20 green heroes and villains: Villains

On 7 December, world leaders and negotiators will meet in Copenhagen to discuss the future of our pl

The NS panel

Lord Browne is president of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a former chief executive of BP. He is a cross-bench life peer.

Caroline Lucas is leader of the Green Party and a Member of the European Parliament for the South East England region.

Mark Lynas is an NS columnist, activist and author of Six Degrees, winner of the Royal Society Science Books Prize.

John Sauven is executive director of Greenpeace UK.

Bibi van der Zee is an NS columnist and author of Rebel, Rebel: The Protestor's Handbook.

The villains

Jose Manuel Barroso 

RBS

Alistair Darling

Mitsubishi

American Petroleum Institute

Donald Trump

Michael O'Leary

Ian Plimer

Vaclav Klaus

Exxon Valdez


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José Manuel Barroso

No way José

José Manuel Barroso has been a thorn in the side of greens since his appointment as president of the European Commission in 2004. The Greens/European Free Alliance, Socialists and the European Left groups all voted against his bid for a second term as commission president, on the grounds that his policies have failed the economy, the environment and democracy. With a conservative, neoliberal default position on just about everything, Barroso has found himself in hot water with environmentalists over a number of issues, including the cultivation of biofuels - which he initially insisted was "not significant" in pushing up world food prices - and attempts to force through authorisation of controversial genetically modified crop varieties. Barroso has also failed to back the Covenant of Mayors initiative - a proposed strategic alliance between EU institutions and the cities and regions of Europe to help to "green" transport and energy - withdrawing his pledge of €500m in funding.

Caroline Lucas

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RBS

Bank account

According to a recent report, Towards a Royal Bank of Sustainability, published by People & Planet, Platform, Friends of the Earth Scotland and the World Development Movement, RBS "is a major lender to the fossil fuel sector". Between May 2006 and April 2008, the report states as an example, the bank was involved in loans to the coal industry "of which RBS's share was estimated to be $15.93bn". RBS says it invests in green energy, but pressure has been mounting on the bank to break its links with fossil-fuel industries, particularly since the injection of public bail-out funds since 2008.

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Alistair Darling

Budget deficient

Darling controls the UK's purse strings. And that purse has been readily opened for the bankers to the tune of tens of billions of pounds. Imagine if that amount had been used to support the development of a green, low-carbon economy. Hundreds of thousands of jobs could have been created in retrofitting ­energy inefficient houses and commercial buildings. Or developing world-class expertise and manufacturing for the renewable energy sector. Or even supporting low-carbon, fuel-­efficient vehicles. He could have scrapped the VAT cut and invested in providing work for a green army of skilled builders, joiners and fitters.

Despite our having the greatest offshore wind potential of any country in the world, only a few thousand people are employed in the industry in Britain. Currently, we import turbines, losing job opportunities in the UK due to the lack of a clear government strategy.

If climate change is the great challenge of our time, as government ministers regularly tell us, then why is the Chancellor failing to adequate­ly support low-carbon technologies such as renewable energy and plug-in hybrid cars? The government has ignored the thousands of green jobs that could be created and a huge opportunity to build a low-carbon British industry that could export throughout the world.

John Sauven

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Mitsubishi

Net profiters

Tuna might not be the first thing you think of when you hear "Mitsubishi", but the sprawling conglomerate has a 35-40 per cent share of the global market in bluefin tuna, one of the world's most endangered fish. Most British retailers do not stock the fish because it is so scarce, but it can fetch dizzying sums on the Tokyo sushi market. The wildlife charity WWF predicts that breeding stocks of the fish will be commercially extinct by 2012. In a recent letter to the New Statesman, Mitsubishi maintained that it is "taking action to help secure a sustainable future for this important species", but it continues to trade in the fish.

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American Petroleum Institute

Carbon cavaliers

The API, the US trade association for oil and gas industries, represents about 400 of the biggest, richest companies in the States, and it knows what they want. It would be just about OK if the API politely mentioned these desires to the US government, but the association hurls money at it: according to the Centre for Responsive Politics, the API has spent $5.8m on lobbying the government in 2009. That kind of money might help to explain why only 57 per cent of Americans believe the earth's temperature has been getting warmer , and why negotiations for a follow-up to Kyoto have become near impossible.

Bibi van der Zee

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Donald Trump

Money bags

The billionaire Donald Trump attracted the ire of conservationists when he set his sights on remote Aberdeenshire in Scotland. In 2006 he announced plans to build a 2,000-acre, $1bn golf course and luxury resort, billed as the "great­est" in the world, on a coastline featuring sand dunes protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. He claimed that "environmentalists supported us" and "the locals were ecstatic", but faced opposition from the RSPB and the local council, which initially rebuffed his advances. After much legal wrangling (and a personal intervention by the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond), Trump gained planning permission in October.

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Michael O'Leary

Hot air

The danger of selecting Ryanair's CEO, Michael O'Leary, as one of our villains is that he may take it as a compliment. He seems to enjoy winding up environmentalists: O'Leary is the Jeremy Clarkson of the skies, though boorish rather than amusing. Ryanair likes to posture as a David among Goliaths, attacking "big guys" such as British Airways and the EU. But the truth is that O'Leary's company is increasingly successful, and may soon displace BA (minus Iberia) as Britain's largest airline. Greens may hate it, but Ryanair's cheap-as-chips approach seems to be working. As a result, the prospect of any climate-led reduction in the popularity of aviation seems increasingly remote. People love flying, and O'Leary sells them what they want. And there's no need even to offset with Ryan­air - because O'Leary also peddles the line that climate change "is not the biggest threat to mankind. If it is, why is the summer so crappy?"

Mark Lynas

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Ian Plimer

Stone cold

The Australian professor of mining geology is perhaps foremost among those who dispute the science of climate change. He has recently published a book, Heaven and Earth, which attempts to pull apart the scientific consensus on global warming. It utterly fails to do so, according to scientific peers from all quarters, who view it as "a collection of ­contrarian ideas and conspiracy theories" with "flawed and illogical" arguments. Expounding on his philosophy recently, Plimer revealed that he dislikes the environmental lobby as it consists of "metropolitan liberals", and dismissed "eco-guilt" as a "first-world luxury . . . the new religion for ­urban populations which have lost their faith in Christianity".

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Václav Klaus

Unreality Czech

Václav Klaus has a background in economics, but that does not stop him from vocally denying climate change. "Global warming is a false myth," according to Klaus, who argues that environmentalism is an ideology, like feminism or communism. The only head of state to endorse the controversial film The Great Global Warming Swindle, he claims it is political correctness that keeps other politicians silent. His view that environmentalism is a conspiracy to create socialist government at a global level may not be accepted, but that doesn't matter - he is "absolutely certain" that in 30 years people will thank him.

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Exxon Valdez

Spillage people

I was in Alaska on 24 March 1989 when the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground, releasing 240,000 barrels of oil into the sea. Larger spills had occurred before but this made a big impression on me. The remoteness of the location ensured that this would be the most damaging environmental disaster in the history of the oil industry. It is estimated that the spill contributed to the deaths of 250,000 seabirds, 3,000 sea otters, 300 harbour seals, 250 bald eagles and 22 killer whales.

But positive things can arise from tragedy. Valdez opened a fault line in the oil industry: it highlighted the dangers associated with transporting oil and reminded people that the environment cannot be taken for granted. More than 20 years on, the world's largest energy companies have become more literate about the environment, attempting to drive change in the way we use energy. As we learn to use oil less, there is genuine hope that such disasters may never need to happen again.

Lord Browne

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Additional research by James Burgess, Stephen Morris and Samira Shackle

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