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Greenpeace shifts climate focus to industry from U.N.

Sep 14, 2011, 9:28 a.m.
Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, attends a news conference on the arrest of Greenpeace Spain director Juan Lopez de Uralde, at Madrid's Greenpeace headquarters January 4, 2010. REUTERS/Juan Medina

By Gerard Wynn

LONDON (Reuters) - Greenpeace has shifted its campaign focus toward confronting polluting companies, away from lobbying deadlocked U.N. climate talks, the global head of the environmental group told Reuters on the eve of its 40th anniversary.

The group was exploring a new strategy to target banks which backed fossil fuel companies and nuclear power as well as forest destruction, said Kumi Naidoo.

U.N. climate negotiations have fallen short of a treaty after an acrimonious summit in Copenhagen in 2009 when world leaders failed to agree binding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The group was also ramping up investment in emerging economies. Such countries will account for the bulk of growth in planet-warming emissions in the future.

"The U.N. process is still a central part of the mix but the proportion of investment has changed," said Naidoo.

"We've probably reduced our focus on the U.N. in terms of staff time, actual campaigning resources ... by at least 50 percent," compared with two years ago, he said.

"We know that the big polluting companies are a stumbling block. We think that by going after them that will indirectly help the negotiating process."

The global financial crisis and a skeptical U.S. Senate have stalled U.N. efforts to broker a successor to the Kyoto Protocol whose first round of binding emissions cuts expires at the end of next year.

The next major U.N. climate conference in Durban at the end of the year is not expected to produce a deal.

PRESSURE

Greenpeace recently ran a campaign to try and disrupt oil exploration by the British-based Cairn Energy in the Arctic Ocean, which the green group argues is too fragile to cope with oil spills.

High oil prices are pressing companies to drill in new areas including deeper waters further offshore.

Naidoo also cited the group's recent campaign targeting sport clothing brands to combat pollution of Chinese rivers. Nike, Puma and Adidas have since said they would meet Greenpeace's key demand.

"Our demand was that they needed to develop a plan to phase out by 2020," he said.

Where companies were not well known brands, Greenpeace aimed to bring consumer pressure through their creditors.

"They're not global brands," Naidoo said of large conglomerates, referring for example to the U.S. Koch family which has diverse industrial interests and funded opposition to a Californian climate law.

"We need to find a new way to put pressure on them. We've allocated some resources to develop a financial sector strategy."

The new approach was in line with the founding principle of "bearing witness" to injustice when Greenpeace was founded 40 years ago on Thursday, he added. Greenpeace says it raised 226 million euros last year, including donations from 2.8 million people.

(Reporting by Gerard Wynn; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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