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05/12/2016

France won’t offset COP21’s carbon footprint

Climate & Environment

France won’t offset COP21’s carbon footprint

COP 21 protest. Paris, 29 November.

[Mark Dixon/Flickr]

France has broken with tradition by not compensating for the carbon footprint of the UN Climate Change Conference to cap global warming it is currently hosting in Paris.

By Friday (11 December), the last day of the talks to limit global warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels, it is estimated that COP21 will have given off 21,000 tonnes of CO2 for the venue of the conference in Le Bourget. But much more if you count the 22,000 people travelling by plane to Paris, from all over the world.

Host countries usually offset the carbon impact of such a meeting, generated by participant travel, conference facilities and local activities.

Before 6 December, the United Nations Framework for Climate Change (UNFCC) website said that France had planned to compensate for 100% of its COP emissions by investing in green development projects.

The ‘commitment’ to nullify all of the C02 by March 2016 has now been quietly dropped from the UNFCC Frequently Asked Questions section of the site. Those few sentences are now censored, as the French newspaper Le Canard Enchainé reported on Wednesday (9 December).

UNFCC website screengrab.UNFCC website screengrab.

A source at the UNFCC admitted there had been a misunderstanding. “We thought that France would do it,” the source said. 

Instead, France has promised to carbon offset emissions from Le Bourget, by financing “exemplary” development projects that help access to water and boost renewables.

French sources also cast doubt on the carbon credit system hatched under the Kyoto Protocol, saying it was often open to abuse – which could be interpreted as a further snub to the UN. The carbon credit scheme actually increased emissions by 600 million tonnes, according to an August report by the Stockholm Environment Institute.

>>Read: Kyoto protocol’s carbon credit scheme ‘increased emissions by 600m tonnes’

22,000 people

22,000 participants from almost 200 nations from governments, businesses, civil society organisations and media will have taken part in the 12 day conference.

Flying one delegation to Paris from the Maldives costs the planet three tonnes of CO2, according to estimates obtained by EurActiv. Should the Maldives – which are greatly at risk from climate change – want to offset their carbon footprint, they will have to do so themselves.

In the past, host countries of COPs have compensated for their environmental impact by, for example, investing in projects such as reforestation or solar power. 

In 2009, in Copenhagen all of the carbon was offset by Denmark, which selected projects to make up for its ‘climate sins’. There were 33,546 participants giving off more than 26,000 tonnes of CO2.

At COP15, which was marred by failure and is the most directly comparable in significance to Paris, Denmark offset all participants’ travel, the conference facilities and local activities.

Host governments at the COPs in Durban (75%), Doha (75%) and Lima (100%) all offset their carbon emissions, but had far fewer participants. 

>>Read: US demands 1.5 degree warming limit in COP21 deal

Background

Negotiations on climate change began in 1992, and the UN organises an annual international climate change conference called the Conference of the Parties, or COP.

Paris is hosting the all-important 21st conference in December 2015. The participating states must reach an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the object of which was to reduce CO2 emissions between 2008 and 2012.

Timeline

  • 11 December: Last day of COP21

Further Reading