greenwashing blue engo funding

Greenwashing, has the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) fallen for ocean carbon research funding using money derived from dirty fossil fuel

Funding used by so-called environmental and ocean warriors to champion their causes can come from deep dark spaces they would rather you not know about.

For all the cynical anti-fossil fuel rhetoric, climate change, global warming spouting from non-governmental organisations, it seems that some are not afraid to dip their toes into the murky pool of greenwashing.

Being a non-governmental organisation is big business these days providing you have an easy and popular target to bash, notwithstanding the fact that the biggest gravy train in town is climate change, and at this moment in time carbon emissions has taken centre-stage.

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There are attempts on the sidelines to talk about other subjects and one of those subjects is the fishing industry but if you want to attract the big bucks from the multi-nationals, carbon is your ticket.

Now, personally I’m not anti-climate change. I believe it’s happening. I knew about it when I was eight-years old. Our world in warming, the sun is growing larger, and as human beings, we’ve filled our atmosphere and oceans with pollution. I’m not anti-NGO as there are a lot of people out there who are doing fantastic work like “Fishing for Litter/KIMO”. The issue lies with those eNGO’s that operate as ruthlessly as the source of the dirty money that funds them.

Across the world, insurers, banks, fund managers and investors are turning their backs on the fossil fuel industries and divesting themselves off or refusing to back new projects that produce carbon and other harmful substances. They, like each one of us, are doing their part to move to our planet to net-zero carbon emissions. But what is happening on the coalface of carbon reduction might a little greyer behind the scenes.

COP26 received a big announcement from the London-based charity Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) when they received funding for research in the form of multi-million-dollar deal with Convex Group Ltd.

BLUE agreed a reported $15 million partnership with Convex Group Ltd, which will allow researchers to spend five years building an open-access database showing how much carbon the world’s seabed can store.

On the announcement of the project Professor Callum Roberts of Exeter University who is leading the project told Bloomberg, “The ocean and its resources, while vital to all life on earth, are currently misunderstood and neglected.”

Professor Callum Roberts who is the BLUE’s Chief Scientific Advisor who will act as the lead scientist on the Seascape Survey continued by saying that the study will try to deduce “the amount of carbon stored in coastal seascapes and on the continental shelves, as well as how vulnerable these stores are to man-made damage”

Professor Roberts is seen as a leading expert in marine conservation. In particular, his work has centred around the environmental impact of fishing. If the name is familiar, he also took part in the anti-fishing industry documentary Seaspiracy, where he claimed that trawlers were indiscriminately tearing up the seabed all over the world releasing carbon into the atmosphere along with belching black smoke filled with CO2 into the atmosphere.

Seaspiracy is seen by many professionals in the industry as a self-gratifying fantasy which was poorly researched and greatly misleading. The “documentary” caused untold distress throughout the fishing community but as Professor Roberts and the Blue Marine Foundation stand in judgement over the fishing industry, those who come looking for justice, should do so with clean hands.

On 24 November last, Convex Insurance, the London-based insurance company, was targeted at the London Market Conference by environmental organisation Market Forces.

Convex Insurance is a part of Convex Group Ltd which is a registered company in Bermuda.

Market Forces, an environmental finance organisation, is currently targeting the insurance company into ruling themselves out from underwriting the controversial Adani Carmichael coal project in Australia. According to Market Forces, the Carmichael coal mine, which is owned by Indian company Adani Group, is one of the most environmentally and socially destructive projects worldwide. The mine covers 200 sq km and produce 60m tonnes of coal a year – enough to supply electricity for 100 million people. Located in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, the site of the mine is located 400km inland from the Great Barrier Reef.

For two decades, environmentalists have been campaigning against the Carmichael project saying that pollution from coal mining is causing disastrous effects in the marine environment with the effects of poisoning coral and turning the sea into a desert around the Great Barrier Reef.

The Adani Carmichael coal mine will emit 4.6 billion tonnes of CO2 – equivalent to more than eight years of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions and the knock-on effect could unleash proposals for even larger mines in the Galilee Basin.

If all these mines go ahead, the Galilee Basin alone could produce over five percent of global carbon emissions by 2030. It has been claimed that the scale of the mine is so vast that it puts global climate targets in danger.

In late 2019, after being denied insurance by mainstream insurance companies, Adani was able to secure coverage for the Carmichael coal project via insurers at Lloyd’s of London.

So far in 2021, 106 companies have ruled out underwriting the project, including 42 major insurance companies. One notable exception is London-based Convex Insurance. This makes Convex one of the only major insurance companies left that is willing to underwrite the project.

The Fishing Daily asked Convex Insurance if they were considering underwriting the Adani Group’s Carmichael coal mine project, they responded:

“Due to client confidentiality, Convex is unable to comment on specific risks or types of business which it may or may not underwrite.”

If Convex Insurance goes ahead with underwriting the Adani Carmichael coal mine project, can the Blue Marine Foundation accept the research funding from its parent company Convex Group Ltd?

The Fishing Daily then contacted the BLUE asking them the above question.

They responded, “We are confident that Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) has a robust due diligence process. Any specific questions related to Convex and its underwriting should be directed to them.

“The Convex sponsorship is funding a science project carried out by BLUE and Exeter University, which is aiming to quantify the amount of carbon stored in seabed sediment.

“This piece of work could be pivotal in changing the way the ocean is managed and ensuring that the ocean makes as big a contribution as possible to closing the emissions gap.”

But how can the Blue Marine Foundation justify taking funding from a group that is not being transparent to the public about their environmental credentials?

The Blue Marine Foundation answered, “we are confident that BLUE has a robust due diligence process.

“This is a really important piece of work for the ocean, and we look forward to discussing the findings of the project with you and others in the coming months and years.”

With Convex refusing to confirm if the underwriter is involved in the Adani mine, it undermines BLUE, and especially when the Convex website boasts:

“We work with independent and major state-owned oil, gas and energy companies, principal industry service providers such as contractors, and other third-party service providers. Our cover can include physical damage, operator’s extra expense, business interruption and related third-party liabilities.”

The fishing industry, which has been at the centre of much of BLUE’s harassment over the years have questioned the eNGO’s position.

Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations reacted to the news by saying “The linkage between Convex and dirty coal, if it is true is quite shocking. For the Blue Marine Foundation and Professor Callum Roberts, if it is true, amounts to greenwashing.”

Shaun McGuire a respected small-scale pot fishermen from the west of Scotland was also taken aback by the link. He said, “Basically, it seems hypocritical of them to become involved with a company making its money from the fossil fuel industry, makes you think that the funding is more important than the planet.”

On Thursday 09 December, the 2021 Insurance Times Awards ceremony took at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London. The awards “celebrate excellence and innovation and recognise the very best and brightest” in the UK insurance industry. Convex Insurance had not been nominated for any of the 36 official awards.

Even though Convex Insurance failed even to receive a nomination, Market Forces awarded the company the ‘Coal Holdout Award’.

Mia Watanabe, UK Campaigner for the environmental finance organisation, said:

“Convex hasn’t been nominated for any of the 36 official awards tonight, but we didn’t want its failure to move on from coal to go unnoticed. Congratulations Stephen Catlin and Convex – for failing to join 42 major insurers and rule out the Adani Carmichael mine, you truly deserve the Coal Holdout Award!”

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Greenwashing – when black gold is funding ocean carbon research

by editor time to read: 9 min