February 18th, 2020
BP has announced that it will be carbon neutral by 2050.
On hearing the news, I felt so excited and relieved, even though 2050 is not soon enough – could one of the most polluting companies in the world, responsible for helping to drive climate change, actually be a passport to turning round the crisis?
NO, is the sad short answer, I quickly discovered. They intend to continue drilling for oil and gas. They will offset emissions, eventually… What? Does BP really believe that will lead to a ‘brave, new world’?
Offsetting is now becoming accepted as the norm, it feels. That idea was made up years ago, when a few of us first decided to stop flying. It didn’t take off (please excuse all the vehicle puns….), because, I think, environmentalists recognised it for what it was – a way for people to feel better about carrying on without changing anything… Now, it has re-surfaced, because most people realise something has got to be done but companies do not want us to change our behaviour too much – so they offer offsetting to us. Our accountant was explaining offsetting to me the other day (unnecessarily!) and he said ‘it’s what airlines do’. Of course planting trees, and all the environmental schemes supported by such companies as RyanAir, are brilliant.
But not flying is better!
No amount of offsetting can cancel out the harm that BP and other oil companies are doing. It’s great that they have green plans – please keep them, to soak up the huge amount of carbon emissions that are already in the atmosphere.
Please stop the drilling too, though, and don’t pretend you’re green – that’s the end of today’s appeal!
One more appeal to my friends and family (& any other followers..), actually – take a look at the Flight Free 2020 website. ‘We Stay on the Ground’ campaigners have a really sensible, non-preachy ‘frequently asked questions’ section. They spell out the reasons that carbon offsetting is definitely not the answer. And, another fact they highlight – did you know that there is no tax on aviation fuel? Unbelievable… That’s how flights can be so cheap. And don’t forget the costs of getting to the airport etc…. I know time is an issue, with train travel, of course.
Talking of trains, HS2 has finally got the go-ahead, as you in the UK will know.
The destruction of ancient woodlands is unforgivable in my opinion, but there are also plenty of business arguments against the clumsy, wasteful scheme. Nils Pratley in the financial pages of The Guardian said: “Those of us who believe there are smarter ways to spend £100bn on improving railways, and faster ways to deliver ‘levelling-up’ benefits, have lost.”
But there’s another glimmer of hope here too – Boris Johnson apparently made a remark in the House of Commons that could be interpreted as the mood turning against Heathrow’s proposed expansion. Mr Pratley continues: “Never underestimate the power of the Heathrow lobby, which is just as determined as HS2’s, but it suddenly looks very easy for a PM with a large majority to kill the third runway. He should go for it.”
We at last have a leader for the Glasgow COP26 – Alok Sharma, the new business secretary. I’ve tweeted him (please do the same, or write, and check out my tweets #grandmaglobal). I’m not very optimistic – he’s likely to be distracted/lobbied to put short term political interests before the health of the climate….
Now, the subject of reducing waste. I’ve come across an organisation called TerraCycle – its aim is to recycle the ‘non-recyclable’. It turns waste materials into useable items, such as tables and planters (& even weirdly, ashtrays…?!). Crisp packets, baby food and pet food pouches, and other items I think, can be sent to the company; and there are also pick-up points around the country (and in other countries). I’m going to give this a go, instead of adding to yet more landfill (and, worse, dumping in oceans…).
There’s also a good new shopping initiative, The Loop, being launched next month. It is backed by major consumer goods companies Unilever and PepsiCo, which might make us suspicious.. but it does sound a move in the right direction.
Groceries will be delivered in durable metal, glass or plastic containers that can be returned and reused. Afterwards the empties, like the old-fashioned milk bottles delivery service, are collected from the doorstep, cleaned and reused up to 100 times. In France, the Loop service has already started with the Carrefour supermarket chain. Mike Barry, a sustainability expert who spent 14 years at Marks & Spencer (latterly as head of its ethical scheme Plan A), said: “The new sustainable future has to cope with 7.7 billion people who are consuming trillions of items a year. Loop is an exciting alternative to today’s approach to consumption but the big question is can it be scaled up quick enough to stop the ocean pollution crisis?” Probably not, sadly, but doing something is better than doing nothing, of course….As Tesco would say: “Every little helps”….?!
In addition, it would be wonderful if more people could put pressure on such people as Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos, to stop the production of so much horrendous micro-plastic. Boycott Ineos, at least…
And finally on waste, I’ve heard that a canteen at one of my relative’s work-places continues to serve coffee and tea in take-away cups (to save the effort/space etc of dishwashing). This kind of ‘convenience’ should no longer be acceptable – that’s the ‘inconvenient truth’….
I write this during the flooding caused by Storm Dennis, quite close to my home. The Environment Agency has announced that ‘we are in uncharted territory’, as reported on BBC Radio’s news, but no mention of the climate crisis.
Why do we not hear the phrase ‘climate crisis’ more in daily life, galvanising us all to action….?