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The Guardian: Businesses accused of green hypocrisy

· Oil firm says one thing and does another, says charity
· Blame government, not commerce – Livingstone

Terry Macalister
Tuesday June 12, 2007

The business community was accused yesterday of “cynicism” for saying one thing and doing another in the fight against climate change.

At a “summit” on the issue organised by the Guardian in London, Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth, accused Shell of sponsoring the event in a bid to align itself with green issues while failing to clean up its own act.

Shell was spending more on exploiting fossil fuels – as in its carbon-intensive tar sands operations in Canada – while failing to put out its illegal flares in Nigeria, he argued. “Shell needs to move away from PR being a term for public relations and use it for pollution reduction,” he said.

But the corporate sector received some support from a surprising quarter when Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, said it was government rather than commerce that was holding up progress on climate change. He said the energy review had been launched with the usual “dishonest spin” and the latest G8 meeting was just a “carnival of debate”.

Caroline Lucas, a Green member of the European parliament, said businesses and their organisations were always lobbying her “for the lowest possible denominator” on environmental measures.

Mr Juniper agreed, saying businesses that turned up at conferences and preached a green message should tell the CBI and International Chamber of Commerce that their positions – to lobby against new regulations – were no longer acceptable.

Mr Juniper highlighted recent adverts by Toyota describing a new range of Lexus 4x4s as having low emissions and zero guilt that he believed were “highly misleading”. Such behaviour only bred cynicism about the business world.

The wildlife organisation WWF also attacked Shell on its tar sand business while highlighting how its coal-to-liquid fuel technique was also carbon-intensive. “My question is where is the strategy to decrease rather than increase carbon?” asked Keith Allott, of WWF.

Shell UK’s chairman, James Smith, insisted his company was taking all sorts of initiatives to drive forward a green agenda with major investment in wind farms, solar power and biofuels. But he admitted that his and other corporations needed to do more “to earn a seat at the [climate change policy] table”.

Mr Livingstone insisted that those attending the conference should “roast a minister” rather than a business leader, pointing out how he had been working successfully with firms such as EDF and British Gas. “In this case it is not wicked business holding back,” he argued.

The mayor, who has been at the forefront of green initiatives – such as the congestion charge – said no new technology was needed to advance the fight against global warming, just political will, which was desperately lacking. “It’s very nice for people that they can take four or five weekend breaks [a year] … but at what price?” he asked, suggesting there should be a £15 carbon tax on an air ticket.

Mr Livingstone painted a frightening picture of life in 2050 when “tens of thousands” of pensioners could be dying in a London summer heatwave unless radical action was taken to halt additions to carbon levels. The mayor is already in talks with the Royal Horticultural Society about what trees would survive in the temperatures that could be expected by the middle of the century, he revealed.

The government’s chief scientific officer, Sir David King, also urged incisive action. Ms Lucas said it was time to stop talking and start acting otherwise “we risk being the only species monitoring its own extinction rather than acting against it”.,,2100804,00.html and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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