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Environmentalists greenmail Google, Dell

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Cebit 09 Greenpeace has called out the tech industry on its environmental claims, challenging the likes of Google and Dell to start applying pressure on governments to adopt meaningful emissions reduction targets ahead of a crucial meeting on a replacement for the Kyoto protocol.

The environmental pressure group has written to the biggest tech firms to simultaneously start delivering on their claims that technology can offset climate change and put pressure on their respective governments to push for tough targets at a meeting in Copenhagen in December.

Greenpeace climate campaigner Melanie Francis said "We see this as the year. If a strong deal is not signed in Copenhagen, it's really serious."

"[Tech firms] have been very vocal in saying they're only responsible for 2 per cent of emissions, and have solutions for the other 98 percent," said Francis. "We're asking them lobby their governments on this issue."

At the same time, said Francis, companies should cut their own emissions and actually deliver products and methodologies that can mitigate climate change and "Take advantage of the business opportunity they've been presented with."

"There's been lots of claims but we haven't seen any reliable figures,” said Francis. "We need them to back it up."

Tom Dowdell, the organisation's greener electronics campaign coordinator, said the letters to the CEOs had gone out a couple of weeks ago, and it had initial responses from a couple of firms, including Nokia, Microsoft, Fujitsu, and Sharp. Greenpeace would give them a month and then start compiling an initial report, before engaging in "continuous assessment" on the named firms throughout the year.

The group already had relationships with a number of the firms, he said, and some had made commitments to reduce their own environmental footprint. But Greenpeace wanted to see them use their muscle to put pressure on their governments and "Show support for official cuts." The list has a clear bias towards US and Japanese firms, those countries being seen as somewhat more hostile to emissions cuts.

The tech industry seems an obvious target for the group as tech companies have a tendency to at least pay lipservice to environmental concerns. At the same time, Greenpeace concedes that it is unlikely to have much success getting utilities and traditional heavy industries such as steel production or car makers to support radical cuts in Copenhagen, even if they weren't currently falling back on the recession as a reason for not taking action right now.

However, Dowdall didn't see much evidence of a seachange at Cebit, a year after the show daubed itself in green paint - and about nine months after oil prices, and with them energy costs, started a long downwards slide which may have pushed energy costs down the agenda for at least some CIOs. He described the show's Green village as more of a hamlet and noted that the tech industry's stock response to environmental concerns was energy efficiency in data centres, without giving too much thought to other ways it impacts the environment.

As well as Google and Dell, Greenpeace is targeting Cisco, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Nokia, Panasonic, Sharp, Sony, Sun Microsystems, Toshiba, Fujitsu, Nokia, Microsoft, and Sharp. ®

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