Attendees at the opening ceremony of Gastech, the world’s largest meeting of gas companies, in Milan on Monday were greeted by what Greenpeace campaigners called “climate hell”—a display of “toxic” fumes and the sounds of sirens that the organization said represented “the fate we face if we continue to burn fossil fuels.”
Greenpeace Italy led the direct action including more than 50 campaigners from across Europe, confronting officials there to promote gas, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and hydrogen as “greener” alternatives to oil and coal.
Gastech and other efforts to push natural gas as a more sustainable energy source than other fossil fuels amount to “greenwashing,” said the organizers, who also displayed a hot air balloon at the meeting emblazoned with the words: “Gas is Green…washing. End fossil fuels now.”
“We have brought our peaceful protest to this event because for 50 years it has brought together the companies most responsible for the climate crisis,” said Federico Spadini, climate campaigner at Greenpeace Italy. “But there is something we can do to put a stop to the influence of polluting companies and the inaction of politicians: Ban advertisements and sponsorships of fossil fuel companies, which threaten the right to information and the health of people and the planet.”
In addition to the elaborate displays Greenpeace Italy oversaw at the meeting, the group hacked spaces meant for advertising at the Milan Fair, where Gastech is being held this week.
Dozens of posters showed “what the oil and gas industry tries to hide: a grim reality of pollution, increasingly destructive extreme weather events, and conflicts over control of fossil fuels,” said Greenpeace.
Visitors to the Milan Fair heard campaigners saying: “Attention, please! This is not a drill. The climate emergency is well underway. Please do not believe the misleading advertisements of oil and gas companies.”
“For years, fossil fuel companies have denied the existence of the climate crisis and their own responsibility,” said Silvia Pastorelli, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace E.U. “Now more than ever, during an energy crisis affecting millions of people, it is crucial to ban these toxic advertisements that do nothing but mislead consumers and help enrich these multinationals. Without this advertising megaphone, it will quickly become clear that these are just dangerous lies.”
While natural gas is advertised as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal, scientists say the continued extraction of gas will make it impossible to limit global heating enough to prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis. Methane, which leaks into the atmosphere when gas is extracted, has 80 times more warming power than carbon over a 20-year period.
Greenpeace Italy’s partners in France are speaking out against a new law in the country which has been heralded as a ban on ads promoting fossil fuels.
“Ads for gas can continue, [and] patronage, sponsorship, institutional communication, and financial advertising on fossil products remain authorized,” the group said on social media when the law passed last month, while organizer François Chartier told The Times of London, “This is not a law that is going to bring about change.”
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