"Green Britain Day" May Be Greenwash. But What's Wrong with Being French?


Image credit: Ecotricity

British wind developer Ecotricity, and French nuclear giant EDF, have already clashed over EDF's co-opting of a green Union Jack flag. The resulting spat even caused Ecotricity CEO Dale Vince to rename the EDF-sponsored "Green Britain Day" as National Greenwash Day. It looks like the row is set to resume as the "holiday" rolls around again. Interestingly (and perhaps smartly, from a purely tactical perspective) Greenpeace and Ecotricity are not just focusing on EDF's role in churning out carbon emissions or building nuclear reactors.

They are making at least as much stink about the fact that the company is French. To be fair, in a post entitled How About Green France Day, Dale Vince does point out that just 1% of EDF's UK generating capacity is renewable, that EDF's coal plants generate 20m tonnes of CO2 emissions (presumably per year), and that they are the world's largest corporate producer of toxic nuclear waste, behind the US and Canada. (I should note, of course, that while a lot of greens will automatically dismiss nuclear, there are still many who think nuclear has a role to play in fighting climate change.)

But despite drawing on these points of substance to highlight EDF's green record, or lack of it, it's interesting to me that Vince and co make almost as big a deal over EDF's identity as a French company to make their claim that the company's connection to Green Britain Day is illegitimate:

"Today is apparently 'Green Britain Day', a day brought to you by EDF, or √Člectricit√© de France, the big French state-owned nuclear energy company. [...] And how about leading by example at home by holding a 'Green France Day' soon too? Apres vous, as they say in France."

I'm not sure what to make of this.

On the one hand, as I have argued before, strategy is important in the green movement, and there is no doubt that stirring up a little friendly cross-channel rivalry is a great way to motivate a Brit. On the other hand, I would kind of hope we could move beyond tired old national rivalries in our quest for a better planet. And anyway, in a world of multinational companies, it seems somewhat childish to be shocked that a French company might want to sponsor national days in the countries it operates. (Would it be better if BP were sponsoring Green Britain day?!)

Of course I am probably over thinking this. The French angle on Green Britain Day is a great way of grabbing headlines, and I have no argument when Mr Vince points out that Ecotricity could generate enough green electricity for thousands of homes with the millions EDF spent marketing 'Green Britain Day' last year.

Cest la vie, I guess...

Tags: Activism | Renewable Energy | United Kingdom | Wind Power