After two decades of global climate negotiations, beginning with the 1992 Earth Summit and culminating in the fateful Copenhagen negotiations in 2009, the second decade of the 21st century saw a series of major (man-made and natural) disasters reaffirming the urgency to pursue a “green economy” paradigm.
The first seismic event was the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which shook Japan to its core, and laid bare the perils of overreliance on nuclear technology as a source of energy. Since then, the world has come to witness how even the most developed countries could fail at ensuring nuclear safety, industrial transparency, and bureaucratic accountability amid an explosive meltdown. The political fallout of the disaster eventually brought down the left-leaning Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which came to power on the promise of overhauling the country’s creaking state institutions and introducing a new political order.
Meanwhile, the Japanese people have sought to shift the balance of forces between a powerful state bureaucracy that has recklessly downplayed successive reports of impending nuclear disaster, on one hand, and the civil society and reformists that have been pushing for the nuclear phase out of the country’s energy landscape, on the other. Among the most prominent advocates of a new energy (and political) order is the former Fukushima Governor Eisaku Satō, who has for years pushed for greater nuclear transparency and the democratization of the energy industry.
All across the world, from Europe and Asia, to Africa and Latin America, the last three decades have witnessed the gradual and persistent retrenchment of state institutions, most especially in the realm of economics. Such seismic renegotiation in the relationship between the state and markets has been found upon a set of simplistic assumptions, namely the efficiency of markets as collective mechanisms of value-production and the rationality of individual market participants. Concerned with hyper-inflation and chronic budget deficit, proponents of market reform have called for the overhaul of national and international economic order, shifting the balance of power in favor of private business interests at the expense of public welfare and social cohesion. With the dismantling of regulatory structures -- designed to rein in the excesses of markets, and strike a balance between economic productivity and constitutional principles undermining the political order -- market liberalization has gone hand in hand with successive financial crises, which have, in turn, undermined the social fabric of many countries around the world.
From East Asia to Latin America and Eurasia, developing economies have been repeatedly battered by economic shocks, largely brought about by the dismemberment of regulatory institutions and the over-exposure of local economies to the vagaries of international trade and investment flows. The 2008 Great Recession proved that even the center-economies were not immune to the irrational drive of markets, which are mainly concerned with profit-maximization and capital-accumulation. Committed to driving the state to the peripheries, the markets have defanged its regulatory capacity and hollowed its welfare responsibilities. As a result, a growing number of people, especially the youth, have suffered from under-investment in education and healthcare; the incessant privatization of public goods and modes of production has led to a sustained assault on the most fundamental rights of ordinary citizens.
The aftermath of the 2008 Great Recession, which brought many center-economies to the brink of another depression, witnessed an intense showdown between increasingly fragile elected-governments prioritizing the integrity of the financial system, on one hand, and scores of civic groups protesting austerity programs, on the other. But the dramatic explosion of protests against government policies, however, wasn't confined to the streets of New York, Athens, Rome, Paris, and Barcelona. After a decade of robust economic growth and rising inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the Global South, the Great Recession proved to be truly global in its breadth and scale, as it shattered equity markets among developing countries, deepened the volatility of basic commodities' prices to the detriment of poorer countries, and steeply raised market uncertainty – reversing decades of hard-fought developmental gains. And for this reason, the world came to question the wisdom of unfettered market economics, anchored by finance-driven capitalism and light regulatory touch.
After a decade of robust economic growth and rising inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the Global South, the Great Recession proved to be truly global in its breadth and scale, as it shattered equity markets among developing countries, deepened the volatility of basic commodities' prices to the detriment of poorer countries, and steeply raised market uncertainty – reversing decades of hard-fought developmental gains. And for this reason, the world came to question the wisdom of unfettered market economics, anchored by finance-driven capitalism and light regulatory touch.
In some parts of the world, the response was radical. Three years into the crisis, the Arab world, long seen as the strongest fortress of autocratic regimes, succumbed to a wave of popular uprisings, which came on the heels of a decade of crony capitalism and autocratic consolidation, aggravated by the destabilizing impact of the global financial crisis. The continuous erosion in social welfare, driven by market liberalization schemes, amid deepening crackdown on the opposition simply reached a critical threshold of no return.