Greenwash: National, Regional & Local | Brussels Blog

Greenwash: National, Regional & Local

posted by on 30th Oct 2021
30th,Oct

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1. National Greenwash

The Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

The UK Government Department with the climate brief is the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). I have argued elsewhere that they are not suited to this brief.

Alok votes against climate and becomes President of COP26

In January, their Secretary of State for BEIS, Alok Sharma, was appointed full-time President for COP 26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference.

In the UK Parliament, Alok voting record showed little appetite for stopping climate change: 4 votes to stop it, 17 votes against stopping it. He voted for the expansion of Heathrow airport.

Fossil fuel companies get more access

Worryingly, during the run-up to COP26, fossil fuel companies have been given special access to BEIS ministers. DeSmog reports:

Analysis by DeSmog shows ministers met representatives from companies including Shell, BP and ExxonMobil 149 times between April and June, the three months covered by the transparency data release. Ministers met renewable energy producers just 17 times over the same period, of which 11 meetings were with Danish power company Ørsted.

The revelations sparked concern among campaigners, who cited an apparent contradiction between the UK government’s net-zero target and the privileged access given to big polluters.

BEIS try to change how emissions are measured

In addition, BEIS has been supporting a new way of measuring greenhouse gases GWP*. In What the *? Should we be enticed by GWP* ?, Neill Enright says:

“In practice, if we adopt GWP*, we could see organisations with large historic methane emissions which are nevertheless decreasing, being able to claim negative total CO2e emissions. One sector that this applies to is Oil and Gas companies.”

Fortunately the IPCC did not adopt GWP*.

BEIS help local authorities to hide emissions

BEIS have also sponsored a system of estimates of the carbon emissions for local authorities, called SCATTER.

SCATTER is “a local authority focussed emissions tool, built to help create low-carbon local authorities”. This tool underestimates carbon emissions by counting less than half of them as explained in Manchester’s Climate Change Strategy: All CO2 and mirrors?

Greta says it’s a lie

It is for these reasons Greta Thunberg has said claims that UK is a climate leader are ‘a lie’:

The 18-year-old said that “if you don’t include all emissions then the statistics are going to look much nicer”, suggesting things like aviation, shipping, and the burning of biomass have not been taken into account.

She added the UK is “very good at creative carbon accounting” but that “doesn’t mean much in practice”.

Ignoring aviation, shipping and imports

The SCATTER results, count only what they call Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. They ignore “Scope 3 emissions”, which not only cover aviation, shipping, and the burning of biomass but also cover the emissions created in manufacturing imports: Buy an imported Volvo Polestar Electric and the emissions from its manufacture will be Scope 3 emissions. These 26 tonnes of CO2e will not be counted by the SCATTER tool.

The SCATTER tool is contrary to York’s declaration of a climate emergency

The report by Prof Andy Coulson (et al.) for York City Council uses the SCATTER results so ignores over half the carbon emissions specified in York’s declaration of a climate emergency, which explicitly asks for all emissions to be counted.

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2. Regional Greenwash

The Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission

Prof Andy Coulson is the director of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission.

Remaining carbon budget is 38 tonnes CO2e

Starting with the “remaining carbon budget”, the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted before climate change gets really dangerous. According Professor Gouldson’s report, the remaining carbon budget amounts to 48 tonnes CO2e per York citizen. This estimate is measured the start of 2020 so, today, should be decreased by at least 10 tonnes CO2e (to 38 tonnes CO2e?)

Sources of greenhouse gas emissions can be roughly divided into four categories: transport, building, consumables (including food) and social (government & related). Checking the first three of these on the Y+H Climate site…

Transport

Cars kill the climate

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee have pointed out that:

“In the long-term, widespread personal vehicle ownership does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation.”

Hyperhubs for electric cars

The Commission does not advocate any serious attempt to lower car ownership but does feature ‘hyperhubs’ for charging electric cars as part of its strategy.

The development of this system will encourage private car owners, taxi drivers and business users to make use of the new facilities, therefore, improving the city’s overall carbon emissions.  With associated air quality and climate change benefits, this will meet the needs of the next generation of plug-in vehicles.

Electric cars are no solution. They still cause large greenhouse emissions

However, electric cars aren’t the solution. They may be better in use, but cause large emissions of greenhouse gases in their manufacture (e.g. the electric Volvo Polestar creates 26 tonnes CO2e during manufacture) and zero carbon electricity is not expected in the UK until 2035.

A 15 minute city

On a positive note, The Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission does promote a scheme which creates “a walkable ’15 minute neighbourhood’, where workplaces, key amenities, leisure and entertainment are all within walking distance means fewer trips in cars and lowers car ownership”.

The individual choice approach to car use does not work

However, ‘lower[ing] car ownership’ by enticing people away from car use is not enough. Research has shown that this “individual choice approach” has limited effect: Once residents have cars, they use them. In addition, any car ownership in a neighbourhood destroys facilities suitable for non-motorists. The aim must be for car free neighbourhoods, where cars have no place because the carbon footprints of motorists are planet destroying and their presence makes pleasant low-carbon living much more difficult for other residents.

Comments like “we installed three electric car charging points” show the Y+H Commission ether lack the knowledge of the climate damage from cars or the courage to point it out – possibly both.

Building

Embodied carbon much too high

Embodied carbon in building, the greenhouse gases emitted as a result of construction, is now being recognised as a significant problem. (I have been raising this issue with York City Council for well over a decade.) It is mentioned on the Yorkshire and Humberside Climate Commission website:

“Towards Net Zero Embodied Carbon: Life cycle assessments will be undertaken during the detailed design stages to inform the selection of materials, reducing lifetime embodied carbon emissions. The project is targeting an embodied carbon footprint of 450 kgCO2/m2 for the homes and 550 kgCO2/m2 for the commercial properties on the site.”

This is reported under the heading “Sustainable Site Development”. Simple arithmetic shows the climate destroying nature of such building: Building a dwelling of 100m2 emits 45 tonnes CO2e during its construction. This is not “Sustainable Site Development”.

Consumables

Emissions from food are large

Food is the most important greenhouse gas generator in consumables. The BBC says “a quarter of global emissions come from food and

A major report on land use and climate change says the West’s high consumption of meat and dairy produce is fuelling global warming.

No discussion of diet but …

There seems to be no discussion of diet on the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission website, although there is an entry about a project by Incredible Edible, The Incredible Farm Community Benefit Society, who have a 15 acre farm at Lumbutts village 2 miles from Todmorden. They say:

“We grow salad and veg in a huge custom built greenhouse, keep a nano herd of grass fed dairy cows for milk, cheese, meat and soil fertility, have planted a 500 fruit tree forest garden, keep poultry, teach and take volunteers. The farm is totally off grid and self-sufficient in electricity and water. We are expanding our veg growing onto more fertile land nearby.”

Even grass fed cows are bad for climate

However, even grass-fed cows produce large amounts of greenhouse gasses. See Grazed and Confused from the Food Climate research Network.

This report finds that better management of grass-fed livestock, while worthwhile in and of itself, does not offer a significant solution to climate change as only under very specific conditions can they help sequester carbon. This sequestering of carbon is even then small, time-limited, reversible and substantially outweighed by the greenhouse gas emissions these grazing animals generate. The report concludes that although there can be other benefits to grazing livestock – solving climate change isn’t one of them.

What about permaculture?

However, Incredible Edible do have an important message about low carbon farming:

Our permaculture growing methods help to retain carbon in the soil and avoids the need for fertilisers based on climate damaging fossil fuels. Producing food locally avoids the greenhouse gas emissions which are associated with transport and packaging.

The Commission and current farming

Perhaps the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission will study and seriously promote the permaculture approach to farming, but the commissioner with any connection with food production is from the National Farmers Union, who represent current farming methods, where great changes are necessary. They oppose the Climate Change Committees call for lower meat consumption. Desmog reported:

A 2016 report by the Ethical Consumer Research Association, titled “Understanding the NFU an English Agribusiness Lobby Group,” described that the Union, for environmental campaigners particularly, has “developed a reputation of having hardened into an anti-environmental, free-market lobby group.”

The Commissioners

Several of the groups are represented on the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission represent organisations that have interests that conflict with solutions to climate change. As mentioned, the National Farmers Union has a climate problem given agriculture’s large footprint.

The great and the good

The commissioners of the Y+H Climate Commission come from the “great and the good”: academics, local government politicians and officials, representatives of business – some with large climate impacts (e.g. INEOS, DRAX, Northern Gas Networks). None of the commissioners look like supporters of Extinction Rebellion.

Carbon literacy

Potentially, a promising commissioner is from The Carbon Literacy Project – “a national charity with a globally unique approach to tackling the climate emergency”. It’s website says

Carbon Literacy: “An awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational basis.”

That’s something I tried 15 years ago with the Green Ration Book, a website which gives guidance on the carbon cost of everyday life by showing the greenhouse impact of individual items. It was based on the judgements a small panel of interested people after they looked at the available evidence.

The Commission should do something similar – but better with more resources and more publicity. However, is the Commission ready to tell truths which could disrupt the way we live our lives? I doubt.

Conclusion

The Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission is unlikely to recommend policies, which are hard hitting enough for the present climate emergency.

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3. Local Greenwash

The York Climate Commission

The York Climate Commission is made up of commissioners appointed by (or via) the Executive Member for Environment, Councillor Paul Widdowson. Its commissioners seem orientated towards business, with interests distinct from climate change. For example:

Nestle

A Google search shows Nestle expressing concern about climate change and has plans to become net-zero. However, others note Nestle’s use of palm oil and the effect on deforestation. Many of Nestle’s products are based on dairy foods, one of the important causes of climate change. From their website: “Dairy is our biggest raw material by volume, with many milk and milk-derived ingredients used in our products.”

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation

An analysis of their website shows that around 2012, JRF had significant interest in the dangers of climate change. Since then interest has waned to zero in favour of pursuing economic growth – albeit growth which is meant to help the poor (through trickle down?). Most economic growth increases greenhouse emissions.

BioVale

Biovale promotes our region “as a thriving centre for this new, bio-based economy and helps enterprise profit from its high-growth, future-proofed business opportunities”.

Rollitts

Rollitts acts on behalf of “developers, employers, funders, sub-contractors and consultants and have been involved in major construction projects throughout the whole of the Yorkshire region.” Construction and development are currently very polluting processes.

The University of York

The University of York has a very high carbon footprint. It attracts many students from overseas, who fly to and from York one or more times a year. Many of these are doing sub-graduate courses that could be done remotely or at home.

It’s building programme is creating buildings which cause large amounts of greenhouse gases which are emitted during construction. Ironically that may also be true of the building that houses the Environment Department.

First Group

First Group is also a member of the Commission.

Other members

The two other members of the Commission are from the Council, the Executive Member for the Environment and Climate Change, who may have appointed the commissioners, and the Head of Carbon Reduction, York Council staff.

Conclusion

This choice of members of the Commission is unbalanced. Is York Council diluting the commitments of York’s declaration of a climate emergency?

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4. Summary

Driven largely by business interests and political expediency, the UK’s approach to climate change is not good enough at national, regional or local level.

It is mostly Greenwash.

Greta Thunberg says “claims that UK is a climate leader are ‘a lie’ “.

Correct.

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5. Closing tweets



comment

We often overlook the fact that if you want to change the current system in which money plays the leading role, you have to fight the invisible hand of the market without a chance. For 50 years the market has successfully eluded all encroachment. How are you supposed to defeat an invisible opponent? In addition, the mainstream is not interested in change, we saw that in the last election. A year ago we missed the unique opportunity to change the economy. And when I look into the future, I can’t see any silver lining unless something really changes.

I would like to share with you an idea with which we could outsmart the invisible hand within a short time frame.

Please imagine that tomorrow, due to an unforeseen event, all the money in the world will disappear without a trace. Theoretically, however, our life could of course go on just as it has before. We get up early, go to work and in the evening we take what we usually take from the supermarket for free. No more. Just as we are reminded every 3 minutes to wear mouth and nose protection in public transport today, the friendly voice in the supermarket admonishes us not to take more than we used to. Everything is free. In theory, you could take whatever you want, but of course you don’t really do that because there wouldn’t be enough space at home for all that stuff. But you could. Greed is wanting to have what you can’t have. This means that greed is gradually disappearing.

Nobody is stopping us. We continue exactly as before, get everything for free, but we don’t earn anything. Everyone can carry on with their own accustomed life as long as they want. And since everything that happens in the economy is done by people, nothing in the economy would change when the money is gone. This is possible because everyone produces and transports the goods without paying. It will continue to be ordered and delivered as usual. There is no plausible reason why life should not go on without money. We get the raw materials and the energy from the earth for free. In purely theoretical terms, nothing would have to change with the loss of money.

The big advantage is that investments are then also free. So there doesn’t have to be any more growth. Since there is no longer any profit due to the lack of money, there is no longer any need for advertising or price wars, and people are not asked to consume unnecessarily. We finally find ourselves again and after a short time we will only take what is really important to us, nobody talks us into it anymore. Resource consumption and waste will be a lot less, I guess that will go back to about 1970 levels. Weapons are no longer manufactured, human and drug trafficking is disappearing precisely because of the lack of opportunities to make a profit with them. Humanitarian aid is now free and can be given away for free. We get an Jubilee without any complicated negotiations. The competitive thinking typical and necessary for the market economy disappears and finally brotherhood and solidarity can freely develop among all people worldwide. Elementary human rights, the right to adequate food, shelter and medical care are guaranteed without barriers. No artist has to worry about his livelihood anymore.

Since there is no longer any “paid” work, voluntary or “care” work are suddenly worth the same. This will have a great positive impact on gender equality, civil society and probably also the development of the human population as a whole.

The big difference to socialism is that there doesn’t have to be expropriations. Since you can no longer do anything with the now unprofitable property, it will lose its quality and at some point pass by itself to common property. That is why the abolition of money will be completely bloodless. The users take care of the maintenance of the common property.

The abolition of money could be achieved with a worldwide referendum on complete currency devaluation. Probably the vast majority of people will be interested in the fact that all debts disappear unconditionally without anyone being disadvantaged because you don’t need money later to get everything you need. A simple stroke of the pen could then seal the end of the money. That would be so easy compared to plans to introduce a basic income with which something similar should be achieved, so to speak.

The big question is: is that actually possible? Will we humans continue to behave in the same way once the money is gone or will chaos break out?

Please imagine if the pandemic could have been planned. The first consideration would have been what financial incentives could be used to get people to wear mouth and nose protection for two years. But humanity has shown that it is disciplined and sensible in a completely voluntary and spontaneous manner. Such global solidarity and discipline has never been seen in history. During the first lockdown, consumption and mobility fell sharply (one reads often, to 70%) without the supply of daily necessities being jeopardized. Nobody protested against this situation, although it made enormous demands of many people. The same will happen with the abolition of money. We know that society collapses if we do not carry out our daily tasks, it is also within the family or among friends. In addition, we could also be motivated to do so and that would be a great task for church and politics, which show us the two alternatives we are currently facing.

We just need to get this message out around the world. Then it will happen. Further information and FAQ: see website.

Eberhard Licht ( November 4, 2021 at 6:28 pm )

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