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After finding out that Swiss luxury-jet-interiors company Yasava was listed as "carbon neutral" in COP26's flagship "net zero" program, the Yes Men and Glasgow Calls Out Polluters (GCOP) announced that Yasava was our invention.
As it turns out, the U.N. themselves believed our joke, and kicked Yasava straight out of "Race to Zero," as revealed to a reporter for The National and found out by us on Wednesday. The speed and impulsiveness with which the COP26 excluded Yasava seemed to reflect how little due diligence had gone into Yasava's inclusion — or the inclusion, for that matter, of Maersk, Chevron, Barclays, Delta, Heathrow Airport, American, DL Piper, Edelman, JP Morgan, Hitachi, Iberdrola, Unilever, and thousands more from the transport, mining, and fossil energy sectors. Perhaps not surprising for an initiative that openly embraces lip service….
We soon revealed that Yasava was in fact real, and it was reinstated into the U.N.’s "net zero" scheme — which is fake, corrupt and meaningless, and its only function is to help companies (like Yasava and worse) greenwash.
The gory details
On Monday, Nov. 8, the Yes Men sent out a fake press release on behalf of private-jet outfitter Yasava with some very real news about this utterly, profoundly not-carbon-neutral company: it had been accepted into two of the COP26's "net zero" carbon offsetting schemes, of the sort that scientists assure us make no sense at all, except of course to the companies who greenwash themselves in their bountiful eco-lather.
The reality of a private-jet interior decorator being part of these "net zero" initiatives was sure to expose them for the crap that they are. So to make sure it was noticed, and because confusion can equal attention, we sent out "admissions" that Yasava itself was a hoax made by the Yes Men, who'd even gotten them covertly accepted into the COP26 "net zero" schemes.
It worked. The National (archived version; also available on the Wayback Machine) reported at length that Yasava was a Yes Men invention, with briefer pieces in The Guardian (as emended) and The Scotsman (hey fowk — gonnae no forget to update yer story!!).
We expected Yasava to insist on its own existence, or a journalist to suss it out quickly. Although some Twitter sleuths were indeed on the case, our "fully reveal everything quickly" policy was in danger, so we gave Yasava a nudge:
"CONGRATS!!!! on the wonderful prank…. A very thorough takedown of the whole Net Zero nonsense"
The COP26 commented, but also took drastic, swift action (see short translation in caption):
Translation: "Yasava, which despite peer review we didn't realize was fake — which it obviously is, because yeah, right, 'air fleet couture,' duh — has been removed from our stamp-of-credibility, guiding star program, which, trust us, remains chock-full of companies that really, honestly deserve to be there."
The COP26 team simply had no idea whom they'd accredited, nor why. Nor did our respective reveals make them peer more closely — they simply put Yasava back in "Race to Zero." (Another “net zero” program, the “Science Based Targets Initiative,” seems to have airbrushed Yasava out of their records, but we know they were part of the SBTI as late as September.)
The National updated their article:
The Guardian, for their part, merely added some words (underlined below); the rest of their article — about what one can deduce about a climate initiative that includes a private-jet-interiors company, whether fictive or real — didn't have to change even one bit.
The Guardian had gotten the point.
So now what?
Our intention was to expose how insane it is that "net zero" CSR tripe — where sketchy accounting lets a company like Yasava discount flight emissions — can pose as action at the highest levels of the U.N. (No offense to haggis, a wonderful Scottish tripe product which, however, is definitely not carbon-neutral, not even when vegan.)
Rather than "offsetting" carbon by supposedly sucking it out of the atmosphere — a speculative possibility at best, a preposterous lie in general — we need measures to drastically cut profit-driven emissions. And we need serious government funding for alternatives.
The only approach that has brought major changes against mainstream power is mass popular organizing. The mass demonstrations and direct actions in Glasgow, as well as the workers who struck in support, are examples. There can also be more unusual, creative approaches to pressure as well; check out these dozens of tactics for either contestation or to promote alternatives (and not only to adults). There are actually thousands of possibilities….
Though there's no magic bullet, one thing is sure: the answers being pushed in halls like the COP26's serve only the powerful, for the most part, not people and planet. As Yasava say: "life is defined by how time is used." Let's use our time to build a better world.
Glasgow Calls Out Polluters are a Glasgow-based climate justice group organized to kick big polluters out of the U.N. Climate Talks, COP26.
The Yes Men are trickster activists who coach activist organizations, run workshops at universities, and occasionally perform tricks.