Polluting limos banned from Davos

The political and business elite heading for the Davos forum this week have been told to leave their polluting limousines behind.

Last Updated: Jan 27, 2010, 12:50 PM IST

Davos: The political and business elite heading for the Davos forum this week have been told to leave their polluting limousines behind.

Under a new climate change initiative, the World Economic Forum is blocking the gas guzzling cars that normally clog the roads around the congress. But VIPs such as presidents can claim diplomatic immunity and environmentalists have derided the limits as "not very challenging".

The ban only applies to cars that give off more than 230 grammes per kilometre of carbon dioxide and consume more than nine litres of fuel per 100 kilometres.

The initiative does not take into account the tonnes of emissions from the flights that bring politicians, bankers and academics from around the world and then the helicopter shuttles from Zurich airport to the resort in the southeastern Swiss Alps.

Few of the top participants are believed to use the other main transport link up to Davos, the cog-wheel railway.

"From there you can see the intentions of the WEF, it`s really just to give itself a good image," Greenpeace Switzerland`s Bruno Heinzer told a news agency.

Environmentalists called on the Davos organisers to go beyond symbolic measures and get corporate and political leaders to commit to a clear push for a global climate deal.

"If you try to imagine the overall carbon footprint of the meeting, you will see that those restrictions on cars are probably going to be just a rounding value," said Rob Bailey, senior policy adviser at Oxfam International.

While Porsche Cayennes, Lexus RXs or petrol-engined BMW X5s would be blocked under the new rules, most diesel-run cars, such as the BMW 5 series or Audi A6 or Mercedes E-class will slip through.

"It`s not to say that there`s no value in the meeting. But if the objective is to minimise carbon emissions, then it doesn`t seem to a challenging target," noted Bailey.

He pointed out however that even if some consider the WEF green initiative rather feeble, the meeting of over 2,500 political, business and civil society leaders remains important after the failure to secure a UN climate deal last month.

"The Copenhagen hangover is starting to lift. The discussions now will be key in deciding the direction that we would take -- will we take our feet off the pedal or will we take this as a kick in the backside?

"The Davos meeting will be one of the first indications of that," Bailey said.

"What we need to see from business is a strong indication that we need a global deal," he stressed, adding that business must play a role in adaptations for climate change.

Aron Cramer, who heads non-governmental group Business for Social Responsibility, made similar points.

"The only way to have zero emissions is to hold the entire meeting virtually but you lose something there as well," he said.

He pointed out that Davos is unique because it is a not just for politicians, unlike the Group of Eight or Group of 20 summits.

"Overall I would like to see businesses, governments and civil societies recommit the world economy on a more sustainable basis," he said.

"I would like businesses to speak very clearly that they want to see a policy framework on climate change and they are not going to go back and wait for that to happen. It`s important that businesses stand up to be counted," Cramer added.

Greenpeace`s Heinzer is less hopeful about Davos.

"The goal of Davos is not how can we save the world. It is how can we save businesses," he said, pointing out that any climate steps taken by industry are likely to be limited.

It remains to be seen if business executives can prove sceptics wrong by ditching their cars and taking advantage of the free buses linking Zurich and Davos, or paying for their emissions through a carbon offset.

The frequency of shuttle buses running within Davos itself will be stepped up, a WEF spokesman said.

He described the car restrictions as just "a first step". "We do need limousines for some of our participants and with these limits we are actually at the low end for limousines," the spokesman added.

Bureau Report