World leaders apologise from the future

Greenpeace is running a campaign at Copenhagen airport in the run up to the UN Climate Change Conference in the city next week…

This is one of several Greenpeace-commissioned ads that have just been revealed in and around Copenhagen airport in the run up to the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) that takes place in the city next week…

The ads all feature a doctored image of a current world leader – so that they look about ten years older – apologising from the future (2020 to be precise) saying, “I’m sorry. We could have stopped catastrophic climate change… We didn’t.”

“It’s an apology from the future aimed at putting pressure on  – and just maybe making these world leaders think twice about the consequences of their action or inaction now,” explains the writer of the ads Toby Cotton of new agency Arc Communications.

“The brief from Greenpeace International was simple,” he continues, “to put pressure on world leaders to create a fair and binding agreement at Copenhagen.”

Here is a selection of the ads in situ in Copenhagen airport featuring Nicolas Sarkozy (France), Gordon Brown, (UK), Stephen Harper (Canada) and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Brazil)…

Agency: Arc Communications
Concept, design, creative direction: Toby Cotton
Photo research: Karen Guy
Airport photos of the ads in situ: ©Christian Aslund/Greenpeace

Image credits (original photography before the ‘aging’ effects)
Sarkozy image: oaø (flickr)
Obama: ©SEIU International (flickr)
Tusk: ©bartheq (flickr)
All the other original photos: from Hollandse Hoogte photo library


  • kathryn

    fantastic work!

  • mA

    it’s almost like something from a film – but they’re dramatic in a very good way, the black/white/red colour way is a standard head turning colour combo, and the aged politicians is a really good touch (though are they really going to look THAT old in 10 years?!)

    g’wan with your badself Greenpeace!

  • Powerful stuff. Great job.

    Was it the intention to make Obama to look like Alexandr the meerkat?

  • Turlough

    Nice idea, one inaccuracy though, they’re only giving the boys 10 years till they’re grandads? Harsh, haha..

  • awesome idea!

  • James Pearson

    Ultimately we’re the target audience here as the politicians already have their agendas. Outdoor media on climate change only serves to grow public opinion and so increase the pressure leveraged on our world leaders to do something about it. As the general public is the only real audience for these posters, I can’t help but feel that there are stronger and better targeted messages we need to here.

  • Herschell Kronington

    Love how little editing they had to do to Gordon Brown’s face. I mean, is there any way of actually making him look more aged than he already does?

  • stuart

    Well, they obviously owe a lot to the idea behind Franny Armstrong’s recent film ‘Age of Stupid’ – but that aside, I’m wondering why they leave me disappointed.

    Maybe because the posters don’t hit hard enough. Somehow I can’t imagine any one of those guys spotting themselves in the poster and thinking, ‘oh god right – I can’t let that happen’.

    The opportunity to say something really powerful has been missed in my opinion – and also, it seems a bit dull to repeat the same headline each time.

    In case that seems too grumpy – they’re still better than nothing, so well done Greenpeace and let’s hope something is pulled out of the fire of Nohopenhagen.

  • Nice Idea, I heard something like – one of the creators of the Copenhagen act said it wasn’t worth the time…. ‘just what I think I heard on the news’

  • Oh but we did stop it! We fudged all the numbers and made it look real so we could pass historic tax laws so our countries could go broke. Flippin brilliant!

  • It would be nice to think it would make a difference and get through their thick skins.

  • It’s too easy to blame other people. We are all in this, all responsible. What did I do, what did you do?

  • Lee

    Is ‘catastrophic climate change’ really going to occur in the next ten years? This kind of over-dramatisation of the issues serves to undermine the important truths of climate change, and drives the issue further into the realm of the fantasy/disaster movie. As a result the issue is distanced from reality, and the general public are less likely to do anything about it.

  • Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, has neither a conscience nor a heart. All you need do is look into his dead, flat eyes to know that. So I think we will not be hearing words of apology from his lips any time this millennium.

  • the_steel_rat1

    Its more like ” im sorry we could have stopped the lies about catastrophic climate change, we didn’t “

  • Ummmm, Climategate?

  • Martin Lloyd

    Catastrophic climate change is going to become unavoidable in the next ten years if we don’t do something now. And for the 300 000 people whose homes were flooded in Brazil this year by abnormal rains, it’s already catastrophic.

  • Well, from one hand is awesome, wicked advertisement, from other one who is directed to? To these guys from G7? Message for all of us should be rather: Consume less, Care about your environment, Recycle whatever is possible and keep walking instead of driving… Anyway good piece of ad always implies thinking about the issue….

  • Kazzi

    “Was it the intention to make Obama to look like Alexandr the meerkat?” – Oh great, now I have a monitor/coffee interface situation. Concerningly accurate!

    Fairly certain they just painted Gordon’s hair white and left all else as it stood.

    Agreed re: the quotation should have changed on each.

  • Anyone have a link to higher res versions?

  • propagandist

    where’s hu jintao?

  • Roberto

    What a complete JOKE! very week. they are fighting a losing battle, the truth always comes out. It will be very interesting to see what they come up with next after the whole ‘Global Warming” campaign is proven to be a complete lie.

  • John

    This will end up laughed at in a future book, the same way we laugh at cold war propaganda or ‘tomorrows world’ inventions.

    Climate change has become a slogan and political tool, science no longer matters. The Earth’s climate has never been stable, it always changes, always has, even without humans. Climate Gate has exposed what a lot of journalists were too lazy to.

  • Activist

    Very good, although I would prefer it stronger, with flooded cities and burnt forests with dead animals as a background.
    And yes, I agree with those that have posted previously that quotation should have been different (and sharper) for every ‘leader’.

  • freebairn
  • andrei

    great job but pointless… do you know about SUN activity???

  • What a completely bizarre idea. But it works. I like it.

  • Sorry about the breathing TAX kids! We fudged the numbers to raise revenue! To make you feel guilty about being alive!

  • Tavershima Vende-Hanongon

    Great stuff! Its really good that current issues that demand the designers attention can actually put something out that is both meaningful and intelligent for the designer. The quotes great with the old age but I think it would be cooler if it had cattle branding over the leader forehead! Hard meat…

  • great , thank you.

  • we can’t even believe scientisits now with their scewed data on climate change..Why did they do that? What is the real intention to pass cap and trade? I don’t believe ANYTHING out of Washington now. What a bunch of over reachers and tax happy criminals running this great country into the ground! NO CAP AND TRADE UNTIL YOU ADMIT AND INVESTIGATE THESE E MAILS

  • Great work! I like it! I hope the Presidents will see it and realize what would possibly happen on the year 2020

  • I think these are great, but they are let down by the re-used quotation for each one – it makes each following poster I saw less significant, less meaningful. Climate change is an issue that requires attention from everybody, from the big leaders to us at home.

  • nl

    Gordon’s bright white hair doesn’t really work. Shouldv’e been darker grey. That’s my only comment.

  • car bored

    what we can stop the climate from changing? and in 10 years? stop it, really? if my kettle still works in 10 years time ill be surprised.
    what about ‘im sorry, but we much prefer an protectionist elite business model of government, we could have not gone to war, not supported foreign dictatorships and corruption in lands far from our borders, forcing the sale of the national assets on the cheap, ransoming to debt so that loans are paid back by very poorest to fill our guts and pockets and continue our prefered neo imperialistic business policy, bailing out and reinventing and rewarding our economic failures ….but we didnt’.

    global warming and its like buzz words serves only as an electorate tickler, these leaders are not leading parties or economic models that are have any concern with da environment. theres a huge green industry, gov funded to support the electorates educated obsession. its a crowd pleaser. now with whats being called ‘climate-gate’ historically being added to the ‘credit crunch’, hopefully in 10yrs time, the electorate will be more aware their governments motivations and be in a position cause positive change.

  • I’m sure the world leaders are acting upon climate change by indicating the problem to the public. We can’t only blame the leaders of our countries at present as they have come in to leadership at a bad time and have had to pick up a lot of mess left behind for them. The climate change has been sped up by the way we live but the only way for it to stop getting worse is for us to be more careful in the way we spend our every day lives.

    Plus. I doubt the leaders will look that old in ten years time or even apologize. They wouldn’t even take blame for leaving a fart in a lift, let alone destroying our planet.

  • John Foley

    It is odd that the wordspacing on “I’M SORRY” is so tight on the first example in comparison to all the others.

  • gregory

    things must be really slow to waste your time on petty art work. i know change the title. obama may have nade two terms if he had not sold america down the drain

  • a lot of people are complaining about the visual quality of the Greenpeace’s ads, but the fact that they are getting so much feedback is an indication that these ads are succeeding at least on some level

  • The ads have effectively done their job to grab attention. They are not in bad taste.

  • Barrymore

    Hay when in doubt fake the data to prove your point!!! billions will be spent because “foolish leaders”
    follow faked data like programed robots and do not want to hear that they are so SMART IVY LEAGUE
    MINUPLITATED DATA ,BUT it proves the point fools do not varify information before they act.
    The biggest thing is that it will destroy economies, and people lives, but of coarse that does not


  • Robert

    isn’t it largely because of Greenpeace we don’t have non CO2 emitting nuclear power? well done GreenPeace – You helped mess up the planet.

  • hannah

    the other side of ‘climategate’ – the world is definately getting warmer and it is going to make life really hard or impossible for a lot of people, so i don’t see why we should’t do what we can to make the impact less life threatening. whether a small amount of data makes any difference in the bigger picture is questionable, i honestly can’t see people being organised enough for the entire thing to be a “conspiracy”. Media sensationalism is never really condusive to rational thinking.

    the ads are pretty cool i guess – publicity around an event liek this is important, but maybe we as designers should also be focussing more on problem solving – how can we design in such a way as to make it easier for people to reduce their environmental impact? make a tangible difference?

  • Victor


  • Jason

    Are we all supposed to be underwater by 2020? This guys don’t have snorkels or anything! The AGW argument is falling apart, can’t get the story straight!
    Are we all dependant on our ‘leaders’ to think and act (have we lost the ability to do it for ourselves?) Show some responsibility.

    Do you really think these guys care! Politicians offer themselves up for election so they can ride the gravy train, not to dish out peace and love to humanity – grow up!

  • Dan

    I think there’s a pretty valid point here, talking about Environment Change as opposed to Climate Change:

  • Brilliant piece of work, though higher resolution would be great also. Awesome!

  • sn’t it largely because of Greenpeace we don’t have non CO2 emitting nuclear power? well done GreenPeace – You helped mess up the planet.

  • The climate change has been sped up by the way we live but the only way for it to stop getting worse is for us to be more careful in the way we spend our every day lives.

  • They should have added jail bars and a put them in black and white striped outfits.

    One of the anti smoking, graphic design ads where they age girls by 10 years showing how the effects of smoking make an impact on your skin, communicate to young girls because the target audience doesn’t want to look like that.

    The more hard hitting smoking ads – ‘this is what it does to your insides’ are really powerful. Think they should have tried that route – this is what the world will be like!

    Who cares if they say sorry or not in 10 years – what will that achieve?

  • Jason you said it all. Keep promoting the fear while others get rich!

  • Really nice idea, and thought provoking. Good marketing.

  • LoL @ the spammers like webdesign “sn’t it largely because of Greenpeace we don’t have non CO2 emitting nuclear power? well done GreenPeace – You helped mess up the planet.” Just copy a comment and paste it for the links 😀

  • great marketing,

    i hope sincerely that it doesnt actually reach this stage though..

    Is any one involved with any green work or foundations at the moment that people can get involved with?

  • Info Website

    Very creative