There’s no money in saving the world

We continue to see the repercussions of relying on business to deliver our response to climate chaos, global warming and resource depletion. The last few days have thrown up these stories in the media:

  • Canadian environmental groups on Wednesday accused Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s biggest energy group, of reneging on its promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at its oil sands project in Alberta. (FT, 8/4/09)
  • At least five big wind energy projects are in danger of being delayed or shelved owing to higher costs and a shortage of credit, the British Wind Energy Association said on Wednesday. (FT, 9/4/09)
  • Japan is expected to restart the world’s biggest nuclear power plant shortly – nearly two years after it was damaged by an earthquake. The prolonged shutdown of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s seven reactors knocked Tokyo Electric Power into the red and threatened Tokyo with electricity shortages during the hot summer months, when air-conditioner use pushes up demand. The facility accounts for 13 per cent of Tepco’s generating capacity and without it the company has been forced to rely on more expensive coal, oil and gas plants. (FT, 9/4/09)
  • Several prominent energy companies have scaled back their commitment to renewables, including BP, Shell and Iberdrola. (FT, 9/4/09)

And so on. On the other hand, Mars and Cadbury have promised to move to sustainable, Fairtrade supplies of cocoa (FT, 9/4/09). So we don’t need to worry about Peak Chocolate just yet. On the otehr hand, I would not be very confident that they would ahve done anything about this were it not for ethically motivated public and staff pressure – as Fiona Dawson, managing director of Mars UK, has said, consumers and employees expected Mars to “do the right thing” because “nobody has to buy confectionery”.

The fact is, a monkey will type Hamlet before profit-driven companies will create a credible and effective answer to our many, many environmental problems in the middle of a slump. (I was going to say that Hell will freeze over, but at least that is one outcome global warming protects us from.)

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