Dame Emma Thompson Denounces Greenwashing in “Guardian” Opinion Piece
Dame Emma Thompson, who played the Seer Sybill Trelawney in the Harry Potter film series, is no less concerned for the future than her character. The actor and activist does not shy away from speaking out on causes important to her, including her work with ActionAid, challenging double standards within film, and calling out critics of the #MeToo movement. Recently, she took to the Guardian in an opinion piece calling for action to prevent climate catastrophe.
No stranger to the subject, Thompson uses her platform frequently to call attention to the climate crisis and uplift voices offering solutions. An active member of Greenpeace, Thompson has gone on two tours in the upper latitudes with the organization and worked to protect the Arctic. Her most recent tour, however, took place in Venice.
We Are Here Venice, an NGO that promotes the safeguarding of a city deeply affected by climate breakdown and countless human-made activities, invited me on board the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior, the purpose of whose visit was anything but touristic.
Greenpeace activists staged a protest in which they sailed traditional wooden ships through Venice’s iconic canals while holding the logos of major European oil and gas companies. It was, Thompson explained, a visual challenge to fossil fuel companies and their use of greenwashing, a marketing technique in which businesses invest time and money to appear environmentally friendly while not actually being so.
‘Delay and deceive’ is the new denial. Fossil fuel companies are pumping millions into greenwashing while making meaningless net zero promises and introducing false ‘solutions’, in order to gloss over their decades of destruction. They are falsely painting themselves as allies and extending the deadline of their obsolete business.
Thompson cited Britain’s record-breaking temperatures this summer and lamented the general apathy she witnessed in response. The United Kingdom as a whole beat its temperature record three times within hours back in July, with Britain issuing a “red alert” ahead of the extreme heat, the first time in history such a warning has been necessary. Thompson is eager to start working toward a solution, referencing a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) launched last fall by Greenpeace and other organizations. The initiative demands a new law banning fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship in the European Union (EU). A million signatures within a year, Thompson noted, means that the European Commission must respond to the call.
Why is such a law important? Now, with widespread public support for climate action and the scientific community unreservedly pointing at the fossil fuel industry as largely responsible for the climate crisis, the oil and gas firms, which have for decades purposely slowed climate action, are at their most vulnerable. The industry is clinging on to advertising and sponsorship as one of the last ways of staying afloat.
“Greenwashing is driving our descent into climate catastrophe. But we can stop it”
– Actress & activist Emma Thompson who joined us at the Rainbow Warrior in Venice to demand a ban on fossil fuel ads!
— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace) August 3, 2022
These companies, the actor asserted, encourage disinformation by sending money the way of museums and universities. Their investment in sports teams helps them gain popularity. Thompson compared this to the tactics formerly used by the tobacco industry, whose advertising was banned in the EU when it was recognized to increase consumption. In light of the ECI and significant support from the scientific community, Thompson hopes that ending greenwashing can be a step in the right direction.
It is time to ban fossil fuel propaganda for being deadly and criminal and driving us inexorably towards climate catastrophe. Activism works. Together we can tell people in power how we want to live and what must change.