Sometimes a symbolic act by a giant corporation can seem like
a provocation, and sometimes, as in the case of Peugeot planting
a small forest in a deforested area of the Amazon, the action is
a significant enough symbolic act to render more credible
whatever else they are doing to make their automobiles less
polluting. In creating their carbon sink, Peugeot established
an international partnership with French and Brazilian forestry
officials, as well as with the local residents who are employed
by the project. The carbon sink in the Amazon is a civic action
on the part of a planetary corporate citizen. If all large
corporations whose products contribute to global warming would
do as much, deforestation in the Amazon or in Malaysia might be
reversed. As a proviso, however, we offer an analysis of what the
Peugeot carbon sink represents in terms of actual compensation
for carbon emissions.
The following is a press release from Peugeot in June 1999.
PEUGEOT CREATES THE FIRST LARGE CARBON SINK
TEN MILLION TREES IN THE BATTLE AGAINST GLOBAL WARMING
Peugeot SA announced the creation of a carbon sink in the State of
Mato Grosso in the heart of the Brazilian tropical rainforest.
Peugeot invested 65 million francs in the project [6.5 million euros,
or about 7.5 million dollars], the first of its kind, in response
to the issues raised at the Kyoto and Buenos Aires conferences on
A carbon sink re-creates an ecosystem capable of absorbing large
amounts of CO2. To establish this huge environmental project,
Peugeot called on the ONF (French National Bureau of Forestry),
internationally known for its technical expertise and for its
management of public forests, and Pro-Natura International, a
Franco-Brazilian non-governmental organisation based in Paris, known
for its experience in tropical rainforests and for its promotion
of innovative forestry management in 25 countries.
Peugeot’s carbon sink is being developed in Juruena, in the Mato
Grosso, and will cover 12,000 hectares, which is twice the area
of the city of Paris (about 200 km2). It will have the capacity
to absorb 50,000 tons per year of carbon, equal to 183,000 tons
per year of carbon dioxide, for 40 years, at which point the
full-grown trees will cease to absorb CO2. Both internal and
independent, external, auditing systems are planned for measuring
actual amounts of carbon absorbed.
The sink will consist of 5,000 hectares of deforested agricultural
lands, which will be replanted, and 7,000 hectares of old- and
second-growth forest mixed with areas of cultivated forest. Ten
million trees are being planted within the first three years of
the project. In creating this carbon sink, Peugeot is establishing
the other half of their global environmental policy to complement
efforts being made to reduce emissions produced by Peugeot vehicles.
These efforts include cars fuelled by electricity, liquefied petroleum gas,
Diesel HDI (high-pressure direct-injection technology), and biofuels.
EDITOR’S NOTE [our analysis of what the Peugeot carbon sink means]
In Europe, an average car emits 186 g of CO2 per km, in Japan 191 g,
and in the United States 260 g. If we take 200 as the average and
assume that an average car is driven 10,000 km a year and lasts for
ten years, the 183,000 tons of CO2 per year absorbed by Peugeot’s
carbon sink compensates for 9,000 new cars a year for 40 years,
assuming no further improvements in automobile emissions occur in
that period. The 65 million francs invested by Peugeot in a carbon
sink amounts to about 180 francs [28 euros or 33 dollars] a car
at 9,000 cars per year for 40 years - not very expensive. At that
price, the logical conclusion is that all automobile manufacturers
should develop carbon sinks to compensate for all the cars they
sell every year worldwide, and the planet would cease warming.
How big would this carbon sink have to be? If it takes 200 km2 of
new forest to compensate for 9,000 cars per year for 40 years,
and Peugeot sells about 2,277,600 (1998) new cars and light-utility
vehicles a year worldwide, full compensation for emissions would
require a carbon sink of approximately 40,000 km2. The world’s
automakers sold more than 51 million new cars and light trucks
worldwide in 1998. To compensate for their emissions, assuming
no future reductions, it would take a carbon sink of new forest
equal to 15% of Brazil to get us through the next 40 years. And
this is without addressing emissions from the more than 500 million
cars already on the roads of the world, or, it is important to point
out, without taking note of the size of the world’s already-existing
and still-active carbon sinks or of new ones being planted.
Obviously, and Peugeot understands this very well, while their Mato
Grosso carbon sink is a grand gesture that other automobile manufacturers
might want to join, most of the challenge lies in reducing fuel
consumption, in changing the ways cars can be driven, and in reducing
car use altogether.
Regardless of its imprecise value, the carbon sink idea is spreading
as it becomes a tool of the carbon credit process now developing.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. is planting 40,000 hectares of new forest
in Australia to reduce the impact of its carbon emissions.
Tokyo Electric’s carbon credit deal signed with State Forests of
New South Wales is worth US$81 million.