Tag: China

Made in China buses: Is the fearmongering necessary?

If you live in greater Victoria, you must be aware that BC Transit and CAW Local 333 are negotiating a new contract. Like a number of contracts negotiated in this time of fake austerity,  the negotiation is contentious because there are actual mandates from the government that salaries cannot increase unless “savings” are found elsewhere. I am not privy to how these negotiations are going, so no second guessing here on strategy or tactics. I hope things get settled, because I travel more than a thousand kilometres by bus every month and driving to work is not what I want to do, neither is crossing a picket line.

All that being said,  this new tack is disturbing.

Williams said B.C. Transit “wants the unrestricted right to bring in Chinese-built” community shuttle buses with lower safety standards, which could be piloted by part-time drivers “at a significantly lower wage rate than conventional bus drivers.”“B.C. Transit literally had to go to China and get these buses designed and built there to get around higher safety requirements,” Williams said in the release.

via Victoria bus drivers set for overtime work ban starting Monday, union says

Yes, China bashing is a quick way to gain sympathy. and happening quite a bit this month because the Chinese and Canadian governments are negotiating a secret trade agreement (Leadnow campaign link) that gives corporations of both countries all kinds of rights and privileges that we could only dream of getting for ourselves.

Is there any evidence that Chinese made buses are unsafe, especially when they need to conform to Canadian safety standards? Is there any evidence that these standards are being gamed? These are different questions from “are these buses suitable”? “Are the lifecycle costs for these buses being understated”? I wish CAW Local 333 would take the time to frame this issue more accurately, because this issue is not about China, it is about us.

Lost in all this China bashing and a cynical attempt to appeal to our “other” phobia is the obvious conclusion that it’s not the “made in China” aspect of manufacturing that makes a product less durable or of poorer quality, it is the insistence of markets to lower standards on the products to cut short-term costs or to increase profits. China, like many other countries, probably more than Canada, manufactures large quantities of high quality products routinely. It’s not China’s fault that your crappy London Drugs coffee grinder can’t actually grind coffee and breaks when your cat sneezes near it. It’s the fault of the companies that sell you stuff, and our own inability to balance short-term price vs. long term cost. It is also the oppressiveness of the Chinese government combined with consumers need for cheap, and market profit needs that exacts a high price on the Chinese makers of the high quality IPhone.

So, ask hard questions about the suitability of the buses, and question the market mechanisms that brought us here. Unions are a very necessary buffer against market excess and corporate control. But do we have to use “made in China” as a cudgel again? As my friend says,

Made in China has become a short form for criticisms of the market, which are credible. But the problem is that it slips in the othering too

 

US, India and China Talk Climate

The Obama administration is hoping to win new commitments to fight global warming from China and India in back-to-back summits next month, the Guardian has learned, including the first Indian emissions trading scheme.

The US hopes the new commitments will breathe life into the moribund negotiations to seal a global treaty on climate change in Copenhagen in December, by setting out what action each country will take. But many observers say such bilateral deals also risk seriously weakening any Copenhagen agreement by allowing the idea of a global limit on greenhouse gas emissions to be abandoned.

The Guardian

So, as part of Blog Action Day 2009, which is focusing on climate change, I bring you news that the US administration is back, taking some kind of a leadership role in climate change by talking to India and China. The notion that somehow what the US, Europe and Canada do in response to climate change is pointless because China and India are not going to participate is misleadingly inaccurate, sometimes deliberately so. I had written in June about India’s very ambitious solar policy, and China has similar, fairly comprehensive programs on climate change.

The concern that bilateral talks will somehow sabotage the multilateral Copenhagen negotiations is, I think, overstated. More talk is always better, and good things happen when the world’s most high profile polluter signals its willingness to talk, and even initiate talks with countries whose development paths are at a critical stage.

I have not been super hopeful about how things are going to turn out in the next few years. But things have changed quite a bit in the past year. The US appear to have their own climate bill brewing. Europe makes the right noises and has a head start,making the mistakes early. Unfortunately, Canada has given up the ghost thanks to our troglodyte oil man administration. Our main hope now is that the US passes a strong enough bill to affect Canada. Or there is an election leading to a change in administration and Mr Michael Ignatieff and the “liberals” are true to their word on a new, sustainable energy policy.

Canada is now the worst laggard, having extremely high per capita emissions and policy to increase these emissions while actively sabotaging climate talks. We emit a full 2% of all global warming contributors while accounting for about 0.5% of the world’s population. It is understandable given our development path how we got there, but not trying to fix it is criminally negligent and morally bankrupt.

Apparently, the Canadian people could care less, polls indicate that the business as usual administration is increasing its support among Canadians. What is the average Canadian’s responsibility if he/she knowingly supports policy that could lead to mass homelessness, flooding, starvation, wars, species extinction, etc?

On Climate blog action day, I am sad to report that my adoptive country will do nothing but soldier on in its destructive behaviour. No point calling my local MP, she agrees with me!

Climate Talks Sputter

China, India and the other developing nations are upset that commitments to provide financial and technological help made during a U.N. conference in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007 have not translated into anything more tangible.

Mr. Meyer estimated that the United States, Europe and other industrial nations need to come up with $150 billion a year in assistance by 2020 to help develop clean energy technology for developing countries, reduce deforestation that contributes to rising temperatures, and help vulnerable nations adapt to changes attributed to greenhouse gases.

G-8 Nations Fail to Agree on Climate Change Plan – NYTimes.com

Yes, it is true, North America and Europe are responsible for a bulk of the greenhouse gas emissions currently in the atmosphere and need to do the bulk of the work. But it would also behoove India and China to make the right noises. There is no sense that we’re in this together, that we will all be affected, and India and China even more so

Leadership is lacking, the US needs to take a first big step and start things of.

Update

The G8 has agreed to sign on to a limit on warming of 2°C rise in global temperature. Well, how do you get there without reducing CO2 in the atmosphere, which we apparently can’t agree to do? It’s like saying you need to go a 100km more on a road trip, but refusing to agree to fill gas.

There is a chicken and egg problem here. The famously resistant to change US system is working through a climate bill. The world is waiting to see what will happen, but the version of the bill passed by Congress is not strong enough to avert a 2°C rise unless China and India are as aggressive and there is massive technological shift away from fossil fuels. The US system is waiting for signals from the world, reasoning they don’t want to act first and unilaterally. It’s all nice game theory for people watching from the sidelines, but life’s a little more serious…