Climate profiteers | Asharq AL-awsat
Just as wars create a new social class of profiteers known as war profiteers, so the fight against climate change will undoubtedly produce a new class of disaster dealers that we might call the climate profiteers.
While those who invest in a green economy have the right to make a profit if they make sensible and fair choices and manage their money wisely, it is unacceptable to amass wealth by making profits from polluting industries greener and from the prevailing ones The practice of laundering or whitewashing connects money from drugs and other illegal activities.
What recently happened at the Onyx power plant in the Netherlands proves that the implementation of climate commitments will not be easy and new laws and regulations need to be enacted to prevent the use of climate measures to make huge profits from unfair means.
In 2015, Engie, a French company, built the Onyx coal-fired power plant in Rotterdam, which at the time was advertised as one of the “cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power plants in the world”. This was at a time when the term “clean coal” was branded to refer to burning coal using more efficient and less polluting methods. However, time has proven that this so-called “cleanest coal-fired power plant in the world” caused immense pollution and emissions, with harmful effects on health and the climate. Apart from the fact that the CO2 emissions from this facility prevent the Netherlands from meeting its climate obligations in a timely manner, they also contribute significantly to air pollution and to threats to human health and nature.
This prompted the Dutch government to take a decision in 2018, just three years after the new power plant was commissioned, to stop all coal-fired power plants by 2030. This coincided with Germany’s announcement that it would shut down its coal-fired power plants in 2038. A mysterious American investment company, Riverstone Holdings, found in these developments an opportunity to buy coal-fired power plants in the Netherlands and Germany at reduced prices, including the Onyx plant . In addition to benefiting from the operation of the facility, the company looked forward to excessive compensatory profits if it were forced to shut down the facility. This is exactly what happened when the Dutch government recently decided to close the Onyx plant in particular with immediate effect in order to achieve a rapid reduction in emissions. The new government coalition in Germany also announced that it would postpone the closure period for coal-fired power plants by 8 years from 2038 to 2030.
The Netherlands led the way when their government agreed to pay the investment company operating the facility an additional $ 240 million in compensation for ending operations prematurely. The company must completely stop production within two months of the entry into force of the agreement and dismantle the plant within three years. Commenting on the deal, a leading Dutch newspaper, de Volkskrant, said that “the mysterious American investment company, whose ownership was undisclosed, knew that it would be a winner either way: if it continued to run on coal, the associated pollution, or was asked to close for high compensation due to climate action. What happened in the Netherlands is an example of what we can expect elsewhere in the world, where coal-fired power plants are benefiting from the current rising electricity prices due to reduced gas supplies and then doubling their profits when they have to shut down.
Coal isn’t the only area climate and environmental traders are investing in. Restrictions on waste production and treatment in some countries have inspired disaster traffickers to develop methods of exporting them to other countries with fewer restrictions. This includes hazardous and toxic waste, as well as solid household waste, the export of which is prohibited under international law, except to countries that have the necessary equipment for its proper treatment. To get around this obstacle, waste dealers export these as raw materials to third world countries, where they are dumped untreated. International traders work with local traders under the guise of waste processors. A senior international official told me that the volume of illegal international trade in waste is likely to exceed that of drugs.
Under the pretext of providing clean solar power, some companies are marketing substandard PV modules that use raw materials obtained through methods that exhaust and pollute nature’s resources and that are manufactured to poor specifications, making them inefficient and prone to damage makes a short time. This leads to an increase in resource depletion and waste pollution that is greater than the desired benefits from producing clean renewable energy. Fictional businesses have proliferated, chasing internationally funded donations to projects and programs to protect the environment and climate change, while the real benefits are limited to a group of traders and influential politicians.
Some use the circular economy slogan, based on the reuse of materials and the recycling of residues, as an excuse to avoid rationalizing consumption in order to reduce quantities in the first place. Garbage is, according to them, a source of wealth. This has led to the emergence of a new category of recyclers who remove light and expensive waste and throw away the rest untreated. This is evidenced by the trade in used plastic, which annually exports around 400 million tons to countries that apply lower standards and provide cheaper labor for manual sorting, without taking into account that most of the exported plastic is unsuitable for recycling.
Strict legal requirements must be introduced to prevent measures to protect the environment and climate change from becoming an instrument for those looking for opportunities and thereby dominating climate profiteers at the expense of the climate poor.