Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

The World Wildlife Fund’s Rio+20 Press Release

A group that’s supposed to be saving animals thinks the global economy must be transformed.

WWF head Jim Leape; click for photo source

Yesterday the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued the sort of press release that makes me want to pull out my hair. Titled Rio+20 must ensure a future that is both sustainable and fair, it’s a great example of how this activist group has gone entirely off the rails.

Saving endangered species may be a fine thing, but the WWF abandoned that straightforward goal years ago. Now it thinks its job is to urge United Nations gatherings to “develop and plan a sustainable future for all.” Excuse me, but unaccountable UN bureaucrats are the last people to whom I’d entrust that task.

The larger issue, though, is that I don’t believe it’s within anyone’s power to direct the future. It will unfold in its own manner, in a multitude of unexpected directions. People, nations, and technologies we’ve barely heard of will shape it irrespective of whatever resolutions busy-bodies might pass during meetings scheduled for June 20-22nd of this year.

The WWF press release contains a statement from Jim Leape, the Director General of WWF International. He’s a Harvard-educated environmental lawyer who worked for the WWF for a decade, spent four years employed by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation deciding which “conservation and science initiatives” deserved to be funded, then became the WWF’s head honcho in 2005.

Now isn’t that cozy? It’s fair to say that the Packard Foundation has been very good to the WWF. Its website contains a list of 32 separate grants bestowed upon it between 2006 – the year after Leape departed – and 2010 (backup link here).

2006 total: $3,330,325

  • $879,080 to “develop an ecosystem-based management project focused on the shrimp fishery in the Gulf of California” (backup link)
  • $700,000 to “to improve the environmental performance of Wal-Mart’s source fisheries” (backup)
  • $575,000 to “support [Marine Stewardship Council] certification and eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies” (backup)
  • $400,000 to “develop and provide recommendations on fisheries management in Mexico” (backup)
  • $400,000 for “the Natural Capital Project, to develop and apply tools to incorporate the value of ecosystem services in resource management decisions” (backup)
  • $250,000 for “continued development of aquaculture certification standards” (backup)
  • $76,245 to “develop an Ecosystem-based Management project focused on the shrimp fishery in the Gulf of California” (backup)
  • $50,000 to “support conservation of the Monarch Biosphere Reserve in Mexico” (backup)

2007 total: $3,555,250

  • $1,000,000 for “continued development of aquaculture standards” (backup)
  • $730,250 to “ensure more widespread adoption and quicker uptake of aquaculture standards for key market species by engaging small-scale producers in select regions” (backup)
  • $700,000 to “improve the environmental performance of Wal-Mart’s source fisheries” (backup)
  • $575,000 to “support [Marine Stewardship Council] certification and to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies” (backup)
  • $350,000 for “the Gulf of California Shrimp Fishery Initiative” (backup)
  • $100,000 for “conserving key areas of marine biodiversity in the U.S. Arctic-Bering Sea” (backup)
  • $100,000 to “support Marine Stewardship Council certification and to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies” (backup)

2008 total: $3,466,750

  • $1,650,000 for “the continued development of aquaculture standards” (backup)
  • $975,000 to “support MSC certification and to encourage and support commitments of major buyers to source sustainable seafood, including Wal-Mart” (backup)
  • $184,000 to “develop and implement a communications strategy for the ecosystem-based management regional initiative in the Gulf of California” (backup)
  • $324,750 for “international fisheries policy activities” (backup)
  • $153,000 for “coastal fisheries and marine protected area management in the Solomon Islands” (backup)
  • $130,000 to “test and promote the use of alternative fishing gears for shrimp and fish among small-scale regional fishermen” (backup)
  • $50,000 for “coral reef rehabilitation in two national marine parks in Indonesia” (backup)

2009 total: $3,621,246

  • $1,650,000 for “continued development of aquaculture standards” (backup)
  • $950,000 to “support certification and to encourage and support commitments of major buyers to source sustainable seafood, including Wal-Mart” (backup)
  • $475,000 to “transform fisheries management in the Upper Gulf of California” (backup)
  • $250,000 for “international fisheries policy activities” (backup)
  • $150,000 to “conserve Arctic and Bering Sea marine resources” (backup)
  • $146,246 to “support follow-up activities that will derive from a high-level conference on forest carbon finance issues and for the participation of international experts at the conference” (backup)

2010 total: $2,700,000

  • $1,900,000 to “promote market-based improvements of fisheries worldwide by harnessing and leveraging purchasing power at various points in the seafood value chain” (backup)
  • $400,000 to “eliminate harmful subsidies for fisheries and to secure adoption of rights-based management by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations” (backup)
  • $380,000 to “complete the development of global aquaculture standards and support small scale capacity building” (backup)
  • $20,000 for “the fifth annual Kathryn S. Fuller Symposium” (backup)

Grants from a single charitable foundation to a single green group that amount to nearly $17 million over five years are quite a gravy train. Green activists like to talk about how supposedly well-funded climate skeptics are. Let me assure them that there’s nothing remotely like this kind of money available to folks such as moi. Nor do I see any indication that the WWF – which uses the word “fair” three times in its press release – is at all concerned about this imbalance.

There’s every reason to believe that, as head of WWF International, Leape gets paid handsomely – but the exact amount appears to be a closely guarded secret. (The CEO of the US branch of the WWF had a base salary of $425,000 in 2009 – compared to the $400,000 base salary earned by the President of the United States.) Which makes it all the more amusing that this WWF press release, down near the bottom, calls for “transparent annual reporting.”

Here’s a link to the WWF’s 2010 annual report. If you can locate information about Leape’s salary within those pages you win a prize.

And that’s what it all boils down to. A group that is far from transparent itself thinks it’s entitled to demand transparency from others. Moreover, it believes we care what its opinions might be regarding a UN gabfest. The WWF uses words such as “must” (three times) and “should” (five times) in that press release. It also claims to know what the world “needs.” For example, it quotes Leape declaring:

Rio+20 needs to set a new course for the global economy…

Well here’s what I need. It’s to ask two simple questions: What would an environmental lawyer working for a wildlife group know about the global economy? And why should anyone – I mean anyone at all – pay attention to such twaddle?

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The WWF press release is backed-up here.

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