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This isn't me. But it could be me, stepping off my boat on the Clyde to attend COP26. (But it definitely isn't.) Image credit: danielkrol / iStock

How to avoid COP26: a net-zero pledge & replanting fail

November 13, 2021

This is a new regular column brought to you by our very own Wolf of Wheat Street: diarist, sinner, capitalist, and most importantly of all, satirical gangster. A coffee, cocoa, and corn trader turned rogue startup financier and agrifoodtech SPAC hunter. Lurking behind the shadows, any feedback you have for them can be directed here.

Fortunate to have sat in on some agriculture-related talks in the Blue Zone of COP26 these past few days, I’m both buoyed and dismayed by what I’ve seen and heard. Sure, the major announcements coming out of the two-week climate binge have sounded impressive, but are they realistic – and what impact will they have on our agrifood sector?

Talking of realism, it has been hard for me not to laugh out loud during some of the talks when I remember the absence of an acquaintance of mine who’d been invited to speak at a sideline session on vertical farming. The poor, well-intentioned Chief Tech & Brand Evangelist (EMEA) at Spamco was calling to ask about my travel plans for the Glasgow summit, when I gently reminded him of his Davos pledge.

On day three of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2019, this acquaintance had been unfortunately cornered by a journalist into committing his company to net zero. Bill Plates was hosting a pool party in his chalet, and needless to say, everyone was getting a little carried away. Fuelled by champagne and the decarbonized bubbles of the jacuzzi, our dear friend had by midnight sealed his Faustian pact, and with no less than three witnesses to his net-zero promise.

His team started doing the sums: 210 gallons of fuel per hour, producing 6 tons of CO2 in a three-hour flight. And with six trees for every 1 ton of CO2 emitted — plus the cars, the planes, the boats — that’s a lot of trees!

With the German web hackers of GA (Greenwasher’s Anonymous) on his case — they’d found out the serial numbers of his Gulfstream, the Sunseeker 5000, as well as the Rolls — he knew he’d have to make good on his promise to make it to Glasgow. And to be fair to him, the plan looked as if it might work.

He had been resident in Liechtenstein since a small domestic run-in with the German police in 2010, and was keen to make a good impression on his hosts. A tree-planting scheme there could both endear him to his local friends and get him enough credits to fly to Glasgow, the Purple Ag carbon salesman had told him.

There was just one small issue; Liechtenstein is only 160 square kilometers, and nearly half of it is forested. It was, in fact, full.

The moral of the story, folks, is that you shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep in front of journalists – especially while you’re in a jacuzzi.

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