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DEFINITELY THE WRONG KIND OF GREEN : Convention on Biodiversity GREENWASH

March 20, 2010

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

Partnership between Airbus and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biodiversity

Announcement: http://www.airbus.com/en/presscentre/pressreleases/pressreleases_items/2010_03_05_biodiversity_year_flag_a380.html

Not that this comes as a surprise to citizens and organizations that have witnessed the sell out of the Convention on Biodiversity over the past years. The Convention on Biodiversity even produced a joint report with Shell in 2007: Report: http://www.cbd.int/doc/business/cbd-guide-oli-gas-en.pdf

Oh, and by the way, at the last World Conservation Congress, the general assembly of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), many participants proudly walked around with buttons stating “Nature is our Business”.

This is not a joke – IUCN itself offered business courses for its members during the congress on how to better “market” nature conservation.

It gets worse

Some former IUCN-staff are now promoting the adoption of a “green development mechanism” at the upcoming Conference of the Parties. http://gdm.earthmind.net/default.htm

There also is an active “Business and Biodiversity Initiative” which is promoting, amongst others, biodiversity offsets. You can read this report:

http://www.globalforestcoalition.org/img/userpics/File/LifeAsCommerce/Casestudy-Life-as-Commerce-in-Paraguay.pdf to understand how this is working out in Paraguay.

It can be easily summarized as:

You can continue to burn forests for soy plantation expansion as long as you give a donation to WWF (which has conveniently included the possibility for these offsets in the criteria for “responsible” soy). Needless to say, some Paraguayan IUCN members (especially the chair of the IUCN Commission for Environmental Law, who is director of a Paraguayan NGO) are actively trying to incorporate these payment for environmental services schemes into national REDD strategies.

After all, it’s the money they love…. (innovative financial mechanisms they call that in CBD slang)…

Thank you to Global Forest Coalition (An integral NGO) for insights and links. | http://www.globalforestcoalition.org

Airbus gets a crafty upgrade by flying the flag for biodiversity

A380 airliner to feature official logo for UN, despite aviation being a major source of emissions that threaten biodiversity

In this hand out image provided by Airbus, the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger plane, takes its maiden flight over south-western France Photograph: H. GOUSSE/AP

Who do you think might just have been granted the right to display the official logo of the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity? A conservation body, perhaps. Or a new brand of organic food?

Well, no. It’s an aircraft manufacturer, actually. The world’s largest aircraft manufacturer: Airbus Industries. The European company that is doing more than anyone else, Boeing included, to increase the number of flights we take, and thus the airline industry‘s contribution to climate change.

During 2010, the logo will appear on the side of Airbus’s latest airliner, the A380, on scheduled services with the world’s airlines. The largest passenger aircraft is specially designed for those long-haul flights across oceans and from Europe to the far east, where a single flight can more than double your annual CO2 emissions.

Airbus has won this green accolade by dint of hard cash. Airbus is helping fund a cherished project of the secretariat of the UN Convention on Biodiversity to educate young people across the world about the virtues of biodiversity, called the Green Wave Initiative. Airbus did not respond to questions from the Guardian about how much money is involved in the partnership, but the UN Environment Programme has described it as a “huge gesture of support“.

The Green Wave is a neat idea. To mark the International Day of Biodiversity on 22 May, young people will be asked to plant a tree at 10am local time wherever they are in the world. Thus they will create a “green wave” that will spread from east to west round the planet.

But it is an even neater idea for Airbus, the current trailblazer for an industry whose year-on-year carbon dioxide emissions are rising faster than any other. At a time when climate change is widely recognised by ecologists as a leading cause of species loss around the world, Airbus’s adoption of a green mantle courtesy of a major UN conservation organisation might seem, well, ironic.

Airbus has increased its cuddlability quotient by partnering with National Geographic on the green wave project. National Geographic is an organisation with a sky-high green image. The duo got a special thank you from UN secretary-general Ban ki-Moon when they announceed the partnership last June.

Airbus has an answer to those who accuse it of greenwash. The company says that it is “pioneering greener flight”. And it is undoubtedly true that the Airbus A380 superjumbo has got its emissions down, thanks to lighter materials and smarter flying technology.

Airbus says it will reduce emissions to less than 75 grams of CO2 for every passenger kilometre. But that will not apply if its wide open spaces are filled with extra business and first-class seats as many purchasing airlines promise. Look out for Singapore Airline’s super-first class on the A380, with private suites, double beds and wardrobes and wide-screen TVs.

But even if Airbus achieves those low figures per passenger-kilometre in real operation, the big problem is that passenger-kilometres are going up far faster than aircraft efficiency is improving.

Emissions from the airline industry continue to rise by about 3% a year, taking up an ever greater share of total global man-made emissions. So a little humility might be in order from the world’s most prolific manufacturer of new planes. But, no.

Announcing the adoption of the logo this month, Airbus’s senior vice-president for public affairs and communications, Rainer Ohler baldly claimed that the aviation industry had “already reduced aircraft emissions by 70% in the last 40 years.”

You don’t need to be a statistician to spot the trick here. Not so much “hide the decline” as “hide the increase”. Ohler meant airlines had cut emissions per passenger-kilometre by 70% since the days before jumbo jets. But, to be clear, aircraft emissions are soaring. In Britain, for instance, they have risen since 1970 by between four- and five-fold.

They will continue to soar, while the likes of Airbus continues to fill the skies with chunks of flying metal the size of a football pitch. And whatever logo they put on the side of their planes, species will continue to go extinct as a result.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/mar/18/un-year-of-biodiversity-airbus

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