Carbon Trading Company’s Offices Occupied
This is what they have to say: CARBON ‘OFFSET’ = CLIMATE UPSET Today we have occupied and with any luck shut down the head office of the Carbon Neutral Company (CNC) here in King’s Cross. CNC is one of many businesses which sell ‘carbon offsets’ to people and companies that want to cancel out their contribution to climate chaos (also known as ‘global warming’). CNC claims that it will neutralise the carbon dioxide (CO2) given off by, say, Silverjet (a private jet airline), and that it will do this by paying people in developing countries to cut their own emissions with schemes that involve renewable energy or tree planting.
So what’s the problem? Carbon offsetting: an excuse for no action? Climate chaos is an issue of justice: it is hurting the world’s poorest (and least-polluting) people first and hardest, causing massive disasters and threatening millions of species worldwide. Many people are now questioning whether offsetting allows some of us in the richer, developed world to carry on with our massively polluting lifestyles, instead of lowering our own emissions. Those who are buying offsets are often doing so with the best of intentions, but the fact remains that it’s a smokescreen that has to stop. If we compare the planet to a running bath, full almost to the brim with CO2, to offset CO2 emissions is like saying “I won’t turn off my tap. I’ll pay someone else £10 to pay someone else £2 to turn off their own tap.” (Guess who pockets the change?)
The reality is that we need to turn off both, if we’re to have a chance of cutting CO2 emissions by 50% before 2016 (which is the single most important task facing you and me, right here, right now in 2007.) Not only is tree planting a discredited failure when it comes to soaking up carbon, many other offset schemes are looking pretty shabby when looked at in detail by independent third parties. Yesterday, Carbon Trade Watch released a report called “The Carbon Neutral Myth – Offset Indulgences for your Climate Sins” that gave a lot of evidence and information as to why offsetting is ineffective, injust and damaging to the climate change debate. ( http://www.carbontradewatch.org/pubs/carbon_neutral_myth.pdf) Who are we? Our group is called London Rising Tide (LRT), and we are part of a wider national and international movement that believes passionately in taking direct action for ‘climate justice’. We reckon it’s well past time for us to get creative, to get movement-building, to drown out the rising tide of corporate ‘greenwash’ (ie. profit-driven lies), to get food growing with neighbours and friends, and to get seriously disobedient, (but to do it with a good bit of humour).
A while ago, we were asked by the All Party Parliamentary Committee on Climate Change to make a submission about planned Climate Bill. The Committee is administrated by the Carbon Neutral Company. After thinking long and hard about it, this was our response: ‘We’re declining the invitation to address the meeting, since we believe in the creation of mass movements striving for systemic social and ecological change. Engaging with the committee would be a distraction from that, as it’s not in the interests of either Parliament or private companies to call for - or work for - such change. Also, we are deeply sceptical about the apparent privatisation of the committee process, especially when the company concerned is profiting handsomely from the sale to the public of the phony solution that is the carbon offset.’ ——————
Six Go Searching for the Heart of the Carbon Neutral Con …what happened when a small group of intrepid aficionados of climate justice occupied the Carbon Neutral Company offices, London, 21.2.07 A good day was had by those three of us who walked into the Carbon Neutral Company (CNC) at 9.30am, deciding to dispense with duplicity and say we were from London Rising Tide. Having signed in, we decided one of the two boardrooms in the spanky new ‘King’s Cross is very up-and-coming-don’t you-know’ offices would do the trick, and quickly barricaded ourselves inside with the boardroom table and chairs. Actually it took a while for them to work out what we were actually doing – they might have wondered why we had moved the table and were drawing big words in felt pen on the flip chart paper, but that didn’t automatically spell out the words ‘office occupation’ to them.
‘Weird kindergarten types’ maybe, but ‘protest’, no. (The words eventually spelt out the slogan ‘Carbon “offset” = climate upset’, which we stuck to the windows facing down on the insanely busy street below, where our three friends below had a banner fiendishly bearing the exact same slogan, and were busy symbolically sweeping coal under carpet for a Swedish TV crew and anyone else who was intrigued.) Back upstairs, we spent the day drawing more big slogans (‘Carbon Neutral Con’ being one), ringing the press, playing the blues on the harmonica, throwing executive stressballs at eachother, talking over the issues, sleeping, and chatting to the CNC CEO who subsequently told employees that we had refused to talk to him, when in fact he had declined our invitation of a reasoned discourse, albeit through the glass of our barricaded door. (Why is it that people like that always seem to think that the offer of a meeting in the boardroom where we get to sit with the grown-ups and maybe even eat some of their biscuits while outlining our concerns is going to result in anything other than yet more prevarication and empty greasy promises of a fruitful working relationship to come in the future?
And why would the world outside have any interest whatsoever in the news that yet another campaigning group has been coaxed in from the icy streets to join together in mutually beneficial partnership with another bunch of bemusing-statistic-spouting besuited lunatics who claim that markets are going to dig us out of the climate crisis. Phew. Short version: watch out if you gget invited into the cosy offices of the dark forces, boys and girls, unless you want to end up on the boss’s knee.) When the police arrived, one asked with dark jocularity if the one of us who was locked on by the neck to the door-blockading-table had any life insurance. But then they went away having said it was unlawful but not illegal and that it was a civil matter, leaving us to enjoy the tranquil drowse-making summer sunshine until we decided to make a move at 4.15pm, while the All Party Parliamentary Committee on Climate Change, run by the CNC, to which we had declined the opportunity to make a presentation, was still in session, with the Women’s Institute taking our place alongside Friends of the Earth and Stop Climate Chaos. (See the accompanying press release for our take on turning down the invite.)
We had been harbouring a stray piece of coal all day, and so, once we had tidied up after ourselves and pulled the table from the door, we presented it to the (extremely helpful) receptionist along with a note reading ‘Offset this (please)’. Actually, on reflection I think it should have read ‘Offset this (cannot be done)’ or somesuch similar. But never mind, we were free, or free at least after I had scampered to the open plan office and said to the underwhelmed assembled ‘Goodbye…and by the way, please find a better way to save the planet, because this method ain’t working’, (at least I hope that’s what I said. We’d been discussing through the day about what effect our action might have been having on the employees working in their open-pan office behind one of our boardroom walls. The indications that we could glean were that we had upset them mightily, and who wouldn’t be upset by a group of outsiders wandering in with a message that what the company is doing is doing the opposite of helping the climate heal. We tried to make it clear that our critique was of the company - not to mention capitalism itself - but still it can’t be a hundred laughs to have us lot saying that the morality of offsetting is deeply flawed.)
And then, with an apology to the man at the desk who we signed in with, (he seemed relaxed about it, fortunately,) we really were free. Free to enjoy the bourgeois delights of this teeming metropolis, free to accept a free lobotomy (sorry, I mean ‘London Lite’) from an overworked giver-outer chasing a quota, free to enjoy a rush-inspiring throwaway-cupped smoothie in a caff down the street, free to trundle home to a warm house and immediate access to the wonders of the www. Yes, free to acknowledge how bedded-in we are to this system built on exploitation and injustice, topped off with a wholesome-looking but totally toxic layer of bullshit and greenwash. Hypocrites? Probably. In that case, how about ‘hypocrites who helped strip away that toxic layer just for a millisecond and let some real daylight flood into the debate’? Definitely. And I feel really good about that. For pictures, check out Indymedia UK.