Carbon cost of climate change concert criticised

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The Independent Online

It has been billed as the greenest concert of the summer, a continent-crossing event aimed at galvanising support for the fight against global warming.

But yesterday, as the main acts for Live Earth were announced, among them Madonna, Corinne Bailey-Rae and the Black Eyed Peas, critics were raising eyebrows at the $2m to $3m (£1.1m to £1.6m) that the event is expected to cost in carbon offsetting.

About a hundred artists will require transporting by air to their respective concerts, to be staged in London, Sydney, Brazil, South Africa, Japan, Shanghai and New Jersey. And complaints about Live Earth have begun to surface on the internet, with bloggers asking if pop stars and their taste for conspicuous consumption are the best advocates for cutting fossil fuel emissions.

John Picard, environmental director for the event, said he was "upset" by the offsetting cost of Live Earth, but there was no other option. "There are areas where we are going to be really successful and areas where we are terribly challenged. The air travel involved in all this is a nightmare and there is nothing you can do other than buy the offset. But, in terms of power in the venues, I think we will have a carbon-neutral event," he said.

Each singer will receive a "green briefing" on how they can change lifestyles to minimise their own, often above-average, carbon footprints. The briefing to which singers have agreed - to ensure they practise what they preach on 7 July when messages on the danger of global warming will be beamed to 2 billion people at the 24-hour concert - comes amid concerns that those delivering the green message are the worst offenders. Organisers have defended the concerts, which are the brainchild of the former US vice-president Al Gore, which aim to set a "green example" for other music events by using measures such as eco-friendly electricity, sustainable lighting and carbon-neutral travel. Mr Gore has come under attack for high energy consumption at his home.

In May, Mr Picard will begin a "briefings" programme with every artist taking part in Live Earth, by visiting their homes or offices for a "sustainability consultation". "You have to walk the walk. You can't get up there and tell the public to save the planet but leave in a big car to go to your big home," he said. He has already advised artists to trade in their vehicles for hybrid cars.

Ashok Sinha, director of Stop Climate Chaos, a group involved in the event, said: "Carbon will be produced, but it enables us to reach out to large numbers of people who will be encouraged to learn about how they can reduce their carbon footprint, so it will be worth the carbon."