Neena Gill: Corbyn was right about bankers’ pay – now it’s time to give women the rewards they deserve

Some of Jeremy Corbyn’s ideas pass through the same three stages that Schopenhauer said applied to all truths. Firstly, they are dismissed. Secondly, they are violently opposed. And thirdly, they are accepted as self-evident.

Before the last general election was announced, the Labour leader called for a wage cap on bosses of government contractors. He said executives should earn a maximum of 20 times the wage of their lowest paid worker: likely about £350,000. At the time, critics scoffed that the idea was “utterly mad”. Since then, opposition from fat cats has grown, especially from US banks.

Unsurprisingly, the world has now moved onto the acceptance stage. Or, at least, nearly so. While not exactly the same as Corbyn’s proposal, my colleagues in the European parliament have proposed a “remuneration ratio”, according to which banks must determine the ratio of pay for individual board members through a comparison with the median pay of staff. It is not fair that the richest in society continue to get richer, while wages for normal people are set to stagnate for the next 20 years. Top bankers earning huge bonuses should be aware that the cleaners and cooks who work on different floors are the taxpayers who helped bail them out in 2008.

 

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Europe is turning its back on the Rohingya

If we don’t act, we risk complicity in genocide.

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While we Europeans squabble over internal divisions, our inaction in Myanmar risks making us complicit in genocide. Mass shootings and cut-throat executions at home have forced 625,000 Rohingya to flee their homes.

Most have moved to neighbouring Bangladesh, which has taken the burden in a way that puts most European nations’ to shame, after our own handling of the Syrian refugee crisis. Yet despite Bangladesh's vast efforts, there is the need for a linked-up, European response.

While aid organisations have made it clear that more financial support is vital, money alone will not buy us a clear conscience. The EU Foreign Affairs Council’s failure yet again to adopt - or even discuss - decisive measures to increase pressure on the authorities and military in Myanmar reflects badly on us all.

The UN has referred to the crisis as potential ‘genocide’, but let’s not be in doubt, there is no ambiguity here. The former UN general Romeo Dallaire has now gone as far as to describe the crisis as ‘very deliberate genocide’. Now there is not just a moral, but a legal obligation for the international community to act.

It’s vital that we learn lessons from past displacements of Rohingya to Bangladesh, including opposing forced relocation. This means taking a stand against the repatriation deal that is explicitly based on the 1992-1993 repatriation pact, until the right conditions are in place.

 

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Urgent request by Neena Gill MEP and colleagues to EU Foreign Policy Chief to adopt strong measures at Monday's Foreign Affairs Council to halt atrocities against Rohingya

Brussels, 8 December 2017

 

Ms. Federica Mogherini

High Representative of the European Union

for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

Vice-President of the European Commission

 

Dear High Representative / Vice-President Mogherini,

 

We are writing to call upon you to include the situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar and Bangladesh on the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council of 11 December.

As you are aware, an estimated 625,000 refugees from Rakhine State have crossed into Bangladesh since August 25th.

The statement made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein during the Special Session of the Human Rights Council this week to the effect that an act of genocide against Rohingya Muslims by state forces in Myanmar cannot be ruled out underlines the extreme severity of the plight faced by the Rohingya.

We therefore believe it is of paramount importance that EU Foreign Affairs Ministers on 11 December discuss the situation with a view to adopting measures to significantly increase pressure on the authorities and military in Myanmar to bring an urgent halt to atrocities.

To ensure a sustainable solution it furthermore is vital for EU Member States to agree on a strategy to push for the urgent implementation of the key recommendations of the report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State and help ensure that any repatriations of Rohingya take place in a voluntary, safe and informed manner.

We hope to be able to count on your support in this crucial matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

Neena Gill MEP (S&D, UK)

Csaba Sogor MEP (EPP, Romania)

Marietje Schaake MEP (ALDE, Netherlands)

Jean Lambert MEP (Greens, UK)

Nessa Childers MEP (S&D, Ireland)

Josef Weidenholzer MEP (S&D, Austria)

Jude Kirton-Darling MEP (S&D, UK)

Soraya Post MEP (S&D, Sweden)

Alex Mayer MEP (S&D, UK)

Bart Staes MEP (Greens, Belgium)

Kati Piri MEP (S&D, Netherlands)

John Howarth MEP (S&D, UK)

Wajid Khan MEP (S&D, UK)

Urmas Paet MEP (ALDE, Estonia)

Rory Palmer MEP (S&D, UK)

Hilde Vautmans MEP (ALDE, Belgium)

Dimitrios Papadimoulis MEP (GUE/NGL, Greece)

Alfred Sant MEP (S&D, Malta)

David Martin MEP (S&D, UK)

Younous Omarjee MEP (GUE/NGL, France)

Ismail Ertug MEP (S&D, Germany)

Siôn Simon MEP (S&D, UK)

Alessia Mosca MEP (S&D, Italy)

Barbara Spinelli MEP (GUE/NGL, Italy)

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Rupert Murdoch's Sky takeover has been denied for now - but the plurality of our media is still at risk

This article was first published by The Independent on 29 June.

One of the things that makes me proud to be British is our freedom to feel, think and say largely whatever we want. The greatest weapon that protects this liberty is our lively, diverse and, at times, even ugly press. From broadsheet to tabloid, public service broadcaster to commercial radio, every media brand contributes its own distinctive bark, holding the powerful to account and enabling society to judge those who make big decisions. A free and varied press informs the electorate and keeps the democratic process alive.

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Fighting climate change needs green investment to go mainstream

This article was first published  by Euractiv on 8th June 2017.

Ad hoc measures won’t be enough to fight climate change. The EU needs to step up and the ECB should start pumping some of its €60 billion monthly investments into green projects, insists MEP Neena Gill.

Trump’s decision to wrench the world’s largest superpower out of the Paris climate change agreement could have a catastrophic and lasting impact on future generations.

Bafflingly, much of the international community has responded to his decision with a shrug of their shoulders. Many believe it is too late for the Trump administration to stop the world’s progression into a green economy because many private, profit driven companies have now accepted the green agenda.

Oh to be an optimist; I view this attitude as dangerously complacent. The truth is that even with the US in the Paris agreement, only a thin sheet of ice separated us from global environmental disaster.

The €23 billion invested globally each month into clean energy investments leaves us a long way off from meeting the IEA’s target of 13.5 trillion climate investment by 2030. Now that the US has stepped back – and this figure likely to reduce – society as we know it faces an existential threat.

Not to mention that by tearing up the diplomatic agreement, the danger is that the US has created an excuse for other reluctant co-signatories to bail out of the agreement.

Before the floods start rising, let’s at least put the EU on the right side of history and take the lead. Two things need to be done right now: a clear definition of what constitutes ‘green’ in projects and investments, and then, using these terms, the creation a critical mass of funding that is sufficient for tackling the problem.

Research has shown that massively underperforming investment products are being given the green label. A robust definition of green will not only re-focus government investment in the right direction.

Consumers will also be encouraged to invest their savings and pensions in sustainable solutions. More than 80% of household assets are long term investments. So it makes sense financially for them to coincide with long-term sustainable objectives.

With the US turning inwards, it is vital that the EU Commission’s High Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance takes the lead by presenting bold and ambitious definitions and a plan of action when it presents its mid-term conclusions in July. With this, the EU can begin to focus the investment in the right direction.

The cost of fighting climate change is expensive. Switching fossil fuels for low-carbon energy sources alone will cost $44 trillion between now and 2050, according to a 2014 report by International Energy Agency.

To hit this target, rather than using ad hoc measures (like green criteria in IORPS and in STS regulation), it is necessary to mainstream the green ideas in all our capital flows and regulations. To do this, the EU has to go a step further on the macro-economic level.

That’s why last week I urged ECB President Mario Draghi to use more of the ECB’s €60 billion monthly investment in quantitative easing for green purposes. When ratifying the COP21 climate change agreement, G20 leaders called for “clear, strategic policy signals.”

The ECB’s own mandate supports “a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment.” So why can’t the ECB target its quantitative easing program – or at least a large percentage of it – at green investments?

Draghi’s response was disappointing given the urgency of the problem. The asset purchase programme of buying corporate bonds – part of the ECB’s quantitative easing – was designed out of pure monetary policy as well as for risk management reasons.

I understand concerns that deliberately favouring green investment could compromise the fundamental requirement of having a level playing field, leading to economic risk. However, the argument for more green investment can be made without compromising the ECB’s sector neutrality.

It simply needs to take the economic risk of stranded assets more seriously. Changes in government regulation, or even legal action could result in non-green assets becoming stranded.

In response to my questioning, the ECB president did stress that within this framework investment programs are open to companies issuing green bonds. However, the concern is that we do not know what percentage of this investment is currently green.

At present, national central banks in the eurozone buy the bonds on behalf of the ECB but the size of their investments is not declared. A transparent review of how to better align ECB injections with the goal of funding a low-carbon economy is critical.

Monetary policy is important, but it is just a tool to serve society. It must not prevent us from investing in sustainable long term solutions for the future of our planet. To tackle climate change the EU needs joined-up, bold thinking, as well as transparent investment.

Already, the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) is taking a lead in this area. Yesterday Vice-President of the EFSI Dombrovskis said “The world can count on us for global leadership in the fight against climate change.”

To be a real success though, green investment must not only come from individual bodies like the EFSI and the ECB, but from broader frameworks, including the Commission’s flagship Stability and Growth Pact (SGP).

Finance is too often overlooked by environmentalists. If we are to keep the planet safe from disaster, we need to mainstream green investment, not isolate it as a niche pursuit.

As well as encouraging different European institutions and bodies to work together to resist climate change, we need to join up our environmental strategy with our external action partners.

Even when the US leaves the Paris climate agreement, 194 of the world’s 197 nations will still be signed up to the agreement.

The EU-China joint summit last Friday showed promise in the battle for a sustainable future, as they promised to work together on strategies to tackle climate change, including cooperation on regulation and legislation.

For every step back that the US administration takes back away from tackling climate change, the EU and its allies must take three steps forward.