Some will rightly argue that Shell never embraced sustainable development, it only ever pursued long-term profitability at the expense of people and planet. The days of Mark Moody Stuart at Shell are long gone. The new boss at the helm is Wael Sawan, who joined Shell two years after the murder of the Ogoni 9 and Brent Spar, just at the time that Shell began to spin its image towards being a caring company.
Under Sawan’s leadership, Shell keeps courting controversy. Month by month, the company doubles down on fossil fuels, and sheds its last remaining veneers of being a company that cares about people and planet.
He has reversed what pitiful progress that Shell had made to address the scale of its CO2 emissions, angering climate campaigners and scientists. In June, the Guardian reported that Sawan “has rowed back on the oil giant’s climate commitments.” The paper added that since taking over, Sawan has emphasised financial returns for investors. He told financiers at the New York stock exchange that he wanted to “reward our shareholders today and far into the future.”
In September, Reutersreported that Sawan “has come under pressure over his strategy from within the energy company after two employees issued a rare open letter urging him not to scale back investments in renewable energy.” The following month, in October, Sawan responded by cutting 200 jobs from the company’s low-carbon division to focus on high-earning oil profits.
And now, last week, the day before the Ogoni 9 anniversary, it was announced that Shell was suing Greenpeace for over $2.1million in damages. But that is just the start. The legal action also calls for an indefinite blocking against Greenpeace protests at all Shell infrastructure worldwide, otherwise, the claims could be as high as $8.6 million.
The lawsuit, which the Guardian notes is one of the “biggest ever legal threats against the group”, was served by Shell after Greenpeace campaigners occupied one of Shell’s moving oil platforms earlier this year.
Whenever Shell cuts a climate commitment or threatens its critics, it loses its social license to operate. Day by day, it looks like a corporate Dodo. It may not happen tomorrow or even in the next decade, but Shell’s days are numbered. A just, equitable future does not include the bully boys from Shell who still threaten their critics. In our collective future, they will become extinct.
At least 102 climate activists from seventeen countries representing Greenpeace, Stay Grounded, Extinction Rebellion, Scientist Rebellion and other climate justice groups are still being detained in Geneva, Switzerland 20 hours after a peaceful protest against Europe’s largest annual private jet fair, the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva.
“A unique, European coalition of courageous activists from 17 countries severely disrupted the excessive champagne party of a super-rich elite – Europe’s largest private jet sales event. Their demand is unequivocal, private aviation should be consigned to the history books. We support the activists and demand their immediate release.” – said Klara Maria Schenk, a transport expert for the European Mobility For All campaign.
Contrary to several misleading media reports, the activists never entered the taxiways or runways of the airport. The activists make it clear that at no time they intended to disrupt commercial air traffic at Geneva Airport. A spokeswoman for air traffic control agency Skyguide confirmed protestors had not accessed the runway during the incident, according to Aviation International News.
Meanwhile, at the Royal Courts of Justice, campaigners celebrated a High Court ruling that granted charity Greenpeace permission to proceed with a judicial review of new oil and gas licensing in the North Sea.
The UK’s Secretary of State for the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero, Grant Shapps, has reassured Britain’s oil and gas industry that it has his full support to continue North Sea drilling during a keynote speech given at the Spectator’s Energy Summit on Wednesday.
At the event, which was sponsored by National Gas as well as Drax, Shapps told an audience mostly composed of energy sector professionals that it “simply makes no sense whatsoever to deny our own oil and gas, and instead import it – with twice the embedded carbon – from elsewhere in the world”. He added that it is “very important” to understand that even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognises the need for “some” oil and gas production in 2050 when the UK has reached net zero.
On Wednesday morning, the judge gave Greenpeace permission to conduct a full judicial review into the government’s failure to take into account the environmental effects of consuming the oil and gas due to be extracted in the new licensing round, in which fossil fuel companies submitted more than 100 licences for exploration.
“See you in court” one campaigner wrote on Twitter tagging Shapps, who was in the process of assuring his audience that the government “will not shy away from awarding new licences where they are justified”. The fate of the controversial Rosebank oil field, with the potential to produce 500m barrels of oil and therefore exceed the UK’s carbon budget, remains undecided.
Hours after lawmakers from the ruling Conservative Party voted to make Rishi Sunak the United Kingdom’s third prime minister this year, more than 30 climate and energy justice activists occupied the lobby of Parliament to demand that the government fund home insulation and renewable power generation through a more robust tax on oil and gas corporations’ windfall profits.
Almost seven million people in the U.K.—nearly a quarter of the country’s population—are facing fuel poverty as winter quickly approaches. Meanwhile, heavily subsidized fossil fuel giants are raking in record profits, which they use to block policies that would facilitate a green transition and rein in their destructive industry.
Greenpeace campaigners, armed with sky-high utility bills from across the country, read the testimonies of people struggling to make ends meet amid a historic cost-of-living crisis that Sunak’s right-wing predecessors—Boris Johnson and Liz Truss—and Tory colleagues have, according to progressive critics, exacerbated through adherence to neoliberal orthodoxy.
Stressing that “chaos costs lives,” activists made the case for simultaneously addressing soaring energy prices and the worsening climate emergency by taxing fossil fuel profits and using the revenue to invest in better residential insulation and expanded clean energy production.
“Thanks to spiraling gas prices and the oldest, coldest housing in Europe, millions of people are being pushed into fuel poverty,” Greenpeace U.K. noted in a blog post. “People across the country have waited for government after government to provide enough help to lower their energy bills—but mostly what we’ve had is political chaos.”
Two months ago, the U.K. Treasury estimated that the nation’s energy firms are poised to enjoy up to £170 billion ($191.9 billion) in excess profits—defined as the gap between money made now and what would have been expected based on price forecasts prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—over the next two years.
A 25% windfall tax on oil and gas producers approved in July is expected to raise £5 billion ($5.6 billion) in its first year. However, the existing surtax on excess fossil fuel profits contains loopholes allowing companies to drastically reduce their tax bill by investing more in oil and gas extraction, which the industry claims will boost supply. The recently enacted windfall tax, which lasts through 2025, also exempts eletricity generators, even though Treasury officials attribute roughly two-fifths of the £170 billion in excess profits to such actors.
With winter energy bills projected to triple compared with last year, calls are growing in the U.K. to increase the windfall tax rate on excess fossil fuel profits and extend it to electricity generators benefiting from rising oil and gas prices.
While Truss vehemently opposed windfall taxes—asserting that they “send the wrong message to investors”—Sunak introduced the current windfall tax in May when he was Johnson’s chancellor of the exchequer.
According to Greenpeace, Monday’s action was meant to show Sunak that “he can’t ignore the almost seven million households facing fuel poverty.”
The life-threatening crises of surging utility bills and unmitigated greenhouse gas pollution are both caused by fossil fuel dependence, the group noted. Consequently, these problems have lifesaving solutions that are straightforward and aligned.
“To lower our bills long-term and reduce our emissions,” Greenpeace urged Sunak to do the following:
Commit to investing £6 billion [$6.8 billion] immediately to kickstart a street-by-street insulation program to keep bills low for good;
Shift to renewable energy, like wind and solar, which are cheaper and quicker to build than oil and gas; and
Properly tax oil and gas companies’ excess profits so they pay their fair share, given how much money they’ve made off these crises.
“It’s time we have a government that brings down bills for good and plays its part in tackling the climate crisis,” the group added.
On social media, Greenpeace encouraged people to sign a petition imploring U.K. lawmakers to “keep people warm this winer.”
“Delay has cost lives. Chaos costs lives. And it will cost more lives this winter and every winter,” the group emphasized. “No one benefits except the oil and gas profiteers. If the government were on the people’s side, the U.K. really could get on track to quitting oil, gas, and sky-high energy bills, forever.”
Greenpeace UK policy director Dr Doug Parr said: “Was it just a dream or did we all hear the Prime Minister say, just weeks ago, she was against a windfall tax?
“Now she’s going to impose a de facto one after all but only on electricity generators, not a proper one on oil and gas firms.
“This glaring double standard makes no sense. It’s almost as if Liz Truss’s belief in the free market only applied to big polluters.
“Of course, it’s right that industries profiting from the energy crisis should give up lots of their extra cash to help people struggling with their bills, but then why is the government refusing to properly tax fossil fuel giants?”