May 25, 2012
Green Week is dead. Long live Green Innovation Week!
I have been active in Green Week for the last 12 years (ten years ago, I manned a stand for GreenFacts and can sympathise with the personal sacrifice the exhibitors endure). Back then, there was a wide mix of stakeholder dialogue: NGOs, scientists, industry and government participants all engaged in dialogue and opening themselves to other ideas. This spirit is long gone and unless they are given a microphone, the environmental NGOs are not participating at all in Green Week. No stands from any members of the Green 10 – no evidence of members participating (except if they were allowed to be speakers).
Fine, who needs them! Outside of righteous criticisms and uncompromising idealism, the Green 10 NGOs don’t actually contribute anything positive to the environment and I was far more impressed by the organisations developing new technologies and green innovations (most funded by FP7 or LIFE programmes). We shouldn’t even allow those trouble-makers to attend … except for one little thing: the European Commission gives an enormous amount of money to them in order that they have resources to participate in EU policy debates. If they don’t even bother to show up for Green Week, what sort of integrity do they have?
For example, the European Commission (DG Environment), in 2011, gave the following organisations buckets of money (in brackets) with apparently no strings attached.
Friends of the Earth Europe: (€ 777,917)
Heath and Environment Alliance Network: (€ 362,992)
WWF-European Policy Office (€ 594.157)
European Environment Bureau: (€ 860,400)
Climate Action Network Europe: (€ 248,332)
Birdlife Europe: (€ 366,147)
Bankwatch: (€ 379,451)
Transport and Environment (€ 249,516)
International Friends of Nature (€ 244,494)
Greenpeace is the only member of the Green 10 who did not receive Commission “Money for Nothing” in 2011 (probably because they were very naughty).
In a future blog, I plan to examine what these activists actually do with the money (as much as they are transparent), but if I got €778,000 from DG Environment, you can rest assured that I would be grateful enough to show my face at their main stakeholder dialogue event. There are also some really nutty groups, like Women in Europe for a Common Future (€ 294,222) and Slow Food (€ 439,760), but they are not part of the Green 10, so basically harmless. See the full list for 2011.
On the DG Environment website, they justify their policy of Christmas for cretins by saying:
For development and implementation of EU environmental policy there needs to be an open and wide-ranging dialogue with all stakeholders. It is important that NGOs are able to take part in such a dialogue since they have a good understanding of public concerns on the environment. Their presence is important to provide a sound balance in relation to the interests of other actors.
But these environmental NGOs are not at all interested in dialogue – that involves listening to others that they may disagree with, and, although anecdotal, my experience shows that they are not very good at that. Now that they have big social media accounts, they don’t need dialogue – they can just post and tweet their campaigns to their fans and members. I kept asking people at the stands: Where are the environmentalists? Everyone shrugged. Perhaps we are all environmentalists now (and only differ in levels of integrity).
Stakeholder dialogue, as considered in the Commission’s White Paper on Governance, is truly dead. I would suggest that the European Commission saves face and redirects this money that has been freely given to a bunch of spoilt brats for more than a decade, towards researchers that are achieving great things in environmental innovation. None of the large NGOs mentioned above have made any significant contributions to the debate, and it is time for DG Environment to wake up and smell the sustainably sourced coffee. Next year, cancel Green Week (in any case, it is in no way a sustainable way to put on a show) and focus on several days showcasing EU funded green innovations (perhaps travelling to different cities). Researchers have had a good history of appreciating EU funding and returning value (and not behaving like children). Next year, call it Green Innovation Week and don’t even invite the Green 10 members.David Zaruk