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Environment groups back Greenpeace in AGL legal battle

26 May 2021 at 4:55 pm
Maggie Coggan
Environmental advocacy leader says charities should not be afraid of telling the truth

Maggie Coggan | 26 May 2021 at 4:55 pm


Environment groups back Greenpeace in AGL legal battle
26 May 2021 at 4:55 pm

Environmental advocacy leader says charities should not be afraid of telling the truth 

A group of Australia’s leading environmental charities are throwing their support behind Greenpeace Australia Pacific, labelling AGL’s legal action against the charity as an attack on civil society and a direct affront to free speech. 

The organisations, which include the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), NSW Nature Conservation Council, Environment Victoria and, delivered an open letter to AGL executive staff and board members, urging the company to drop legal action ahead of next week’s hearing in the Federal Court.

The company took action against the charity over Greenpeace’s recent report and online advertisements targeting AGL as Australia’s largest corporate polluter. 

The campaign features AGL’s logo and phrases such as “generating pollution for generations” and “still Australia’s biggest climate polluter”.

The letter said that the ability to publicly call out corporations, businesses, governments and individuals standing in the way of urgent climate action, without fear of litigation or retribution, was a key part of advocacy. 

“We firmly believe that it is critical that charities, not for profits, comedians and members of the community retain the right to criticise, parody and satirise corporations using their logo without the threat of litigation,” the letter said. 

An AGL spokesperson told Pro Bono News at the start of May that the company had no intention of stifling public debate, and reserved the right to defend their brand.

“The legal application seeks to prevent unlawful use of the AGL brand – including our logo – as part of a third party campaign and is not at all intended to silence the campaign itself,” the spokesperson said.

‘We need to tell the truth’

Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said as Australia’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitter (reporting more than 40 million tonnes of scope one emissions in 2019-20, more than double the next largest emitter), the company needed to drop the double standard. 

“AGL wants to use their logo in ads greenwashing their business, but they’re suing a charity for using it in a parody ad that is simply stating the facts. AGL needs to stop attacking critics and start getting serious about climate change,” La Nauze said. 

ACF CEO Kelly O’Shanassy told Pro Bono News that in an age where people were worried about being lied to, it was important that organisations such as Greenpeace were allowed to tell the truth.   

“Unfortunately, on issues like climate change, there’s a lot of spin and a lot of lies being told,” O’Shanassy said. 

“So it’s important to be able to cut through that with the truth. That’s what Greenpeace is trying to do and we very much support them.” 

She said that at such a critical time in the fight against climate change, it was important for advocacy and charity groups and individuals to stand strong against corporate forces. 

“Just keep advocating, keep telling the truth, do it in ways that really resonate with Australians,” she said. 

“Let’s keep doing that because we are seeing things shift in Australia… people want more action on climate change, and they know that the government isn’t doing enough.” 

See a full copy of the open letter here.

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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