Greenpeace activists in Venice staged a protest this weekend to highlight the catastrophic effects greenwashing could have on the lagoon city.
Protesting on wooden rowboats, protesters warned that the city would soon be overwhelmed if the fossil fuel industry continued what the activist group calls its greenwashing agenda.
Greenpeace protest against traditional Venetian boats
On Sunday, Greenpeace activists staged Venice’s “last visit” in a tongue-in-cheek protest against the greenwashing of the fossil fuel industry.
Sailing on traditional boats past some of Venice’s famous landmarks, including St. Mark’s Square and the Bridge of Sighs, protesters warned against misleading advertising by fossil fuel companies.
Protesters carried banners with the logos of major European oil and gas companies which they said had “sponsored” the last visit to the city.
Energy companies and greenwashing
Greenpeace is currently calling for a new law banning fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship in the European Union. They warn that ads depicting energy companies as environmentally friendly promote false solutions and delay climate action.
Federico Spadini, a climate activist with Greenpeace, said companies use advertising to “clean up their image, just like tobacco companies have done in the past”.
Last year, a Greenpeace investigation reviewed thousands of social media advertisements by energy companies Shell, Total Energies, Preem, Eni and Repsol.
The researchers found that nearly two-thirds of oil company advertisements could be categorized as greenwashing. They say the messages misled consumers by representing false solutions to the climate crisis.
How could greenwashing have brought down Venice?
Greenpeace activists took to the water to warn that Venice flooding problems would be exacerbated if no action was taken against greenwashing. The historic center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is extremely vulnerable to flooding due to climate change and sea level rise.
A study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2021 predicted a possible sea level rise of 63cm to 101cm in the most drastic case. This would require raising the mobile flood barriers in the lagoon so many times that it would seriously harm the ecosystem and economy of the port.
As Spadini said, “If we don’t embrace a green energy transition, the last tourist trip to Venice could soon become a tragic reality.”