Standing up to bullying tactics over cleaner cars


Banner outside meeting of European environment ministers in Luxembourg
All rights reserved. Credit: Tom Wagner / Greenpeace
German environment minister Peter Altmaier is keen to keep gas guzzlers on the road
Image caption: 
German environment minister Peter Altmaier is keen to keep gas guzzlers on the road

It was 6.30am in Luxembourg and we were all keen to start. We got into our vans ready to launch our final action for cleaner cars in Europe. But this morning it was different. Instead of a handful of national activists calling on a car company to clean up its act, we went big.

There were thirty of us from across Europe who came together for the whole day to unveil a banner, placards and hand out flyers telling European governments to stand up to the bullying of Germany and its environment minister Peter Altmaier.

We were representing a movement of 82,000 people across Europe who have signed a petition for cleaner cars, over half a million who have campaigned for this worldwide. Just a few days before Europe decides on how clean our cars should be, Germany is trying to build an alliance of countries to keep gas guzzlers on the road for far longer.

We assembled last night at a local hostel to eat and find out what part each of us could play in setting Europe on the right track. Like the rising CO2 emissions that won't go away, our team planned how to make sure our messages got through.

As environment ministers met in the European Council building in Luxembourg to discuss how to reduce the EU's greenhouse gas emissions, we knew we had to tell them to stand up to Altmaier. So we unveiled a floating banner that showed him beckoning ministers to join him in raising the next generation of polluting, not clean cars.

Security guards looked on while we attached our banner to balloons so it floated in front of the huge glass council building. Our message wasn't going away - just like the CO2 emissions all around us, more concentrated than ever in the atmosphere.

And as the meeting progressed, people came out to take photos of our banner and passing cyclists cheered us on. We even moved the banner to sit above the road so passing cars couldn't miss it.

Europe can stand up to Germany and vote for strong regulations that could protect the climate, European drivers and the economy - and lay the foundations for similar laws in other markets across the world. More efficient cars could cut new car CO2 emissions in half by 2025, and could save Europe 17.3 billion barrels of oil, meaning less need to drill in fragile places like the Arctic. Or Europe can let Germany get its way and make polluting cars a mainstay of European transport.

By 3pm some ministers left the building but wouldn't talk to us. Did our message get through? We think so.

There's still more we can do. In the next few days, we'll finally hand our petition to the politicians leading these regulations through the EU. Sign it and share it with your friends and family.


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