I am locked in by my own colleagues. And I like it. There were three bangs - and since then, there has been silence at the big Business Europe conference: Europe in the World: Leading or Lagging. No one is getting in. Unless they are a leader. Those of us inside have nothing to worry about. There is plenty of food - even a bar. But the question we are posing is serious: Are businesses in Europe ready to support innovation and green jobs - or will they continue to stand in the way of a green Europe?
The test is simple: Leaders support the EU cutting emissions by 30% domestically by 2020. Laggards don´t. Many laggards, worse, let business associations such as Business Europe actively stand in the way of progress. These associations claim to speak for all of business when they tell politicians, that climate action will deindustrialize Europe and destroy jobs. In truth, climate action can drive innovation and create jobs. A recent study on behalf of the German government found that committing to a 30% cut by 2020 could generate 6 million additional jobs.
Business is split on the future of Europe. Big companies such as IKEA, Unilever or Deutsche Telekom are supporting cutting emissions by 30%. But many other companies you know, don´t. Microsoft, BP, Lafarge, or Volkswagen, for example. Currently, the EU is committed to cutting it´s emissions by 20%. Sounds like a start. But a study by the European Commission itself has shown that this is worse than business as usual. Even if governments just do what they have committed to already, they will exceed this goal. In order to drive innovation, therefore, 30% domestic cuts are a minimum and a necessity. Nothing more or less.
UPDATE: By now, people are trickling in to the conference centre again. And I have just spoken at the official press conference of the organizers to explain why we are here. The message we are sending has been heard. Most reactions are positive. Some people admit that they wish their companies would be willing to speak out more openly and firmly for climate action. Many business representatives also admit to being surprised to see us also on the inside of this conference. "Really, you are with Greenpeace?" is a common response I get from people. They are surprised, I think, to find me wearing a dry suit rather than a wet suit and to hand them a business card rather than chaining myself to them. That´s my job. To make our voice heard with decision makers. To argue calmly but firmly for climate action - and jobs!
The businesses at this meeting, like all over Europe, have a choice. They can either join the leaders or continue to hold Europe back. I will be monitoring what businesses say here for the next two days. And when the bar here at the Tour and Taxis conference centre is closed again, Greenpeace will continue to chart who is a leader in coming months. Check out the current list and help us up the pressure here.