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Red Tesla meetup. Image courtesy of Majella and David Waterworth.

Clean Power

Opinion: Australian Liberal Party Goes From FUD to Greenwashing

Australian politicians have moved from FUD to “greenwashing.” Major companies are also fudging the numbers and using vague terms to “greenwash” their production. “They won’t tow your boat. They’ll ruin your weekend. There are no utes for tradies.” Those are things right-leaning politicians are saying. “The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. You can’t depend on renewables.” You know the lines.

In the last election campaign, Australia’s Liberal government was at pains to reinforce the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) surrounding electric vehicles and renewable energy. They won the election by one seat and called it a miracle. As the next federal election looms, they are spending $31 million taxpayer dollars for a publicly funded ad campaign (“Making Positive Energy”) to promote their green credentials. It is greenwashing.

They are taking credit for the good done by the state governments (Liberal and Labour governments). At times, they are even telling outright lies. The recent rebranding of hydrogen produced from brown coal as “green” and “clean” incensed Dr Andrew Forrest so much that the billionaire ran full page ads in the Financial Review denouncing it. If the ads were honest, they would include an admission that the major impediment to climate-saving action in Australia is the federal government’s lack of positive policies and carbon friendly actions.

Politicians are not the only ones guilty of greenwashing – pretending they are involved in climate friendly activities, when they are not – or, at best, making a poor effort to achieve mediocre goals. A report out this week from the Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor assesses the climate strategies of 25 major global companies, and for the most part finds them wanting. Not one single company achieved the top score, which it calls High Integrity.

Nestle gets one of the worst scores — “very low integrity.” Its targets and offsetting claims are considered misleading. Some of its consumer brands are already claiming they are carbon neutral, when the company knows they are not. The top four companies that get a decent report are Maersk, Apple, Sony, and Vodafone. Car companies are over-represented in the category of low integrity — specifically mentioned are Volkswagen and BMW. Until they fully embrace electric vehicles, this is likely to continue to be the case.

“If this is the best that 25 major firms can do, where each of them relies on revenue from consumers who regularly vote in favor of renewables at between 70% and 80%, then all of them can expect a bumpy ride at some point in the future. It seems most of them are simply greenwashing,” Peter White of Rethink Energy wrote.

I would really like to see an analysis of politicians like that of corporations in this report as they move from FUD to greenwashing. Voters could then make better decisions, just like shareholders are starting to do. Most of these, after all, are the same people.

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David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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