Saving the planet takes money, and lots of it. Money is both the theme and the subtext of the latest round of UN climate talks being held here [Madrid] —a vast river of cash flows through the UN climate process. Formally, the meeting is about nailing down one of the more obscure provisions of the Paris Agreement: Article 6, which provides for market-based instruments so that countries can trade their way out of their decarbonization commitments. Billions of cross-border dollars and transaction fees hang on the outcome. …
… Peeling away the hype reveals a very different picture. Companies promising to cut their carbon emissions rely on offsetting—that is, paying for their consumption of hydrocarbon energy by supporting projects that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, such as renewable energy. If companies were genuine in their commitment to tackle climate change, though, they would develop zero-carbon baselines for their own activities.
A growing number of companies boast about the proportion of wind and solar in their energy consumption. These claims rely on an entirely legal accounting fraud that says that renewable electricity can be stored; the physical reality is that electricity is consumed the instant that it’s generated. In peddling the falsehood that business and households can depend on anything close to 100% intermittent renewable energy, companies are misleading the public.
Rather than demonstrating a genuine – and painful – commitment to radical decarbonization, business leaders’ public professions of climate awareness reflect a confluence of interest between, on the one hand, corporate public-affairs departments steeped in doctrines of corporate social responsibility (CSR), and, on the other, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). It’s a collusive process.