Sum­mit gen­er­ates tons of hot air

Daily Mail - - Front Page - From Colin Fer­nan­dez En­vi­ron­ment Cor­re­spon­dent in Paris

THE Paris sum­mit will have a huge neg­a­tive im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment as 50,000 politi­cians, ac­tivists and lob­by­ists travel to France.

Ne­go­tia­tors, del­e­gates, diplo­mats and aides from up to 195 coun­tries trav­elled to Paris by air, many in pri­vate jets, by car or by train for the 12-day con­fer­ence.

Barack Obama flew in from the United States on Air Force One, a con­verted Boe­ing 747.

But the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact has not nec­es­sar­ily per­suaded world lead­ers to be more frugal dur­ing the sum­mit, with Mr Obama and French pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande din­ing at a £300-a-head Miche­lin-starred restau­rant last night.

When pres­i­den­tial mo­tor­cades, taxi jour­neys, ho­tel stays and food are taken into ac­count the con­fer­ence could cre­ate as much as 300,000 tons of car­bon diox­ide – the gas blamed for the ‘green­house ef­fect’ the lead­ers are com­mit­ted to stop­ping.

The UN has said that 27,000 trees will be planted to offset the im­pact of the con­fer­ence, but its es­ti­mate of the car­bon diox­ide pro­duced – less than 25,000 tons not in­clud­ing travel – is more than ten times lower than other es­ti­mates.

Rough cal­cu­la­tions by Wired mag­a­zine and Steven Stoft of cli­mateParis.org have put the im­pact at 290,000 tons, tak­ing into ac­count an av­er­age round-trip of around 9,000 miles per at­tendee.

Tak­ing the fuel con­sump­tion of a Boe­ing 747 – around 16.5 miles per gal­lon – which the web­site de­scribes as a ‘ happy medium be­tween pri­vate jets and bul­let trains’, it is es­ti­mated that around 27mil­lion gallons of fuel will be used on trans­port alone.

With each gal­lon of fuel pro­duc­ing around 21lb of car­bon diox­ide, the to­tal re­leased by planes fly­ing to and from Paris is thought to weigh around 290,000 tons.

Crit­ics also say that the vast cost of the ‘cli­mate cir­cus’ that is Paris might be spent on bet­ter things to help the en­vi­ron­ment.

The amount spent by the au­thor­i­ties is said to be about £119mil­lion, with 20 per cent com­ing from the pri­vate sec­tor. But char­i­ties have com­plained that the par­tic­i­pat­ing com­pa­nies – in­clud­ing ma­jor French cor­po­ra­tions such as Re­nault and Banque Paribas – are us­ing the talks to im­prove their im­age de­spite them hav­ing a ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, a prac­tice that is known as ‘green­wash­ing’ in ac­tivist cir­cles.

The talks are likely to be a mon­eyspin­ner for the hotels and restau­rants of Paris. Last night Mr Obama and Mr Hol­lande ate at one of the most lav­ish restau­rants in Paris.

A party of 15, which in­cluded min­is­ters and civil ser­vants, took their ta­ble at l’Am­broisie, on the Place de Vos­ges in Paris’s fourth ar­rondisse­ment, shortly af­ter 8pm. The restau­rant, which has three Miche­lin stars, costs about £300 for an av­er­age meal with wine. The broader cost of the con­fer­ence – in­clud­ing the del­e­gates spend­ing around 11 days in hotels in Paris – have been put by one en­vi­ron­men­tal writer, Eric Wor­rall, at around £750mil­lion.

And Michael Lynch, an econ­o­mist writ­ing for Forbes mag­a­zine, es­ti­mated that spend­ing this money on plant­ing trees in­stead could re­move 45mil­lion tons of car­bon diox­ide from the at­mos­phere.

In 2010 the cli­mate change talks were held in the Mex­i­can re­sort of Can­cun.

Former Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne, then Bri­tain’s en­ergy and cli­mate change min­is­ter, came in for crit­i­cism af­ter he stayed at the £240-a-night Moon Palace – a ho­tel where each room has a jacuzzi.

And last year, when the talks were held in Peru, ac­tivists scarred the an­cient lines of Nazca, a world her­itage site, as they un­veiled a protest ban­ner. The pro­test­ers dam­aged a 1,500-year-old etch­ing of a hum­ming­bird.

‘Av­er­age round-trip of 9,000 miles’

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