The Greenwash Party

Whole countries are now Greenwashing.  188 States have now ratified the Kyoto Protocol, however few will reach their targets.  The UK, France, Germany and Sweden probably will, but the UK and Germany have largely managed this through deinustrialisation, France through Nuclear and Sweden is the only true Green that has achieved it through tax reform.  Other countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia increased their CO2 output instead of reducing it.

Governments are now talking the talk of environmentalism, but not walking the walk to a decarbonised economy.  Here are some of their Greenwash policies:

1)      Tar Sands

Shale oil destroys the planet.  It releases three times as much CO2 as normal oil extraction.  The other big problem is there is enoughof it to push the planet to boiling point.  (BP is of course involved: Read more here).  Tar sand exploitation is allowed by the Canadian government (and maybe soon the USA) because of Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS): a technology that is not commercially viable, unsafe and yet more carbon intensive. It does however allow governments to say that one day this form of exploitation will be ok.  Greenwash at ist best.

2)      Coal Plants

Germany, the UK, the USA and China are all in on this one.  The EU is pouring money into developing the above-mentioned technology of CCS for coal plants.  Coal is cheap and there is plenty of it.  But it is only cheap because it externalises its true costs.  Governments are now approving coal plants in the hope that CCS will become viable.  Making a cheap form of energy unaffordable (hopefully).  The danger is that governments build the coal plants that will then run for 40 years with or without the technology releasing deadly CO2 at an alarming rate for decades to come.

3)      Deindustrialisation (Exporting of CO2)

Germany and the UK are prime examples.  Through the collapse of East German industry after the fall of the wall, Germany inherited a massive carbon minus.  Likewise England’s shift from heavy industry to services through Thatcher allowed a decarbonising of the economy, however the global economy remains just as carbon intensive because the crap is now just made abroad.  The UK is now a virtual exporter of Carbon Dioxide.  China has become the World’s factory of cheap carbon intensive goods.  China’s carbon dioxide is therefore our carbon dioxide; we have reduced our CO2 by exporting carbon intensive industry.

4)      Flight expansion

Through more efficient flying, flying will become environmental- that is the official party line.  However planes are getting more efficient at 1 % per year: flying is growing globally at 5 % per year.  So the fuel efficiency is being wiped out by the growth.  Air transport is the fastest growing source of CO2 and it is accelerating.  Governments will not achieve their CO2 reductions without the control of air travel.  Bio-fuels and talk of new technology should not be an excuse to carry on building airports and to carry on with the ridiculously low tax regime.

5)      Green Energy

Subsides are being given to the renewable sector, however in some cases this money could be better spent. Germany’s solar energy program of subsidies and fixed energy rates has meant massive growth in solar energy.  However it remains at less than 1% of the energy mix, despite having 200 times the capacity of the UK! The growth is phenomenal, but wind energy is a cheaper and more appropriate renewable source of energy for cloudy and windy northern Europe.  Germany’s subsidy program has largely been driven to encourage the new industry and therefore this Greenwash may actually benefit in the long run, if the technologies are applied on a huge scale in southern and northern Africa.  It has also meant an increase in Green jobs.

The balance of governments is sobering.  However they may just be reflecting the mood of the public: we want Green action, however we are not prepared to make the sacrifices needed to achieve it.  Instead we reach for the Greenwash.

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5 Responses to “The Greenwash Party”

  1. Simon Rent says:

    Greenwashing is really bad. Think the best way is as you say to publise all the cases. However it is very hard to fight marketing and our own instincts

  2. [...] needs to be controlled. The problem is that those who have the power to control the industry, governments, are among the most serious greenwashers and therefore before setting standards they need to stop greenwashing [...]

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