EU accused of greening football’s oil and gas sponsors – POLITICO
On Tuesday evening, the new EU climate ad will air during televised football matches involving clubs from the petro-states of Qatar and Abu Dhabi, in a competition sponsored by Russian gas company Gazprom.
The campaign asking people to think about what they can do to tackle climate change was launched with UEFA, the European football body, on Monday and tweeted by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. But Pascoe Sabido of Corporate Europe Observatory called it a “massive goal of its own” for the EU.
Andrew Simms, co-director of the New Weather Institute and author of a recent study on fossil fuel advertising in sport, called it “breathtaking.”
A Commission spokesperson said the announcement would reach an audience of up to 40 million people per game, informing them of the EU’s plan to Green Deal to make the continent climate neutral by 2050. UEFA provides airtime during all of its men’s club matches, as well as women’s and international games, to the Commission free of charge under a three-year contract.
“These messages should not play into the hands of the fossil fuel companies that are part of the problem,” Simms said.
UEFA maintains close economic ties with the oil and gas industry, with Gazprom being a major sponsor of its flagship Champions League competition and several clubs playing there. Qatar Airways was a sponsor of its recent European competition. Several of the continent’s most powerful clubs belong to the Gulf States or their sovereign funds. Being involved in football is a big plus for companies and countries with controversial records, which also applies to climate change.
A UEFA spokesperson said sports organizations have “a responsibility to use their platforms to raise awareness of the urgent need to tackle the climate emergency”. The football confederation has already pledged to support Europe’s climate goals.
“We firmly believe that by reaching hundreds of millions of people across Europe, of all ages and backgrounds, the joint UEFA Respect campaign and the European Commission will make a positive contribution to the fight against climate change, ”the spokesperson said.
The ad focuses on the “tips” that individual consumers can use to minimize their impact on the climate. It ends with Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon hitting a ball which turns off its lights, lowers its heating and closes its fridge.
This message doesn’t ring true with activists, who say focusing on the individual is a distraction from the huge systemic change needed to achieve net zero emissions. This change represents a profound challenge for companies like Gazprom, as well as for the governments of Russia or the Gulf which depend on fossil fuels for a large part of their income.
Von der Leyen “tells people that we are fighting climate change by turning off the lights, rather than ending our dependence on fossil gas,” Sabido said.
Some believe that such micro-efforts can make people feel empowered to take action in the face of the overwhelming threat of climate change, but such an approach is also being promoted by the oil and gas industry’s advertising campaigns in the goal of diverting attention from systemic challenges. to their business models.
The Commission is trying to touch both approaches.
The head of the European Green Agreement, Frans Timmermans, said the EU’s plans “push for the big structural changes needed”. But, he added: “We will not be successful without everyone tackling the problem, taking small, individual steps.”
The EU-UEFA climate ads come a week as English football digested Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund buyout of Newcastle United, with questions raised over the club’s use to boost the image of a autocracy, paid for with oil money.