On the Saturday before the G20 summit, tens of thousands of us marched through London calling for action to protect and restore jobs, tackle global poverty, and maintain a habitable climate for all humanity.
The Sunday after, many of us waved palm branches remembering those 2,000 years ago who hoped to herald in a political leader come to overthrow imperial rule.
Jesus did not storm the Roman garrison but instead overthrew the tables of the lenders of money at the temple.
The economic crisis we are in was created by our greed – an addiction to always wanting more. Banks were a conduit for a system across the rich world, and particularly in the U.S. and U.K., where we spent more than we earned.
This system has now come crashing down, but it is the poorest people in the U.K. and across the world who are suffering most from the consequences.
The climate crisis we are in is being created by greed. An addiction to fossil fuels and abundant energy is increasing global temperatures, threatening destruction to the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people.
As we marched for jobs, justice and climate we called on the self-appointed group of the 20 most powerful countries in the world to work together to ease the pain currently faced by millions of people across the world. And to take steps to ensure a more sustainable financial and ecological future.
But the outcome from the G20 is like sticking plaster on a wound and fails to address the root causes of our pain.
The International Monetary Fund has, like the Bank of England, been given a license to print more money. But there is little commitment to go beyond tinkering with the governance of the IMF, where countries with 20 percent of the world’s population control 60 percent of the votes.
More fundamentally, back in 1944, John Maynard Keynes proposed a monetary fund that would prevent countries from living beyond their means and ensure all play a role in a sustainable financial system. If such a scheme had been accepted, the Third World debt crisis and the credit crunch could both have been prevented.
Back in the 1940s the U.S. rejected such a proposal. The G20 followed in their footsteps by failing to implement a more radical reform of how international finance works.
The G20 announced a string of measures to regulate banks more closely, but the same communiquÃ© calls for further deregulation of international trade.
One of the U.K. and EU’s primary aims in trade negotiations is to remove regulations on banks operating in developing countries, allowing British and European banks more access and more profit. However, evidence has continually shown that multinational banks buy up local banks and cut back on lending to small local businesses.
The G20 reaffirmed commitments to spending on international aid. But since 1970, when rich countries committed to spending 0.7 percent of their national income on aid, only six have ever done so. The latest figures show that despite all the rhetoric, the U.K. is still only giving 0.4 percent of our income in aid.
Most glaringly, the G20 said they would “build an inclusive, green and sustainable recovery” but said nothing of how this would be done. The opportunity to use increased government expenditure to invest in green technologies is being missed.
Melting glaciers, increased drought and stronger storms do not wait for economic recovery. As in Australia, recent forest fires in Nepal have been fulfilling the predictions of climate scientists and brought devastation in their flames.
Preventing catastrophic climate change and creating a more people-friendly finance system both require us to challenge our greed – our desire for more and more. The G20 show has now left town but the problems faced by people around the world have not gone away. Do we throw our placards on the floor, or keep hoping, looking and working for a better world?
Tim Jones is a policy officer for the World Development Movement. His column appeared in Britain’s Baptist Times and is posted here with permission.