In the past, politicians have often been the ones pushing companies to become more conscious of health and safety issues. American politicians insisted that car companies install seatbelts. European politicians voted for hormone disrupting chemicals to be removed from children’s rubber duckies.
Yet on the biggest issue of our generation, preventing climate change, it is companies showing leadership and trying to drag politicians into understanding what is best for us all; a clean planet where climate change has not become catastrophic.
Greenpeace applauds these 11 companies for embracing the future.
Unilever, IKEA, Philips, Eneco, Interface, Spar, ASN Bank, Heijmans, Swarovski, Actiam, and Zwitserleven understand that Europe’s economic future relies on saving more energy using more renewable energy and (of course) and immediately reducing greenhouse gases.
They are sending EU leaders a strong message before they meet at a decisive summit on 23-24 October. And they want some serious results from that meeting, as do we. They want an agreement on binding targets for the climate and energy package far more ambitious than what is being considered.
Here’s the difference: EU leaders are discussing a 40% drop in European greenhouse gas emission, renewable energy making up at least 27% of overall energy use, and energy consumption being reduced by 30% through increased efficiency. These targets wouldn’t be achieved until 2030.
In their statement, these companies ask for both renewable and energy efficiency to be boosted to at least 40%, a significant increase. Of course it’s not as ambitious as Greenpeace wants, but these industry leaders are certainly heading in the right direction. And they’re not just talking the talk.
They are walking the walk in their own businesses. Both Philips and Unilever have committed to ensuring that 40% of their energy use is from renewable sources, by 2020. Ikea is aiming for 100% renewable energy use by the same year and will do this by creating renewable energy on-site. For instance, they’re building solar farms in Poland.
The company which is so big it has become a verb, Google has invested €2.5bn in Nest, a smart home energy company which improves energy efficiency.
These companies know that their continued success depends on making better use of energy, having more secure sources for it and using the latest technologies to access it.
The world’s largest private bank UBS, agrees. Recently they advised their clients that solar power, electric cars and cheaper storage batteries are the future. Not outdated pipelines that leak into water tables all over the world, or expensive risky nuclear plants which never come in on budget and leave us with a painful legacy of waste which – decades later – nuclear operators still haven’t figured out how to handle.
Yet our government followers (can we really call them ‘leaders’?) line up to support polluting fossil fuel energy, much of which Europe pays to import from undemocratic, corrupt regimes. (Greenpeace’s recent report “Tied down: Why Europe’s energy giants want to keep us hooked on imported fossil fuels” explores that more closely.)
Europeans aren’t waiting for their politicians to catch up. Farmers are running energy cooperatives with their neighbours. Apartment blocks are installing solar panels. Home owners have smart house devices that automatically turn off electricity and heat. More and more people are embracing the new technologies which help us cut our dependence on imported fossil fuels. Like these companies, people know that our very survival depends on it.
When these companies wrote in their statement; “Europe must use this opportunity to move towards a more sustainable future”, they weren’t referring to those already doing it, rather to the politicians who must catch up with them.
The summit is next week. There is still time to move your political leader to actually lead. Tweet them. Email them. Call them. Tell them to meet us in the future not pull us into the past.
Jorgo Riss is Director of the European Unit Greenpeace.
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