Another update from straight talking policy adviser Daniel:
Last week was not a good one to be a tourist in Geneva. It was raining cats and dogs and as a private individual you could not get a tour of the United Nations headquarters. This beautiful building was open only for business leaders as the Second Global Compact Leaders Summit was bringing the UN Secretary General and several hundred CEOs to town. So much for openness and transparency.
The Global Compact sounds like a good idea. Its principles are worthy. They are about human rights and environmental protection and fighting corruption. The trouble is: The Compact does not enforce these principles at all. Global Compact Principle 7, for example, calls for a "precautionary approach to environmental challenges". That sounds good. Greenpeace likes precaution - which basically means that if you are not certain if something is safe or not, well, you don’t do it. Yet companies that ignore precaution by producing genetically modified organisms, such as Novartis, are members of the Compact. Areva, which produces dangerous nuclear power are allowed to be members of the Pact. The UN is endangering a very high value good, it's reputation, by associating its name with such activities through the Global Compact. It's called "bluewash" - looking good by associating yourself with the UN.
Though it got lost a bit in the Live Earth hype, a new climate initiative of the Compact was launched last Thursday. While Greenpeace welcomes that this initiative seems to support a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol - that’s hardly new! Back in 2002 we already got business to say something similar. Meanwhile, some of the supporters of the Global Compact climate call read like the who and who of dirty energy. Take Areva and RWE as two topical examples.
Areva, is behind a new-built nuclear power plant in Finland, which is already 1.5 years late and way over budget. By signing the Global Compact initiative, Areva is no doubt trying to pretend that dangerous and expensive nuclear power, can be part of the solution to the climate crisis. This is, well, rubbish. If anything, nuclear power cements the kind of centralized energy system, that we need to overcome in order to deliver real emission reductions.
RWE, meanwhile, is planning to build several new coal plants in Germany! If they succeed, this will tie Europe into long-term carbon-dependency and make the kind of emission cuts we need pretty darn difficult (and I am being diplomatic here).
The UN should not allow its name to be misused by companies such as Areva and RWE. I happen to believe that Ban Ki-Moon, is genuine in his concern for climate change. Shame, therefore, that he failed to disassociate himself from the 'greenwashing' attempts by the coal and nuclear industries through the Global Compact while he was in Geneva. Let’s hope he does better in September, when he plans to invite global leaders to New York to discuss climate change.