Greenpeace urges the G8 to 'heal the world'

Feature story - July 8, 2009
Early this morning, over 100 Greenpeace activists from 15 countries occupied four coal-fired power stations across Italy, demanding that the G8 Heads of State meeting in L'Aquila take decisive leadership on climate change.

25 Greenpeace activists occupy the Marghera coal power plant as part of nationwide actions targeting four coal power plants in Venice, Italy- July 8 2009. Greenpeace demands the G8 leaders starting their meetings in L'Aquila after the urgent action needed to tackle climate change.

Coal is the worst climate change pollutant of all fossil fuels. Our committed activists are calling on the G8 Heads of State to take personal responsibility for averting catastrophic climate change.

Check out the live feed from our G8 climate actions now

The Italian jobs

"Politicians talk, but leaders act," says Ben Stewart from the UK. He's currently on top of the 160 metre high chimney at the Fusina plant in Marghera, near Venice. He and 14 other climbers scaled the chimney and nearby cranes to hang banners reading, 'G8 - Take Climate Leadership' and 'Energy Revolution = Clean Jobs'. Another 5 activists are occupying the coal conveyor of the plant.

Ben's no stranger to coal-fired power plants. He was one of the six climate activists who were acquitted last year of criminal damage, after painting the chimney of the UK's controversial Kingsnorth power plant. Today, he's taking action again, and he clearly knows why it's important: "There is no more time to waste," says Ben. "The G8 leaders must stop putting the interests of big coal and other climate-polluting industries ahead of the planet and take strong, decisive leadership on climate change. That means deep cuts in emissions by 2020, investing in adaption and mitigation in the developing world and halting tropical deforestation."

Listen to an interview with Ben from on top of the chimney!

In northern Italy, 6 climbers have taken action at the old oil-fired power plant in Porto Tolle, scaling a chimney that is the second highest in the country. The Italian government is planning to re-open the plant as a so-called 'clean coal' plant, by applying an experimental technology called carbon capture and storage - despite the fact that, so far, no large-scale coal-fired power plant is yet equipped with this technology, and experts say it will take at least another 10 years before it's operational, if ever.

When the plant re-opens, it will emit more than 10 million tonnes of CO2; under the Kyoto Protocol, Italy needs to cut 100 million tonnes of CO2, not increase its CO2 pollution. Italy's plans for the Porto Tolle plant might, quite literally, see its commitments to tackling climate change go up in smoke.

 In Vado Ligure, near Genoa, 11 more climbers have scaled both chimneys of the Savona plant, hanging a banner saying to 'Time to Lead on Climate'.

Over in Brindisi, in southern Italy, 6 activists have occupied the coal conveyor of the biggest, most CO2-polluting in the country, and 7 climbers - including Greenpeace Australia-Pacific's climate campaigner Julien Vincent - have scaled the chimney. More than 14 million tonnes of CO2 pollution a year comes out of the Brindisi plant's chimney - that's more than the emissions of the world's 40 least-polluting countries put together.

"By blocking the coal conveyor belts, we can prevent coal from going into the plant, and we can stop the plant from polluting the planet," says Julien. "We're taking direct action to save the world's climate - now we need to see the G8 doing the same."

The whole world in his hands…

Today's actions in Italy aren't the first time this week that Greenpeace activists have been challenging world leaders to act to save the climate, or drawing attention to the impacts climate change is wreaking on the world.

Yesterday, in Paris, France, Greenpeace activists delivered the 'world' - in the shape of an inflatable globe - to President Lula. Lula was in France to receive the Félix Houphouët-Boigny peace prize at the UNESCO (United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture) headquarters in Paris.

Two Greenpeace activists unravelled banners reading 'Save the Climate, Save the Amazon', as a third activist mounted the stage during the ceremony to present the inflatable globe to the President. Lula accepted it on the third offer. Greenpeace was asking him to fulfil his commitments to the environment and on the fight against climate change. Amazon deforestation places Brazil as the fourth highest global greenhouse-gas emitter. The Amazon is also essential to the health of our planet. It is vital in regulating rainfall, and most importantly it is a vast carbon sink - it has been estimated that the Amazon forest stores over 10 times the annual emission amounts made by humans, globally.

There is a huge gap between the President's international rhetoric and the reality of the actions that his government is taking to protect the Amazon rainforest. With tropical rainforest destruction accounting for approximately 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, Lula really does hold the continued health and safety of the world in his hands.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, the Greenpeace ships are documenting the impacts already being felt. The Arctic Sunrise is in the Arctic as the ice-cap melts at a record rate: a stark reminder that the impacts of climate change are already taking place. The Esperanza is in the Pacific, where people on the 1m-high island nation of Tuvalu are now in the process of working out where they will move to when sea levels rise.

Today's activists in Italy have come from across the world - from the UK, the US, Japan, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Brazil, Finland, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Poland, the Philippines, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Spain. That's an impressive roll call, and not without good reason. Climate change is a global problem - and it requires a global solution. G8 leaders need to show true leadership by tackling the climate change crisis head on.

Check out the live feed of all the action in Italy now


View Climate action during G8 in Italy in a larger map

G8: Make the world a better place!

Greenpeace USA's Executive Director, Phil Radford, who is at the meeting in L'Aquila, has a more direct message for the G8 leaders meeting this week:

"The G8 Heads of State must break the deadlock in the climate negotiations and stop blaming developing countries for their own inadequate climate policies. This in an opportunity for them to take personal responsibility and show that they are real leaders - who act - and not just politicians full of hot air."

Greenpeace has established the urgent criteria that G8 leaders must agree to:

  • Keeping global temperature rise as far below a 2°C increase as possible, compared to pre-industrial levels, to avert catastrophic climate change
  • Ensuring that global emissions peak by 2015 and be as close to zero as possible by 2050
  • Committing, as a group, to cut emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2020, on 1990 levels
  • Investing USD 106 billion (€74 billion) of the USD 140 billion needed annually for developing countries to adapt to and take action on climate change and to finance forest protection
  • Immediately committing to the establishment of a funding mechanism to stop deforestation and associated emissions in all developing countries by 2020, and achieving zero deforestation in the Amazon, Congo Basin and Indonesia by 2015.

"If the rest of the G8 descends to President Obama's stated goal of returning emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, then our children will inherit a world of droughts, famines and the climate catastrophe that scientists are warning us about," says Phil.

Take Action!

Tell world leaders to go to the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen and ensure that strong and binding targets are set in order for us to avert catastrophic climate change.