Leaders or Laggards?

Activists Challenge Businesses to be Climate Leaders

Feature story - May 19, 2011
As business representatives from all over Europe arrived at the European Business Summit, entitled: 'Europe in the world: leading or lagging?', Greenpeace challenged European companies to support more ambitious action on climate change.

Here two of over 170 Greenpeace activists block business representatives from entering a European Business Summit. The activists locked themselves to doors, denying entry to delegates from companies that oppose tougher climate targets while welcoming businesses that support the targets. Belgian police arrested and dragged away activists wearing the logos of Volkswagen, BP and Microsoft while more activists scaled the building and hung banners. Copyright: Greenpeace / Philip Reyanaers

Over 170 activists closed the Brussels conference by locking themselves to doors, denying entry to delegates from companies that oppose tougher climate targets while welcoming businesses that have spoken out in support of a 30 percent cut in Europe’s climate damaging emissions.

Major companies such as Google, Unilever, Danone, Philips and Allianz have demanded an EU climate target of 30 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels to provide certainty for investment into a green economy so that Europe can compete globally. Competitors in China and the US have made major investments into clean technologies and are gaining a significant lead in these modern sectors.

Despite the strong business case for an ambitious EU climate target, companies such as Microsoft, BP, Volkswagen and Maersk are holding back Europe’s green economy. Closing the conference to these companies, Greenpeace activists dressed in business suits used modified briefcases to secure themselves to the conference centre entrances closing them off.

GREENPEACE BLOCKS EUROPE'S PREMIER BUSINESS SUMMIT TO CLIMATE LAGGARDS from Greenpeace on Vimeo.

Dimitris Ibrahim, Head of Greenpeace’s European Climate and Energy Campaign said: “Businesses hold a huge sway over governments. Major companies hiring lobbyists or using business associations to sabotage better climate targets is the opposite of leadership. European businesses must choose between being laggards that undermine European competitiveness or leaders supporting a modern green economy through a 30 percent EU climate target.”

In June, Environment Ministers will discuss the EU’s outdated climate target. Worldwide, governments are watching to see whether the European target will be increased before the UN climate negotiations in South Africa in November.

Studies have concluded that a 30 percent climate target can increase our chances of preventing dangerous climate change, trigger investment in Europe’s green economy and increase European gross domestic product by €620 billion by 2020.

This month big brands such as IKEA, MANGO and PPR Group (with a portfolio of brands including Puma and Gucci), joined the movement of progressive climate leaders. Greenpeace is now calling on the European business community to follow their lead and publicly speak out in favour of innovation and green growth and to support an unconditional, domestic 30 percent emission cut by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. This should be a first step towards a 40 percent emission target for all developed countries, consistent with keeping global temperature increase well below two degrees Celsius and avoiding the catastrophic effects of climate change.