For years I’ve received press releases from Greenpeace and have done little more than glance at them before they are consigned to an archive. Very few, if any, have had a direct bearing on climate change. The activities of the Japanese whaling fleet seemed to be the most popular topic, a controversy that lies beyond the remit of Harmless Sky.
This morning yet anther release arrived, but this caused me some concern as, although it too had nothing to do with climate change, it sounds a rather a scary warning about the path that green political activism might follow in the future. Here is what it had to say:
Greenpeace submitted the first test case European Citizens’ Initiative in December 2010. Please find below and online a concise briefing outlining our position on this engagement tool.
European Citizens’ Initiative – Greenpeace briefing
The Lisbon Treaty, which came into force in December 2009, enshrines the right for one million Europeans to petition the European Commission and require it to draft legislation on the basis of their demands (or justify its refusal to do so). This right is known as the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI).
In December 2010, Greenpeace and Avaaz submitted a one million signature ECI in accordance with the rules established by EU treaties. The ECI was in response to the first authorisation by the Commission in March 2010 for the cultivation of a genetically modified (GM) crop in Europe in 12 years. This authorisation was in direct breach of a request by all 27 member states for a review of the approval system for GM crops. It also raised serious health and environmental concerns. The ECI therefore called for a moratorium on all new authorisations and a review of the GM approval process.
Now drumming up a million signatures on a petition sounds like a pretty onerous task – or it does until you look at the demography of the EU. With 27 member countries and a population of just over 500 million things seem a little different. To put it bluntly, fooling 1 in 500 of the population all of the time is not likely to pose much of a problem for organisations with the kind of spending power that Greenpeace, WWF or Friends of the Earth now have.
That said, the press release continues like this:
Greenpeace EU director Jorgo Riss said: “The citizens’ initiative is a good idea in principle, but in reality one million euros will go a lot further to lobby the Commission than one million signatures. Data requirements for the citizens’ initiative are far too restrictive, while lobbyists continue to have direct access without disclosing names and addresses, let alone their passport numbers. Over a year ago, one million people from all over Europe signed a one million citizens’ initiative for a moratorium on GM crops and a strengthening of safety assessments. Their voices have been heard, since the Commission has yet to authorise new GM crops.”
(At present, signatories are required to provide their date and place of birth together with other information from their passport or identity papers.)
So it appears that in the opinion of Greenpeace one million euros can buy lobbying on a scale that trumps a procedure requiring the EU to either legislate or justify not doing so. And the cost is peanuts for exerting influence on a trading block that contributes a significant part of the global economy.
Just how much power over our politicians, our governance, and our lives to these organisations have now?
The whole press release can be found here.