It's not just about greenwash this week; I'll also talk about the Climate Change Committee’s reaction to COP 26, the future of the Cambo oilfield, why it might be a good thing for the environment that Allegra Stratton has resigned and rubbish in Romania.
Climate Change Committee
The Climate Change Committee, which advises the British government on dealing with the climate crisis published its response to COP 26 this week.
“COP26 in Glasgow”, it said, “marked a step forward in global efforts to address climate change… [but] how far this can be considered a success will depend on follow-up actions over the coming year and beyond.”
Delivery before Targets
As far as the UK is concerned, the Committee recommends that the government should focus its efforts on strengthening delivery rather than increasing its headline target. The UK already has one of the most ambitious 2030 targets for reducing emissions in the world. However, the UK does not yet have all the policies in place to deliver this ambition. The Net Zero Strategy provides a strong foundation for delivery and needs to proceed at pace; a change in ambition would risk slowing this process down.
Fossil Fuel Subsidies
Further, the committee advises that in response to the Glasgow call for a ‘phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’ the Treasury should initiate a review of the role of tax policy in delivering Net Zero and that the UK should considerably strengthen its policies on adaptation.
Technical options for strengthening the UK’s NDC include making the 2030 emissions target legally binding, clarifying that it will be met without offsets and with a limited role for CO2 removal, and including the sector targets set out in the Net Zero Strategy.
UK Presidency until Next Year
The committee points out that the UK continues to hold the COP Presidency for the next year until COP27 in Egypt. It has, it says, a vital international role in driving progress in this period and beyond across mitigation, adaptation and finance. This in turn will support the UK’s climate goals at home.
Whether the government will listen and act on this advice remains to be seen. At present of course most governments are overwhelmed with coping with the continuing pandemic. In the UK we have a number of growing political issues which are occupying the government as well. While they are reluctant to adopt anything which costs money or has an impact on people’s standard of living, the climate crisis is likely to get little attention. There will probably be reluctance even to fully understand the issues, quite apart from taking action.
Hence the need for movements like XR and Insulate Britain and any of us who believe that action is urgently needed to keep pushing the message.
Incidentally, you will remember that several Insulate Britain protesters were imprisoned a couple of weeks ago. One of them, Emma Smart, went on hunger strike. I hope she's all right, but I can't find any news of her more recent than last week, when she was in her second week of the hunger strike.
If you've been following the news in the UK this week you'll recognise the name Allegra Stratton. She is the lady who was caught on camera laughing about the idea of a Christmas party in No 10 Downing Street last year, and subsequently on camera tearfully resigning. At the time she was the prime minister's official spokesperson, but she was made redundant from that job before it was actually launched. Instead she was moved across to handle PR for COP 26 in support of Alok Sharma. Unfortunately, while some say she is highly intelligent she was clearly not very well briefed. Alok Sharma emphasised the urgency of the situation but I reported back in August that Allegra chose to recommend micro steps, like:
“Did you know, you don’t really need to rinse your dishes before they go in a dishwasher?”
And - “Don’t waste food - don’t let bread go mouldy”
And - “Does your brand of plastic bottle shower gel come as a bar in cardboard packaging?” (You mean soap?)
And when asked when she was going to change her diesel car for an electric, her response was that she didn't fancy it just yet.
So much for urgency. Perhaps her successor will be better informed and more driven. If there is a successor.
Shell and Cambo
News this week that Shell has withdrawn from developing the Cambo oilfield off the north of Scotland. Presumably it has done this in order to protect its reputation in the face of growing opposition to fossil fuels, although it said that the project would not be financially viable. Some commentators saw this as the beginning of the end of fossil fuels from the North Sea. Others pointed out that Shell had an investment of only 30% in the field and the other partners with less of a reputation to protect might go ahead on their own.
Elsewhere in the world Shell seems less concerned about protecting its reputation. It has plans to prospect for oil off the South African coast and to do so it will use explosive charges. Environmentalists issued a legal challenge because this seismic exploration will take place in a breeding ground for whales and the explosions are likely to damage both the whales and their surrounding habitat. Judges rejected the claim, so Shell’s exploration goes ahead.
An article in the Guardian newspaper draws my attention to an extensive disclaimer published with Shell’s annual report.
It includes this paragraph:
Shell’s operating plan, outlook and budgets are forecasted for a ten-year period and are updated every year. They reflect the current economic environment and what we can reasonably expect to see over the next ten years. Accordingly, Shell’s operating plans, outlooks, budgets and pricing assumptions do not reflect our net-zero emissions target. In the future, as society moves towards net-zero emissions, we expect Shell’s operating plans, outlooks, budgets and pricing assumptions to reflect this movement.
Tell me what you think, but it seems to me to be saying “we’ve got a net-zero emissions target but our business plans are not set up to achieve it.”
Sounds like cognitive dissonance to me - or double-think as some might call it.
Let me know what you think.
Rubbish to Romania
The BBC reports that container-loads of household waste are being exported illegally to Romania. Labelled as secondhand goods in fact the containers are full of worthless rubbish. Almost worthless perhaps, because in some villages outside Bucharest the inhabitants are making bonfires of scrap electrical equipment in order to melt out copper and aluminium. The bonfires pollute the air and there are fears that the residues are getting into rivers and waterways. Local people were hostile to reporters because they know this activity is illegal but it’s a source of income.
Incidentally, I was chatting to delegates at IEMA’s online conference this morning, that's the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment, and we all agreed that to solve the climate emergency we need to solve inequality.
And what about greenwash?
Dr Dominic Tantram, founding partner of Terrafiniti, has posted and article on LinkedIn about CERTIFIED GREENWASHING the Real Greenwash Kitemark. This is available to any organisation for just £197,000 + VAT, provided that at least two of the three following statements are true:
> Claims must be demonstrably unclear
> Claims must be wildly (or at least substantially) inaccurate
> Claims should be totally, or at least significantly, unsubstantiated
It’s a spoof, of course, but it underlines an important truth. There are few controls on claims of being green, environmentally responsible, helping the planet or even carbon neutral or net zero. (More about those last two next Friday.)
The result is that many, many organisations jump on the green bandwagon and there is little control, apart, in the UK, from the Advertising Standards Authority which is only advisory and has no legal sanctions.
Some claims are recklessly fraudulent, some are unintentionally misleading and many are not justified or verified in any way. There are some standards, notably for offsetting schemes, although their scope is limited. Then there’s ISO 14001 and related standards: routes to best practice, but hardly recognised by consumers. Those responsible organisations which do manage their environmental impact are all too often overshadowed by the false and the fraudulent.
Time for regulation, because we need our economy to reduce emissions and increase environmental protection. If unfounded claims are outlawed then consumers will be able to see which organisations should be supported and boycott the rest. Find out more at https://www.terrafiniti.com
In a press release this week Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) unveils a liquid hydrogen-powered aircraft concept capable of carrying 279 passengers to San Francisco non-stop or Auckland with one stop. It’s a concept at this stage, of course, nothing is flying, but potentially it could revolutionise flight.
“In early 2022, detailed findings from the FlyZero project will be published including three final aircraft concepts (regional, narrow-body and midsize), technology roadmaps, market and economic reports and a sustainability assessment.”
There's nothing in the press release about when the new aircraft is likely to enter service, or about where they will get the green hydrogen that will be needed.
Net Zero Rise
Newcastle University announces Net Zero Rise, a consortium which brings together Newcastle, Oxford and Durham Universities with industry partners, Third Energy and IGas. Their aim is to repurpose existing onshore oil and gas infrastructure (deep wells) as test sites.
They propose to develop three test sites:
- CO2 storage
- H2 (hydrogen) storage
- Geothermal energy
It will be interesting to see how all this develops - especially CO2 storage - a key element of carbon capture and storage - which engineers have been pursuing for years.
And yes, that's it for this week.
Thank you for listening, thank you for being a patron and don't forget you too can be a patron if you go to patreon.com/sfr .
This week I visited York Minster to see how a historic building which is nearly 1,000 years old is approaching a sustainable future. That will be the episode for Wednesday the 22nd December. Next Wednesday Christian Møller- Holzt explains how he can make your business travel green. Don’t miss it.
I’m Anthony Day
That was the Sustainable Futures Report
Until next time.