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After the local elections

After the local elections


    • US support for vaccine IP waiver. The Director-General of the WHO commended the “wisdom and moral leadership of the United States” and said this was a “monumental moment in the fight against Covid-19”. However, politics Professor Danial W. Drezner argued “the shift is not insignificant, but it also does not presage all that much change... this is the latest sign that Democrats are shifting away from the neoliberal position on trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS)” but “the United States is not the only veto player on TRIPS”, pointing to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's opposition to the IP waiver. Furthermore, these debates in the WTO may take months and could only result in partial waivers.
    • ~~Médecins Sans Frontières response. The international humanitarian medical organisation has praised Biden’s leadership but argued the waiver alone will not be enough to address the vaccine divide, calling for the US to push pharmaceutical companies in receipt of taxpayer funding to share know-how with capable manufacturers and share its surplus vaccines through the COVAX facility.
    • ~~Battle-lines. Now that the US and EU are more open to exploring IP waivers, pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to announce support from the UK. Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead summarised the variety of campaigns from UK civil society organisations here, though opposition remains from UK libertarian think tanks.
    • ~~Public innovation. The argument that waiving IP rights would undermine future development of vaccines by dampening the profit motive or “greed” that drives innovation has been weakened by recent analysis finding 97% of the funding for the Oxford/AZ vaccine came from public or charitable sources.

    Housing and property

    • Land privatisation. A report from Greater Manchester Housing Action on the privatisation of public land in Manchester, highlighting whether Manchester City Council is getting value for money when disposing of its land assets to private developers. The report pointed to Liverpool City Council’s Land Commission as an example of best practice which ensures public land addresses social and environmental needs.


    • Healthy meals, healthy planet. In its new report on “building a food system that works for everyone”, IPPR recommended an expansion of free school meals, a healthy food voucher scheme, investment in local food infrastructure, the creation of a “supply chain resilience fund”, removing products associated with deforestation from UK food supply chains and other measures to reform the UK’s food system. (Inews coverage and Twitter thread summary).
    • ~~Biodiversity loss. The report emphasised “the food system, agriculture specifically, is the single largest cause of biodiversity decline and species loss over past decades in the UK.”

    • Resource extraction and the transition. Following the ramped up climate targets announced in recent weeks, attention is turning towards the implications of tighter net zero targets and their effect upon supply chains of key commodities needed for green technologies: lithium, cobalt and nickel.
    • ~~Mismatch between climate targets and resource ‘bottleneck’. A report from the International Energy Agency found the mineral supplies for electric cars “must increase 30-fold” to meet global climate targets. Carbon Brief summarised the report to communicate the scale of the challenge ahead and what needs to be done to prevent a mineral ‘bottleneck’ stifling the clean energy transition.
    • ~~Extractivism and colonialism. Critics point out that if industrialised countries relying on renewable technology alone and not behaviour change to meet emissions targets (e.g. electrifying all cars vs. major reduction in private vehicle use), the implication is a neo-colonialist and extractivist scramble for rare earth metals mined in the Global South (see e.g. War on Want on a “post-extractivist transition”.)
    • ~~Green statecraft. Associate Professor Thea Riofranco’s work explores the politics of the green transition through the lens of lithium batteries. Her recent video presentation explained how many countries are increasingly turning to state control of supply chains to improve resilience, tackle production shortages, create well paid jobs, spur technological innovation and reinforce national security.

    • BoE green mandate. The Bank of England is moving ahead with plans to take account of climate impacts in its corporate bond purchase scheme (CBPS). Positive Money produced a short Twitter thread outlining the need to bring asset purchases properly in line with climate targets, as previous bouts have subsidised fossil fuel companies by lowering their borrowing costs.
    • ~~Best practice. NEF’s Lukasz Krebel outlined how the Bank can move rapidly to green its operations through developing a ‘green taxonomy’, giving ‘credit guidance’ to steer private investment towards green activities and by setting up a ‘Green Finance Action Taskforce’ to make the UK institutional framework fir for the low carbon transition.


    Macroeconomic policy

    • MPC doesn’t fear inflation. The Bank of England upgraded its forecast for economic growth in 2021 to 7.25% (5% forecasted in February) and the Monetary Policy Committee voted to keep the official interest rate at 0.1%, saying they expect inflation to “rise to around the target by the end of this year”.
    • ~~...But does the Fed? US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen said that the Federal Reserve may have to tighten monetary policy to avoid a jolt in inflation, but Yellen quickly clarified her remarks, arguing that the size of the US infrastructure investment plans would be spread over several years and the Fed had the tools to control inflation if necessary.
    • ~~“Unexpected deceleration in job creation”. Only 266,000 jobs had been created in the US last month, falling way short of the 1m expected and a sign that a recovery and interest rate hikes are a long way off.

    • HMT, BoE and FCA form Working Group on Productive Finance. In November 2020, Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT), the Bank of England (BoE) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) formed a Working Group on Productive Finance with the aim of “developing practical solutions to the barriers to investing in longer-term and less liquid assets”.
    • ~~Long Term Asset Fund. Last week, the FCA published a consultation paper for a Long Term Asset Fund that can invest in “venture capital, private equity, private debt, real estate and infrastructure...In turn, it is hoped that businesses and infrastructure projects will have greater access to long-term capital to support investment and wider economic growth”.
    • Central banks and economy-wide decarbonisation. Economist JW Mason made the case for central banks to “abandon the fiction of neutrality” and channel credit towards green sectors where credit constraints bind action.