ecostory 41/2006
Swiss Re - Environmental / Greenhouse Gas and Renewable Solutions
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===== Mail dated 21.09.2006 addressed to Mr. Christopher Walker and Mr Jacques Aigrain, CEO, at Swiss Re, Zürich =====

Subject: Environmental / Greenhouse Gas and Renewable Solutions

Dear Mr Walker,

Because of a news item about Swiss Re and Clinton on Radio DRS-1 went to the Swiss Re web site. There I found your One Day After Kyoto presentations and other documents.

I notice that your speak of Climate neutral and Footprint neutral Programs.

I would respectfully submit that there are possibly some problems linked to these notions.

One might convincingly argue that environmental neutrality is not possible since each and every activity has an impact on the planet. Another aspect is that every monetary unit (GDP dollars or Euros) represent a quantity of materials and resources. Wackernagel's footprint refers to biological, renewable resources only.

One may also purport that offset programs do not factually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If the money is used to upgrade existing but delapidated power stations, for instance, it may avoid the construction of new power stations. But the renewal of the existing power generating plant does require material resources and the electricity generated will be used in economic activities that in turn have an additional impact on the environment. Offset programs and so-called Clean Development Mechanisms as well as Emissions Trading have all been denounced by organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

One could even go a step further and claim that the very goal of economic growth is in stark conflict both to the professed goal of achieving a sustainable society and the fact that we have already overshot the carrying capacity of this planet Earth (Compare ).

One might draw the conclusion that - whilst Swiss Re is by the nature of its activities well aware of environmental developments - your company is nevertheless contributing to the very mechanisms that create and increase environmental problems.

Another aspect one could advance is that there is possibly a degree of self-delusion in the way in which the environmental problems are seen and "solutions" are being proposed. The "solutions" are possibly not based on strong analysis of the scale of the problems and the effect that these solutions could have. The Kyoto Protocol for instance is largely inadequate because its aims are far too low in comparison with what climatologists recommend. Many people claim that we can reduce emissions by increasing efficiencies and by technologies, yet maintaining or even increasing the scale of our economic activities. Those claims will not withstand careful analysis.

Reducing emissions and impact on the environment in general can only be achieved by a reduction of fossil fuel based activites, a reduction of speeds and of transportation of goods and people. In fact this means that we will have to relocalise our activities and again largely produce locally what we use locally. Many wasteful activities and products must be phased out as soon as possible. This will result in a contraction of our GDP. But it will create full-employment on a much healthier and more sustainable level of human activity and materials throughput.

In case you are interested in some background literature you may look at
or in German
or in French

On Kyoto you may compare ecoglobe.chclimate/d/zeit5210.htm in German language.

Part of this literature is some years "old". But it is becoming increasingly pertinent. Our world population is increasing by 80 million people each year, all wanting a decent standard of living. The poor want to increase their standard of living. The rich want a second car etc. But the planet's ressources do not increase. The ressource stocks are being depleted with increasing speed - because of population and economic growth.

Dear Mr. Walker, would you see a possibility to submit the above considerations to your
Chief Executive Officer Jacques Aigrain
your Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors and Members of the Executive Board
Peter Forstmoser Chairman
Walter B. Kielholz Vice-Chairman
Martin Albers
Andreas Beerli
Jacques E. Dubois
Roger W. Ferguson
Agostino Galvagni
Ann F. Godbehere
Brian Gray
Charlotte Gubler
Alberto Izaga
Michel M. Liès
Stefan Lippe
Benjamin Meuli
Christian Mumenthaler
Martin Oesterreicher
Pierre L. Ozendo
Martyn Parker
Weldon Wilson
Yury Zaytsev?

If yes, would it be possible to meet and discuss the implications for setting corporate policies and their influence of corporate civil responsibilities? Would the members of the board be aware of the fact that their own living grandchildren and possibly even their very own children may suffer the dire consequences of total resource depletion, environmental toxification and climate change?

Is the board aware of the large probability that Peak Oil is happening now and that after Peak Oil economic structures will crash and many local leaders would wish they hadn't helped to expatriate our industries to the cheapest locations on Earth, since there is no real alternative to Petroleum and natural gas?

For your information, I myself am a grandfather and father. Kindly consider that that I'm writing the above not because I would get satisfaction out of what economists often call "Doomsaying". I believe we must be courageous and examine the stark realities of environmental developments and then take the measures that are necessary to avert catastrophe.

I thank you for your kind attention and look forward to your reaction.

With kind regards,

Helmut Lubbers
ecological psychologist BE MSocSc DipEcol
14 bd Carl-Vogt, 1205 Genf 022 3212320 * *
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