Government Greenwashing

First, an apology, I haven’t posted recently as I’ve been immersed in my divorce which appears to be resolved after a long period of negotiation. So I’m back.

COP 26 is shining a fascinating light on how serious players (be they governments, corporates or individuals) are about achieving net zero by 2050. This should not surprise anyone. The scale of change for many players to move to a net zero economic model is significant, well actually enormous, so attempting to slow the process, soften the impact and confuse the issue is to be expected.

The number of attempts by governments to influence the latest report by the IPCC, is a perfect example. These attempts are about national self interest of those economies where carbon plays a significant part in their economic success. So Coal, Gas and Oil  producer nations will experience a drop in economic activity, a change in their balance of payments, a resulting weakening of their currencies and a fall in taxation receipts when net zero starts to really bite, unless they change.

In my book, Zero Carbon our Choice, I devoted a chapter to the losers from net zero and the impact on geo politics including increasing instability in some regions as carbon becomes less of a source of wealth, unless these countries are able to reinvent their economies for a post carbon world. Africa is an interesting example, while affected by the changes of climate, many African nations are also significant carbon producers of coal, oil and gas, so their response to net zero will be equivocal.

The level of greenwash has scaled new heights. Perhaps best illustrated by Saudi Arabia promising net zero by 2060 but continuing to produce and sell petroleum products. But this greenwash isn’t just about producer nations, but about consumer nations as well. So in the run up to COP26, the EU has prepared its position to encourage other recalcitrant states to promise more, while at the same time moving forward on Nordstream 2 which will transport large quantities of gas to land in Germany and thence be distributed around Europe. This pipeline is a long term project, pipelines have expected lives ranging from 50 to 70 years, so this new pipeline will be functional in 2090.

The Nordstream2 website sets out the rationale:

“By 2035, the EU will need to import about 120 bcm more gas per year

The production outlooks of major gas producers such as Netherlands and UK, as well as Norway, are falling. At the same time, demand for gas is expected to continue, owing to its lower carbon qualities. This means that the EU will need to import more gas. Nord Stream 2 will have the capacity to meet about one third of the EU’s import requirement.”

And

“The new pipeline could play an important role in the EU’s climate strategy by making competitive supplies of natural gas available to replace high-carbon coal in the energy mix, in addition to providing back-up for intermittent wind and solar power. If the EU is serious about reaching climate goals, then the share of gas in the energy mix needs to increase to eliminate coal burning.”

Japan is investing in new coal powered power stations.

There are many more examples of government greenwash , but the question this poses is that if governments are economical with the truth about their net zero commitments, if they seek to move the debate and the carbon commitments to help their national economic interest, why should they expect either corporates or individuals to act in a different way?

My real concern is that we will see many promises coming from COP 26 which on proper examination will not achieve net zero by 2050. Beware greenwash, there is a lot of it about, whether by governments, corporates or individuals.

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