Last week, we reported a Greenpeace PR campaign against Volkswagen might have had some effect in prompting VW to announce revised European emissions reductions targets, and since then, Greenpeace has taken credit, while saying VW is still doing too little.
Since last year, Greenpeace has played off of the Star Wars theme and spoofed VW Group as the “Dark Side” for not reducing emissions across its extensive range as aggressively as Greenpeace says VW could as the largest automaker in Europe. Greenpeace further alleges VW has defiantly resisted requests to do more, while on the other hand portraying itself as acutely sensitive to the environment.
And true to its environmental assertions, last week VW announced it was devoting billions to the effort to meet targets this decade ahead of schedule, and has consistently said it has done all it can.
After last week’ announcement, knowing about the dispute with Greenpeace, we noted VW “could also be seen as at least partially caving under pressure from Greenpeace.”
Greenpeace says it has 50,000 VW owners’ signatures and over 500,000 total signatures decrying VW’s perceived stance, but after our brief story ran, VW went on record saying it had acted without consideration for Greenpeace’s advocacy.
Actually, we had hedged our words because we could not get definitive commentary on the record, and had said so. We posted the article as a qualified statement because we had confirmed our hunch off-the-record with an insider who said what we published was fair and accurate in so far as it went. The insider did say VW would not have made a decision solely to appease Greenpeace, but the prospect of possibly putting out a PR fire must certainly have crossed its mind.
Nonetheless, in an effort to debunk even the suggestion that Greenpeace might have had anything to do with VW’s announcement, VW said it was only following its own path.
“Of course our announcement has nothing to do with Greenpeace,” said Ines Roessler, spokesperson for environmental matters at Volkswagen HQ in Wolfsburg in another report last week. “Many of the targets that were communicated in Geneva already did exist for quite a while. The reduction of CO2 for instance can be found in our sustainability report which was published in April 2011.
Since this was published, we have received direct rebuttals to VW from Franziska Achterberg, EU Transport Policy Campaigner for Greenpeace.
RE: The announcement has nothing to do with Greenpeace:
“This is obviously not true. VW have been the target of a high profile Greenpeace campaign that is supported by half a million people. A spoof advert about VW produced by Greenpeace has been viewed over a million times. The Greenpeace campaign focused on their lobbying against EU climate legislation, and the EU’s CO2 emission standards for cars in particular. They have made this announcement on specifically their EU fleet – in an attempt to safeguard their environmental reputation.
In one of our letters, dated 20 October 2011, we asked VW explicitly whether they will achieve their 2015 legal target ahead of time, as other carmakers have committed. We also said we expected a statement from VW on which emissions target they want to achieve by 2020, and asked them to support an EU-wide reduction to no more than 80 gCO2/km by 2020.
Now VW announced they will achieve an EU average of 120 gCO2/km by 2015. Their legal requirement is reduce to an average of just over 130 gCO2/km. So they have clearly committed to overshooting the EU standard for 2015 that they previously lobbied against.”
RE: Greenpeace did not claim credit after Volkswagen’s announcement:
“We have so far responded mainly in the EU, not in the US, because the announcement was focused on Europe. We have told journalists that “(f)aced with intense public pressure, they have now conceded that they can make cleaner cars at a much faster pace.” See http://www.euractiv.com/climate-environment/vws-turn-co2-emissions-shows-green-revamp-news-511331.
Most importantly, VW’s announcement does not go far enough. They still don’t back the EU standard of 95 gCO2/km for 2020, let alone commit to doing better than that. They haven’t said anything about further reductions beyond 2020 either. To save the climate they need to do much more.”
Achterberg’s statements were written in response to reported assertions that initially Hybridcars.com was unable to get a statement from Greenpeace claiming credit after Volkswagen’s announcement.
As you can see, we were not at all far from the mark, and although the U.S. Greenpeace rep did not have ready answers last week when asked, from Europe Greenpeace has now claimed credit at least in part for VW’s announcement last week.
To further clarify our intentions, they were not then, nor are they now an attempt to take sides either for VW or Greenpeace, but to document a development in their mutual PR dispute.
Of VW’s declaration last week that it was reaching for “ambitious new sustainability targets,” Volkswagen reportedly said previously it had “vowed then not submit to pressure.”
Certainly VW does maintain that it has kept to its word. And, it’s clear that VW had shown prior intentions to step up emissions reductions, but there remains a dispute with one party’s assertion against the other.
We thought it worth noting both sides of the story considering GreenPeace does have substantial support in Europe where this battle really is centered, and where apparently, it is still ongoing.
In response to statements that there’s nothing new about VW’s CO2 reductions and the target is in VW’s sustainability report of April 2011, Greenpeace’s Achterberg said:
“In its sustainability report of April 2011, VW announced it will “(r)educe CO2 emissions for the new car fleet in Europe (EU 27) by 20 percent by 2015 compared with 2006 (attached, p. 71). Now they’re saying this is 30 percent. This is a new number, and they shouldn’t claim it isn’t. By claiming they have nothing new to tell VW are actually calling the whole announcement of “ecological restructuring” a bluff – is that what they want to do?”
VW’s Roessler was also reported as saying VW had felt duped after inviting Greenpeace to explain its environmental initiatives last summer at its headquarters in Wolfsburg after which he said the two groups are no longer on talking terms.
“We had told Greenpeace at that meeting that the Golf 7 will have new technologies for additional reductions of consumption,” Roessler was quoted as saying. “To do this while the production is running is either impossible, or only possibly with huge investments. Therefore, these environmental technologies come with the new Golf 7.“
This and some of VW’s newer announcements were reportedly shared with Greenpeace during that meeting, Roessler said, after which Greenpeace allegedly escalated its anti-VW stance.
In response to assertions that VW and Greenpeace are no longer in communication, GreenPeace’s Achterberg said:
“There has been an extensive exchange of letters between the two organizations, in which Greenpeace repeatedly asked for a meeting with Martin Winterkorn. A meeting was scheduled in December 2011 but then cancelled by VW. It isn’t Greenpeace that’s not on talking terms. It’s VW that has still not set a new date for the meeting.”
So what is the whole truth in this situation? We won’t venture that far, but it’s at least obvious Greenpeace and VW do not see eye to eye, and that is all we’re saying at this point, and really, all we have said all along. As new developments happen, we’ll keep you apprised of those as well.