Greenwashing is driving our descent into climate catastrophe. But we can stop it | Emma Thompson
gTrips to Ondola are an integral part of visiting Venice for those who can afford the high tourist prices, but I went a bit off-script on a recent visit and chose a different but equally iconic. We are here Venicean NGO that promotes the preservation of a city deeply affected by climate change and countless human activities, invited me aboard the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, whose purpose of the visit was anything but touristic.
I took part in two arctic tours with Greenpeace: one on the Esperanza (now defunct, it’s not my fault!) and another on the Arctic Sunrise. I had previously sailed with two crew members who are now on the Rainbow Warrior, and they were still there, fighting for climate justice around the world.
A few weeks ago, when Britain broke not only its own temperature record, but also those of Cuba, Singapore and Panama, there were still people shouting that everything was perfectly normal and that it it was an ordinary sunny day. What kind of fantasy world do these people live in and who built it for them? My trip to Venice helped me answer this question.
I didn’t know it when I arrived, but Greenpeace activists were about to organize a demonstration which involved traveling the canals of the lagoon city on traditional boats, while wearing the logos of major European oil and gas firms that practice greenwashing – marketing techniques that try to convince us that they are eco-friendly environment when the opposite is true – they want to keep us addicted to fossil fuels. It kills the planet. Activists have ironically heralded it as Venice’s last round as the city risks being overwhelmed due to climate impacts in the Mediterranean region, such as we have recently seen with record heat waves and wildfires. raging in the region.
Last October, Greenpeace and 30 other organizations launched a European Citizens’ Initiative calling for a new law banning fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship in the EU, like what happened with tobacco at the start of this century. If the petition collects one million signatures in one year, the European Commission is obliged to respond.
Why is such a law important? Today, with broad public support for climate action and the scientific community unqualifiedly blaming the fossil fuel industry as largely responsible for the climate crisis, oil and gas companies, which have deliberately slowed down climate action for decades, are the most vulnerable. The industry clings to advertising and sponsorship as one of the last ways to stay afloat.
“Delay and deceive” is the new denial. Fossil fuel companies are pumping millions into greenwashing while making net-zero promises and introducing bogus “solutions” to cover up their decades of destruction. They falsely present themselves as allies and extend the deadline of their outdated business.
Scientists have had enough. For the first time this year a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change laid out the disinformation strategy saying, “Who dominates the media debate, and how open the debate can be, varies widely from country to country depending on the material and technological power of the participants. Fossil fuel industries have unique access to mainstream media through advertisements, shaping media reporting narratives and wielding political influence in countries like Australia and the United States.
More than 450 scientists also signed a letter calling on public relations and advertising agencies to stop working with fossil fuel companies and stop spreading climate misinformation. This is the first time that so many scientists have questioned the role of public relations and advertising in fueling the climate crisis.
Oil and gas companies buy prestige by sponsoring museums, by influencing the sphere of knowledge by investing money in universities and by gaining popularity when their logos are associated with sports. They invest heavily in buying a social license to carry on business as usual by interfering in our daily lives and covering up the damage. We must urgently expel them from our brains, our hearts and our communities.
Last year, through relentless groundwork, Harvard University said it would phase out its fossil fuel holdings. In the UK, the National Portrait Gallery and Scottish Ballet have confirmed that they will no longer make sponsorship deals with BP. Tennis Australia has dropped gas company Santos as a partner.
At the start of this century, the EU banned tobacco advertising and sponsorship after recognizing that they increased consumption and concealed health warnings. Now, with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate breakdown and its indisputable link to fossil fuel corporations, it is time to ban fossil fuel propaganda as deadly and criminal, and leading us inexorably toward climate catastrophe. Activism works. Together we can tell people in power how we want to live and what needs to change.