Greta Thunberg pulls out of Edinburgh book festival over greenwashing sponsor

Global warming.
Image; MikeB

NEWS AND VIEWS – EDINBURGH, UK: If, like me, you believe in climate change (as we all should because the science unambiguously supports it), you will love Greta Thunberg because she walks the walk and doesn’t just talk about global warming and how to stop it. I love the way she applies strict principles to her campaigning. She doesn’t give an inch. Her actions have to be 100% right in terms of climate change. And I believe she has this mentality because if she doesn’t, she will undermine her campaigning. I believe that she feels that she must be untainted by the fossil fuel industry to enable her to be a leader and I completely support this. She is absolutely correct in her attitude.

Far too many high-profile people including celebrities and often politicians, talk about what should be done to stop global warming and then jump in a private jet and contribute to it.

In this instance, Greta Thunberg pulled out of an appearance at the Edinburgh book festival because the lead sponsor is an investment firm called Baillie Gifford which invests in fossil fuel businesses. And Thunberg claims that Baillie Gifford sponsor the Edinburgh book festival as an act of greenwashing.

By that I mean that they sponsor the book festival to present to the world their green credentials when according to Greta Thunberg, they are not truly green. And it is for this reason that she has to avoid the festival otherwise she will be tainted by the involvement of this business.

In defence, a spokesman for the investment firm said:

Only 2% of our clients’ money is invested in companies with some business related to fossil fuels. Of those companies, some have already moved most of their business away from fossil fuels, and many are helping to drive the transition to clean energy. We believe in open debate and discussion which is why we are long-term supporters of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Baillie Gifford

They admit, therefore, that they do invest in fossil fuel businesses albeit to a small extent according to that statement.

Greta Thunberg said that she pulled out of the festival in protest over the investment firm’s involvement in fossil fuels.

She was due to speak at the 3000-seat Playhouse theatre in order to discuss her appeal for climate action, “It’s Not Too Late to Change the World”. This is part of a series of events at this year’s festival dealing with climate change.

The organisers of the festival said that they are standing by their principles and backed the sponsor. They reject the accusation of greenwashing in saying that just 2% of the investment firm’s money was invested in fossil fuel businesses.

Nick Barley, the festival’s director said that he respected Thunberg’s decision but he believes that Baillie Gifford is part of the solution to climate change and that he is disappointed in Thunberg pulling out.

I fully respect her decision. However, in applauding Greta for standing by her principles, we too must stand by hours. The book festival exists to give a platform for debate and discussion around key issues affecting humanity today – including the climate emergency. As a charitable organisation, we would not be in a position to provide that platform without the long-term support of organisations such as Baillie Gifford. We strongly believe that Baillie Gifford are part of the solution to the climate emergency. They are early investors in progressive climate positive companies, providing funds to help them grow.”

Nick Barley

Comment on Barley’s statement: Can’t he find a sponsor who is entirely green? He is protecting his sponsor. He has compromised his principles, unlike Thunberg, to obtain funding for his festival.

Update The Times 12th Aug

Today in The Times there is the good news (for me) that ‘more than fifty authors, including Ali Smith and Zadie Smith, have called on the organisers of the Edinburgh International Festival to cut ties with sponsors Baillie Gifford over concerns about its fossil fuel investments’.

Well, clearly there are many authors – free thinkers – who object to a big investor which funds the festival supporting businesses making their money from fossil fuels thereby fueling climate change.

Further comment

I’ve just listened to Andrew Castle on his radio show (LBC) and he is criticising Greta Thunberg. He’s one of those mainstream people who I admire but less so now who believes that people don’t mind where their money is invested as long as it’s a good return. And I get that but that’s one reason why there is global warming!

He also criticised Greta Thunberg for withdrawing from the book festival so late when she could have known about Baillie Gifford’s fossil fuel investments much earlier. I’m not sure he is correct about that because there’s only been a recent investigation I believe.

Also on this matter, Gifford Bailey invest £4 billion apparently into businesses linked to fossil fuels although they do invest many billions more in non-fossil fuel businesses.

In a statement, Thunberg, 20, said she was unable to attend the festival because “Greenwashing efforts by the fossil fuel industry, including sponsorship of cultural events, allow them to keep the social licence to continue operating. I cannot and do not want to be associated with events that accept this kind of sponsorship”.

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