World Economic Forum Offsets Climate Impact of Annual Meeting

NEW YORK, New York, January 31, 2002 (ENS) - The World Economic Forum said today that it has purchased reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from a geothermal project in Indonesia to offset the global warming impact of its five day annual meeting opening today in New York City. Representatives of the 1007 member corporations are meeting here for the first time rather than at the forum's headquarters in Davos, Switzerland.

The forum has purchased 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent reductions from the Gunung Salak Geothermal plant replacing the coal fired power generation that would have been required for travel to and from the meeting and the meeting itself by geothermal power generation.

This so-called carbon footprint amounted last year to 3,500 tons of CO2 equivalent. In consideration of the additional miles traveled to reach New York City, the forum has committed to buy 4,000 tons of CO2 equivalent, and to buy any additional amount required to cover the final amount of emissions as calculated by global engineering and construction management firm CH2M HILL.

Figueres

Jose Maria Figueres (Photo courtesy Al-Ahram Weekly)
"Our mission to improve the state of the world must focus on improving the environment in a way that does not jeopardize economic progress, and emissions trading is a market-based mechanism that achieves this," said Jose Maria Figueres, a former President of Costa Rica who is now managing director of the World Economic Forum. "Our purchase of emissions reductions zeros out the global warming impact of our annual meeting," he said.

But this gesture towards sustainable development did nothing for the dozens of demonstrators who gathered to protest corporate globalization at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel where the forum is meeting. Seven people were arrested while dropping two banners in busy downtown and midtown New York City, demanding that corporations pay for treatment for HIV-positive workers they employ in poor countries.

In the first such protests since the September 11 terrorist attacks, Another World Is Possible, a coalition of organized labor, students, environmentalists, and human rights campaigners, made known their view that "corporate driven growth is driving species to extinction and depleting our resources."

Yet the project to offset the meeting's impact on global warming has been done for three consecutive years and is part of what the World Economic Forum's calls its continuing program to work with governments and corporations "to lead sustainable development."

Dr. Dan Arvizu, senior vice president of energy and industrial systems for CH2M HILL, said, "The operations of each company and organization inevitably have an effect on the global environment, and understanding your 'carbon footprint' is a first step towards mitigating the environmental impacts of those operations."

But the forum's geothermal energy buy did not impress the conference of The Public Eye on Davos, a critical public interest meeting being held at the United Nations Church Center a few blocks from the forum's meeting. The demands of the groups Berne Declaration and Pro Natura - global social and environmental criteria for economic development, and open and democratic platforms in which economic policy is made - have not been met.