Les risques du métier

november 24, 2007

Action Carbon – Pollution has its price

by Lien De Leenheer

beautiful nature

A remarkable stand at the entrance of the European Development Days – a tower of fluorescent light, green and red. Some thought it was the information stand of the EU development days, others thought it was an XL sound meter. In reality, it was a huge carbon dioxide meter. The red bars showed the amount of CO2 the EU development days were producing – just think about everyone flying in from all-over the world. The green part showed how much people were ‘paying back’. A trip from Brussels? 15 euro please. A trip from Paris? 12 euro please.

“The red part was put at 1000 tons, I think the real emission amount is much higher, but we decided to have a reachable target”, says Ruy Korscha Anaya de la Rosa of Action Carbone. This French NPO started with the beautiful pictures of Yann Arthus Bertrand, who travelled the world with his helicopter to capture our majestic nature in an attempt to push us to take care of the world around us and protect the biodiversity. “But you are polluting the world too with your helicopter” was an often heard critique. Yann Arthus Bertrand agreed. He could not stop flying because it was essential for his pictures but he could calculate how much he was polluting and pay back by supporting a project in Cambodia. Others wanted to follow his idea and that is how Goodplanet.org was founded, and Action Carbone is the offset website of the organisation. Offset is the term often used when you want to compensate your emissions. With the funds from “offset” development projects were funded, often investments in renewable energies such as solar energy, biomass, biogas and wind energy. Most of the projects are done abroad in developing countries.

Why not over here in the developed countries? “First of all the cost for a project is much lower in developing countries because they do not need the same amount of energy as the developed countries need, so with less budget we can achieve much more.”

But could the developed countries not benefit more from renewable energies, in order to put a hold to enormous pollution? “Yes, that is why we are urgently looking for domestic projects. The problem is that it is hard to convince companies to invest in local projects, it is marketing wise much more attractive if you can show off with a project in Africa for example.”

Is it not enough to plant a tree? “It is not enough. Trees are only good for those countries where biomass is a way of surviving, 96% of their energy needs are met as such. They need the forest, the fauna and flora, it fertilities the sole, trees retain water and protect animals. That is why deforestation is such a drama. But the problem with trees is that it is not a permanent carbon dioxide retainer. Once the tree dies or there is a wood fire, all the carbon dioxide goes back into the atmosphere. So we need a balance.”

But why do we pay 15 euro to fly from Brussels? “I’ll be honest with you that price is totally arbitrary, based on how we work. 15 percent of the 15 euro you pay (2,25 euro) goes to daily costs such as wages, the rest of 12,75 euro goes to a project. There is a lot of speculation going on in the market of offset and some people are getting nasty rich from it. The world is fucked up (sigh). Luckily there are still some good companies, some of them are working together with airline companies, offering the travellers to pay their offset right away while booking the trip.”

After three days of European Development Days the attending polluters, all of them strongly involved in development organisations and environmental organisations, paid only half of the 1000 ton back.



What are CO2 equivalents and what is GWP?

Often emissions are expressed in CO2 equivalents, abbreviated CO2-eq. This allows us to compare the influence of several emission gasses on global warming. It is based on the “Global Warming Potential’ (GWP), the level in which a gas is contributing to global warming. For example: Methane has a GWP of 21 CO2-eqen. This means that 1 kilo of methane is contributing over a period of 100 year 21 times more than 1 kilo CO2 to global warming, and is more harmful. Consequently the offset prices for methane are higher.


European Development Days: We are suffering because of you”

Filed under: Europa,Europe,Journalism — Lien @ 8:50
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How political strategy from the North annoys the South

by Lien De Leenheer


Deep into Africa a man sees a girl next to a lake. She is throwing little fish into the water. Around her are standing hundreds of buckets full of these fish. The man stops and asks: “What are you doing?” She looks up, surprised, and tells him she wants to save them. He frowns, “But you will never manage to save them all.” “Thank you sir for your answer”, she answers. She is clearly irritated and continues her activity. From her mouth she mumbles: “This one will make it, this one will make it, and this one will make it.”

With this story Nigerian Ndidi Nnoli Fdozien of Growing Businesses Foundation (GBF) expresses the distinct difference between the way the North and the South look at climate change and its influence on developing countries. Where in the North the emphasis is on “how to exhaust less carbon dioxide”, the South addresses the international community with an emotional message: “People are dying in Africa on a daily basis. If you do not take your responsibility as industrialized countries, more and more people will die. We who contribute the less to global warming are forced to deal with the biggest consequences.”

Managing Director at Deloitte and former Minister of Privatisation of Niger, Mahamadou Sako: “The world is as round as a football. We all live on this football, climate change does not need a visa, it travels freely. When we play with the football it will deflate anyway, but we can give it air again. But if we ignore the ball while he is lying in the corner it will shrink totally.”

A common heard complaint is that Europe and the rest of the industrialised countries are chatting too much about possible strategies but in the end actions are not taken. Kofi Annan, former UN Secratry-General: “The best promises are the promises that are kept.” Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), spoke very frankly at the European Development Days: “Yes, the North is doing efforts. But, if you look at the kind of funds they invest in, you know that their priority is reducing greenhouse gas emissions quotas per capita, often by buying clean air abroad, and only a small percentage of their budget goes towards investment in adaptation incentives and innovative technologies.”

Marc Buys, advisor-general of the ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, puts it even more bluntly: “It is all very nice that European countries are showing off their willingness to give 0.7% of their GDP to development. But the truth is that this percentage is based on information from the sixties. Back then the studies showed that 1% of the GDP of the wealthiest countries could help the development of the developing countries. The consensus was that 30% of the investment had to come from private sources thus the other 70% would be provided by the governments. We are now 2007 and only from 2012 on some of the countries will spend 0.70% of their GDP on development. Even though that percentage is not up to date anymore and is not taking into account new emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil.”

In regard to these new developed countries a lot of worries are expressed. Théodore Skylakakis, Secretary General for Development of the Ministery of Foreign Affairs of Greece: “It is vital that the first decisions in the development path of these economies are good ones. We have to prevent the use of carbon intensive buildings, roads and other infrastructure. This can only be done with incentives and a clear political message.”

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