Britain Climate Change Direct action Fossil Fuels Geographical Imperialism

Now go out there and greenwash!

From XR Zero Waste and published in the Camden New Journal

Demonstrators blocked the roads in Camden in December in a final appeal for a halt on a new waste-burning incinerator in Edmonton

• WELCOME to Greenwashing 101!

We will learn how greenwashing can help to persuade the public and politicians that the Edmonton incinerator is the most environmentally sound option for treating north London’s waste.

Let’s take Miles Seaman’s masterful February 3 letter as a teaching aid. We’ll follow his lead step by step.

— First, obfuscate. Proclaim that the incinerator “has been under construction in Edmonton for the past three years”. Never mind that the contract for its construction was signed only a couple of weeks ago. No one will check.

— Second, double down on doublespeak. Argue that using the term “incinerator” is
“ill-informed”. Don’t worry if this seems offensive or irrational.

Most people simply won’t question industry euphemisms like “energy recovery facility”, just like they don’t question the use of terms such as “servicing the target” to mean “bombing”. Go for it.

— Third, distort the role of landfill. Present it like it’s the only alternative to burning waste. No one knows that sending a tonne of waste to landfill is typically £20 more expensive than sending it to incineration.

And most people aren’t aware that the NLWA’s own assessment of December 16 concludes that if the Edmonton plant remained unbuilt, the waste would be treated at incinerators with some of London’s 250,000 tonnes of surplus capacity.

Remember, only a few people know that the waste wouldn’t go to landfill, and they probably wouldn’t take you to court. So just keep saying it will end up in landfill.

(Top tip: Don’t fret about those who have been calling on the NLWA to extract recyclables from the incineration stream. Yes, pre-sorting would reduce north London’s non-recyclable waste by up to 70 per cent, ramp up recycling, massively boost recycling revenue, and leave far less truly non-recyclable waste to treat. But no one is listening, not even the government, which is supposedly the driving force behind the push towards a circular economy.)

— Fourth, disguise the figures on carbon emissions and claim incineration is climate-friendly.

No need to shy away from comparing the incinerator’s efficiency with that of a coal-fired power plant. Yes, you can go there! Just like Miles Seaman. What climate emergency? What decarbonisation of the grid? No one will scrutinise your statements, or at least no one who matters in the decision-making arena.

(Top tip: Be sure to omit figures that detract from your argument, especially regarding carbon intensity. Don’t mention that NLWA says the Edmonton incinerator could reach 356gCO2/kWh, as that might invite comparisons with alternative energy sources. Readers don’t need to know that wind power, at 15gCO2/kWh, is 95 to 96 per cent less carbon-intensive, or that solar, at 42gCO2/kWh, is 85 to 89 per cent less carbon-intensive. Nor should you present electricity from gas, at 340gCO2/kWh, as a better option than incineration. Above all, keep mum about the National Grid Future Energy Scenarios, which show the grid could be fully decarbonised by 2035.)

Now go out there and greenwash!


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