Participants at the COP23 conference now underway in Bonn will get around on bicycles and electric buses, they'll carry reusable water bottles, and they'll "properly" collect, separate and recycle their waste. It's all very sustainable. Except perhaps for the small matter of how the estimated 25,000 conference attendees got to Germany. Many flew in—in the customary manner of the global green jet-set. The press is dutifully reporting that Germany's environment ministry is investing in renewable energy projects to compensate for the greenhouse-gas emissions of those flights. According to the conference website, all of the "unavoidable emissions from COP23" will be offset by "buying certified emission reduction credits, preferably from the Clean Development Mechanism projects registered in small island developing states." How, exactly, will flood-threatened island nations benefit from such Euro carbon credits? This has yet to be determined. “Travel, food, local transportation and accommodation—all related aspects happening at and around the conference—get an emissions tag," explains Dennis Winkler of the COP23 Sustainability Task Force. "We then add up all relevant tags and define a process for offsetting the resulting footprint.”
If that sounds like green-washing to climate-obsessed citizens worldwide, they can take consolation in the following. According to Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Jack Miles, the single best thing we can do to fight climate change is to stop travelling. "Nothing that we do pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster than air travel," says Miles. "For the love of the Earth and of those who will inherit it when you are gone, stay right where you are."
Unless you're a delegate at COP23.