at the University of Edinburgh. There is very little evidence to substantiate the claim.

    1. 230925 says:

      The formidability of Gordon’s intellect is evident in his writings and speeches, from his doctoral thesis onwards.

      Of course, what’s really not worthy of respect isn’t so much his intellect than his commitment to unionism and collective solidarity, which is the real reason so many separatists seek to assassinate his character.

      1. It would be great if you addressed the arguments as presented about how fanciful his proposal is

        1. 230926 says:

          Happy to oblige!

          Gordon starts from the promise that we need a global plan to finance our mitigation of and adaption to the effects of climate change, and his aim is to suggest such a plan.

          His suggestion is that we redistribute the profits made by the global oil and gas industry from the petrostates of the global north to the impoverished states of the global south to help them finance their policies to improve their resilience to the effects of climate change. Such finance has already been pledged by the G20 and the UN General Assembly at their summits, but we’ve so far failed to deliver it. This ‘just’ redistribution of wealth from the global north to the global south would in effect be a reversal of the ‘unjust’ redistribution of wealth from the poorer south to the richer north that the profiteering of the oil and gas industries represents.

          This redistribution of wealth could be effected, Gordon reckons, by the petrostates of the global north levying an annual windfall tax on the profits made by the oil and gas companies that fall under their jurisdiction and distributing the immense revenues that such a tax would raise according to need through mechanisms like the Bretton-Woods agreement, by which the costs of global public goods (e.g. UN peacekeeping) are already more or less equitably shared according to financial ability and/or by the COP27 Loss and Damage fund agreed a year ago. This tax initiative would be in addition to the structural initiatives already proposed by the Bridgetown Agenda and by the Summers-Singh plan.

          This is good socialist economics. The major flaw in Gordon’s proposal is that there’s little if any political appetite for good socialist economics in petrostates like Norway, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arbs Emirates. This is the reef on which his proposal founders.

          But, of course, quite apart from the fancifulness of his socialism, anything Gordon says is bound to be vitiated a priori by his Unionism.

          1. 230926 says:

            Mind you, is it any more fanciful than the plan to wave a magic wand and ‘alter the nature of the economy that is driving us into destruction’. Even the global south places no faith in that plan and are looking rather for finance from the global north to help implement their own resilience plans. Gordon’s plan (for all its failure) proposes that we do just that.

          2. You speak well on behalf of the global south

          3. 230926 says:

            I don’t speak on behalf of anyone, Mike. Governments in the global south are themselves crying out for financial help to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. I’m only giving my own critique of Gordon’s outline proposal, which you asked for. Like Kierkegaard, I ‘speak without authority’.

    2. Yeah Graeme, one of the things that’s funny about this latest is the way that there is virtually no critical thinking about his proposals at all, which are clearly ridiculous and based on a series of slightly desperate wishful thinking

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        Just so.

  6. Mike Parr says:

    Brown & PFI – need one say more – the biggest rip-off of the UK serf, ever. & now, the gormless one is coming out with more nonesense – this time on the climate disaster. Brown was also one of the cheerleading imbeciles that decided the trading of carbon was better than taxing it. & on & on – mistake after neolibtard mistake. Brown was not a socialist – he was a neolibtard and still is.

  7. Mark Howitt says:

    Difficult to take too seriously the sugestions of the man who announced in advance his intention of selling the UK’s gold reserves at a time when the price of gold was at 20 year low.

    1. 230927 says:

      No one’s asking you to take the man seriously, Mark; you’re only being asked to take seriously the substantive proposal he makes for delivering the finance for which the global south is asking, and which we’ve already promised, so that it can increase its resilience to the effects of climate change. Why shouldn’t we tax and redistribute the profits that the oil and gas industry make, and which are largely being extracted from the global south, back to the global south? What’s wrong with doing that? Are you going to dismiss that proposal out of spite, just because you don’t like Gordon Brown?

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.