Monday, 14 December 2009

Climate sceptics and climate villains

CI Head of Delegation at COP15, Rasmus Kjeldahl, on greenwashing and carbon quotas.

The Copenhagen climate summit provides an opportunity for climate sceptics to advance their views. It attracts attention when somebody swims against the tide, and among the thousands of climate researchers world-wide it is of course possible to find a few ones who speak against the rest. The BBC has made a very good account of the most common arguments made by climate sceptics

One of the more extreme arguments made by the sceptics comes from C02 is Green, who have gone as far as to claim more CO2 is actually good for the environment. See their US TV ad below.


CO2 is Green was one of five winners of CI's Bad Company Awards 2009, which were announced last week. The oil-backed lobby group joined Audi, BP, Microsoft and easyJet as examples of some of the 'best' greenwashing of 2009.

When these companies market their products as being much more environmentally friendly than they actually are, they mislead consumers. This form of marketing does the climate cause a bad turn as it breeds confusion about genuinely climate friendly consumption choices. And it makes it hard for the serious corporations to penetrate the market with products that may actually make a difference.

A comparable problem in Denmark and some other countries has been the sale of so-called green power. Due to the interaction between the European quota system and political targets of increasing the share of renewable energy, in many cases it has been uncertain whether the increased price paid by consumers actually leads to the production of more environmentally friendly power.

Its also a problem for consumers who save electricity thanks to behavioral changes or the purchase of new low-energy appliances. They have found to their cost that as long as the total European CO2 quota remains unchanged, their lower energy consumption will not have an impact on emissions. On the contrary, the consumers’ eagerness to save energy just means that the CO2 quota price falls. This actually makes it cheaper for industry to pollute.

For a full explanation of the absurdity of emissions trading, see our policy position.

This is a crucial problem that must be solved if consumers are to make a real contribution to the fight against climate change. The design of the current quota system makes a mockery of consumer efforts. This will only breed inertia and indifference - the worst possible thing that can happen.

And now a brief update on life in the Consumers International delegation:

About one third of the delegation members were replaced this weekend, so now the delegation includes the CI President Samuel Ochieng, and Director for Operations, Bjarne Pedersen. The BEUC secretariat is represented by Laura Degaillaix and Sylvie Mauer. Apart from this we have received the aid of four German members from VZBV. On the other hand we have had to say goodbye to Jo Witt from the CI secretariat who has been an invaluable help all week. The extended delegation provides the opportunity to make new contacts to, for instance, EU politicians, national delegations and more green organisations.

The atmosphere in Copenhagen is getting more tense, and even though the streets are relatively calm, almost 1000 people were arrested during the big demonstration on Saturday (100,000 participants) – all but three were set free after a few hours though. The Danish police are very vigilant with an eye to avoiding any violence – this should also be seen in the light of the expected arrival of more than 110 heads of state this week.

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