Climate Change

FIE breaks ranks with the Green Party (and the Government) suggesting that efforts to portray carbon offsets as simple, quick fixes pose serious questions of ecological legitimacy.

The Irish Government have announced that they intend to 'offset' future air travel by Government ministers and officials though the planting of "urban forests" in towns and cities.

While FIE support any programme that will see more native trees planted in Ireland, we point out that trees can only hold carbon for a limited period of time. Carbon offsets do not negate emissions so much as time-shift them. Rather than hanging round in the atmosphere through this century, that tonne of offset CO2 will instead inhabit the next. Carbon offsetting is not the ultimate guilt-free solution to global warming.
See our Press Release.

And the UK group London Rising Tide who recently occupied the office of CarbonNeutral, a leading company selling carbon offsets, accusing the company of creating a "smokescreen" behind which corporations will be able to keep increasing emissions, pointing out that 'the danger is that offsetting allows some of us in the richer, developed world to carry on with our polluting lifestyles, instead of lowering our own emissions.'

FIE breaks ranks with the Green Party (and the Government) suggesting that efforts to portray carbon offsets as simple, quick fixes pose serious questions of ecological legitimacy.

The Irish Government have announced that they intend to 'offset' future air travel by Government ministers and officials though the planting of "urban forests" in towns and cities.

While FIE support any programme that will see more native trees planted in Ireland, we point out that trees can only hold carbon for a limited period of time. Carbon offsets do not negate emissions so much as time-shift them. Rather than hanging round in the atmosphere through this century, that tonne of offset CO2 will instead inhabit the next. Carbon offsetting is not the ultimate guilt-free solution to global warming.
See our Press Release.

And the UK group London Rising Tide who recently occupied the office of CarbonNeutral, a leading company selling carbon offsets, accusing the company of creating a "smokescreen" behind which corporations will be able to keep increasing emissions, pointing out that 'the danger is that offsetting allows some of us in the richer, developed world to carry on with our polluting lifestyles, instead of lowering our own emissions.'
The Government's announcement last night that they intend to 'offset' future air travel by Government ministers and officials though the planting of "urban forests" in towns and cities has drawn fire from the environmental lobby group 'Friends of the Irish Environment'.

The group claims 'Efforts to portray carbon offsets as simple, quick fixes poses serious questions of ecological legitimacy.'
While the group expressed support for 'any programme that will see more native trees planted in Ireland', they pointed out that 'trees can only hold carbon for a limited period of time. Trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere while they are growing, but in the end the timber they produce will return the carbon to the atmosphere as it decays or is burnt.'

Once the carbon is released from its geological store in the ground, as fossil fuels like coal and gas, it will cycle through our atmosphere for many years. Holding it in trees doesn't undo this damage. Ireland's real long-term carbon store is our bogs. If the Government was seeking genuine carbon offsets they would be locking up more carbon in bogs instead of burning them for the most polluting fuel there is.

A spokesman for the group explained that 'Carbon offsets do not negate emissions so much as time-shift them. Rather than hanging round in the atmosphere through this century, that tonne of offset CO2 will instead inhabit the next. It is likely that the Government's offset CO2 will be released back into an atmosphere already choked with the gas, giving an extra push to global warming. Future generations may not thank us for our forest offsets.'

'Carbon offsetting is not the ultimate guilt-free solution to global warming. There is no substitute for cutting emissions.'

In February a radical group called London Rising Tide occupied the office of CarbonNeutral, a leading company selling carbon offsets, accusing the company of creating a "smokescreen" behind which corporations will be able to keep increasing emissions. The group claims that 'Climate chaos is an issue of justice as it is hurting the world's poorest (and least-polluting) people first and hardest. The danger is that offsetting allows some of us in the richer, developed world to carry on with our polluting lifestyles, instead of lowering our own emissions.'

Verification and comment: Tony Lowes 027 73131 / 087 2176316
See also the New Scientist article: 'Look, no carbon footprint!'
As figures show Ireland continues to increase its Greenhouse Gas emissions, with the residential sector up 7% and the cement industry up almost 20% - the government has abandoned carbon taxes and has no policy on climate change.

Companies trying to produce green products in industries like cement are consequently picking up the costs for the big dirty cement producers, leaders in greenhouse gas pollution in Ireland.

As a direct result of the Government's failure to prioritize this area, 25 million of EU matching funding for energy efficiency in the national development Plan 2000, 2006 was reallocated to other areas. Read the details of this astonishing story - because this site is the only place where you will read it!

The draft Climate Change Policy was sent out for consultation in 2003 and has not been seen since. FIE is offering a prize of one ton of carbon credits for the first person to find it...

As figures show Ireland continues to increase its Greenhouse Gas emissions, with the residential sector up 7% and the cement industry up almost 20% - the government has abandoned carbon taxes and has no policy on climate change.

Companies trying to produce green products in industries like cement are consequently picking up the costs for the big dirty cement producers, leaders in greenhouse gas pollution in Ireland.

As a direct result of the Government's failure to prioritize this area, 25 million of EU matching funding for energy efficiency in the national development Plan 2000, 2006 was reallocated to other areas. Read the details of this astonishing story - because this site is the only place where you will read it!

The draft Climate Change Policy was sent out for consultation in 2003 and has not been seen since. FIE is offering a prize of one ton of carbon credits for the first person to find it...
As the UK publishes its otherwise excellent Energy Review giving the go ahead for a new 'fleet' of nuclear power stations, FIE is calling on the Government to appoint a Minister for Energy. Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland today FIE said the Irish response to the UK nuclear go ahead indicated the fragmented and uncoordinated approach of the current system where the Minister for Communications, Marine, and Natural Resources is dealing with Ireland's oil reserves while the Minister for the Environment is dealing with the nuclear issue. Citing last year's reallocation of €40 million away from the Sustainable Energy Priority in the National Development Plan, FIE is urging the Government to bring to bear an orchestrated change under one Minister who will address Ireland's vulnerable and unsustainable use of energy.



As the UK publishes its otherwise excellent Energy Review giving the go ahead for a new 'fleet' of nuclear power stations, FIE is calling on the Government to appoint a Minister for Energy. Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland today FIE said the Irish response to the UK nuclear go ahead indicated the fragmented and uncoordinated approach of the current system where the Minister for Communications, Marine, and Natural Resources is dealing with Ireland's oil reserves while the Minister for the Environment is dealing with the nuclear issue. Citing last year's reallocation of €40 million away from the Sustainable Energy Priority in the National Development Plan, FIE is urging the Government to bring to bear an orchestrated change under one Minister who will address Ireland's vulnerable and unsustainable use of energy.


103 FM West Cork Today
9 December 2005

WCT: Right now were going to something entirely different. We're going to talk to Tony Lowes. He's in Allihies and he's involved with Friends of the Earth and he's got a novel Christmas idea, buying a ton of carbon credits. Now how does this work? Tony, good morning to you.

FIE: Good morning, David.

WCT: Tony this is an absolute amazing. It's for those who are, shall we say 'green minded', Isn't it?
FIE: It is, it's a sort of Christmas fun idea and perhaps a way of understanding better what's going on in Montreal and what greenhouse gases and climate change and trading of emission is all about. We felt we'd try and bring it down to a level where people might be able to understand a bit so we're offering them the opportunity of buying a ton of carbon credits for Christmas.

WCT: A ton of carbon credits! Well before we get into how much this is going to cost, some countries are going to subscribe to the Kyoto protocol and some don't, can you explain?

TL. Yes, the problem is world wide - we are all facing this climate change. I think scientists are agreed now that it is caused by human beings. It's caused by fossil fuels that basically began in the last 150 years , it was even noticed then. As we industrialised the world as we became more dependent on power - as this caused pollution the actual climate began to change and this is called global warming and its caused by this increasing use of fossil fuels. So the implications for the future if we go on as we are now are absolutely appalling.

The result is that nations decided they would try and put caps or controls of some kind. The way that the European Union went along with the Kyoto protocol means that every country has a limit to the amount of gas that they can put out and overall Europe is trying to reduce the amount of gas its putting out over the next years.

WCT: Tony isn't that a valiant effort.

FIE: I think that as the science is coming in its going to show that its really nothing more than a symbolic level. Even if we succeeded in meeting current targets that is not going to answer the problems that seem to be occurring. I edit an environment news service every day and I see these news stories coming in from all over the world.

WCT: In that regard, we're seen in some ways as compliant, its almost hypocrisy.

FIE: Compliant in what sense, David?

WCT: Compliant in so far as we're attempting to go in the directions that's being asked for in the Protocol.

FIE: Absolutely, Europe is in the good books of the environmental world because of what its been trying to do and in turn to a degree Ireland is within those good books but here we come down to our Christmas gift, buying a ton of carbon credits.

The problem is this, if industries and nations that are polluting, and its mostly the rich ones that are worst - can buy their way out of polluting then we're not really addressing the problem.

WCT: How do you buy your way out?

FIE: You buy your way out because your nations, as in the case of the European Union, agree that we're going to cap our emissions at 'X' and each country agrees on 'X' and if you exceed 'X' then for every ton of pollution that you create above 'X' you must buy that, you must go out and buy a credit for that ton of pollution.

So yesterday in the budget the Minister said that 'I'm putting £20 m aside to buy carbon credits'.

WCR: So he's saying that's the money to pay the penalty we will incur?

FIE: That's right. In fact we're going incur rather larger costs that that. The Government's own figures indicate that we will be heading for $100 m within a few years even if we were on target for our reductions, which we're not.

WCT: This is wastage on all fronts. Its wastage through environmental degradation but it's also a waste of Irish taxpayer's money, 100 million.

FIE: Big time. And I would take issue with what the Minister, I don't know how many of your listeners heard him this morning from Montr?©al but he said 'Oh this £20 m is to pay for your tractors and your cars, that's absolutely nonsense. This carbon credit trading relates to industrial pollution, it doesn't relate to many of other kinds of pollution which are very serious. This is carbon credit trading for industries and nations that are producing too much pollution.

WCT: Is the Minister being disingenuous in saying this?

FIE: I'm not sure if he has a full grasp of the situation. He tends to, I'd be careful how I characterise his public utterances - but I've seen a few Environment Ministers come and go and he certainly isn't clarifying the issues we are looking at and that is what we like our Minister for the Environment to do.

WCT: That's a bit scary for a Minister though, if you say he hasn't grasped the concepts.

FIE: Ummm. I mean I think he may be trying to fudge the issue here. They did not bring in carbon taxes - that's the big failure of this government. That and the failure to adopt a Greenhouse Gas Strategy. The Greenhouse Gas Strategy was put out by the Government for consultation in 2003 and nothing has happened since. We don't have one. We don't have carbon tax which means that our emitting industries, our big ESB, our big cement companies should actually be paying a tax on their emission and they should be buying those £20 m carbon credits. Why is the government buying them for them? That's not right.

WCT: So you can actually do it by way of business, a certain component of democracy, whereby Ok, you can make the choice, buy the credit, its not there, the Government can't avail of it.

FIE: Well of course this is the ultimate, if everyone bought a ton of carbon credit for Christmas we would put the industries in a position, the governments in a position - where there weren't enough credits left and they would have to reduce pollution. Of course this is all very theoretical. I don't think the work that we are doing is going to have a massive impact on the carbon trading market but the point is that if people begin to understand whats going on and begin to get interested in it then maybe we can take control a bit more of what happening and see if we can't make real progress in reducing rather than just buying our way out of it because we're one of the richest countries in the world.

WCT: What would happen if push came to shove and everyone went actually that's a fantastic idea, instead of splurging on rubbish and trivial stuff and the typical tack that's around at Christmas - and went and booked it - if that reserve is no longer there, the Government is snookered!

FIE: I'd really like to find out, David, I really would.

WCT: Or is there another stock that they can get their hands on…?

FIE: Well, generally you play these kind of games and you win, and they change the rules. So undoubtedly they would find a way around it but the point is that if initiatives like this are taking place it might just cause them to think a little bit more about what people want because in the end if actual individual people don't say they want a change it won't happen because industry is supplying jobs, industry is driving our prosperity and to tackle it won't happen by itself, it won't happen until people themselves say - hey - wait a minute - what about these floods - hey - wait a minute - what about these disappearing species - hey wait a minute, that's the point when we might get some change.

WCT: A lot of people are texting in, how do I go about buying credits, how much is it going to cost.
FIE: It's going to cost you £25. Now we're paying £22 on the exchange plus commissions and so on and for this I have in front of me a beautiful certificate which will be sent out to the person you buy it for. It's easy enough if you go to our site, we're actually Friends of the Irish Environment not Friends of the Earth so if you go to Friends of the Irish Environment dot net you'll find that there's a page all set up so you can buy this and put all you information in or you can give us a ring on 027 73131 and we'll take the details and do it from here.

WCT: That's sounds brilliant. I have to say it's brilliant. I'm taken with the idea and others will be, friendsoftheirishenvironmet.net or they can give you a buzz on 027 73131. £25 will get you a ton of carbon credits‚Ķ

FIE: And a beautiful Gift Certificate.

WCT: That's fantastic. Tony Lowes, many thanks for joining us on West Cork today from down in Allihies.

ENDS