Saturday, 3 October 2015

Unexpected item in the bagging area.

The plastic bag charging story is fascinating to me. It exposes all the fault lines of governance local and international. It's interesting because measures like these are usually never domestic in origin. You can trace this particular measure to an amending act to EU Directive 94/62/EC made about this time last year - and though I have not yet traced the origin of the exact measures, they almost certainly begin life in the UNEP.

What's interesting is the zeal with which such measures are adopted - with the Welsh government wasting no time in implementing it, before it even became EU law - with overwhelming public approval. It made me wonder if they know something I probably don't.

Given that the vast majority still watch the telly they are probably exposed to more environmentalist propaganda than me. I tune out of popular culture specifically to avoid it. But carrier bags are a problem, and a big one - and nobody quite knows what to do about it which is why we see such questionable measures.

What's interesting though is how the West is lagging far behind in the rest of the world. These measure have been adopted by Kenya, Tanzania, and China and international standards on thickness pertaining to promoting re-use have been adopted by these countries as well as Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Botswana, India, South Africa and Somalia. As much as it presents huge threats to maritime habitats, the billions of discarded bags blocking gutters and drains in Africa and India cause pooling of stagnant water which is a breeding ground for malaria and is a threat to livestock as well as humans.

You have to laugh out loud that a nation ravaged by war and famine where the writ of government doesn't reach the rural outback and tax collection is virtually non existent has standards on carrier bags. But actually, it's not funny.

What it shows is that on a very micro level, international governance is an unstoppable force for those nations dependent on Western aid. Developing countries are the petridish for the international NGOcracy to test out their agendas since there is no real democratic opposition. It is all waved through under the World Summit on Sustainable Development accords. Developing countries lack the governmental departments to scrutinise any such regulations and lack the bargaining power to reject them. The fact is the standards are decided well in advance of them becoming domestic law - and a full six years before they became an EU directive.

If we wanted to block such standards, we were never going to be able to block them at the EU level since MEPs would vote such measures through in that oh so bovine way, and really if we wanted a veto, we should have been in at the top table many years ago. But the irony there is that we wouldn't have vetoed any such measures since you can bet your ass the authors of such standards would be graduates of Leeds Polytechnic, funded by the EU, working for Oxfam with the full support of DfID.

There are plenty of studies now of how effective such measure s are. I've read three of them this morning. I'm still none the wiser, and it seems without any effective public surveillance of such measures, we cannot say for a fact if they are effective. One recent report has it that consumption of plastic carrier bags in Scotland is down 80%. I don't know if that's true. It sounds like a massive lie to me. What would effective public surveillance even look like?

The most recent measures compel supermarkets to report to local authorities which is halfway effective but still doesn't account for their use in the rest of the economy. It only gives a partial picture. It looks like the inconvenience is just one of those regulatory impositions in the hope that it will trigger either a change of behaviour through public awareness or some other innovation. Regulatory impositions are rather good at prompting human ingenuity in getting round them. Just ask the Securities Exchange Commission.

This is actually a massive area of study that brings little resolution to nearly forty years of forelock tugging and is not likely to be resolved even in my lifetime but the political dimensions to it highlight just how domineering the international regulatory juggernaut is and how little democracy is attached to it. As much as our own parliaments do not have a voice, the EU itself has only a peripheral role and if you want to know where the real power is, the various international bodies and NGOs are where you would look first.

What this shows, once again is the media's complete inability to analyse law and politics and what we are seeing here is a symptom of a global regulatory industry which is not held to account because neither parliaments nor journalists are even aware such exists - and the horizon is obscured by trivial irrelevances such as Westminster and the European Union. It's the unexpected item in the bagging area.

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