More than a dozen environmental advocacy groups at the United Climate Action Summit demanded that oil multinationals pay for decades of environmental pollution and called for real solutions to address the climate crisis.
The UN Climate Action Summit held at the UN headquarters in New York between September 21 and 23.
The demand came as some of the activists, disguised as hotel staff and guests, entered an oil industry-funded exclusive event attended by several oil major CEOs including those from BP, Chevron, CNPC, Eni, Equinor, Repsol, Oxy, PEMEX, Saudi Aramco, ExxonMobil, Petrobras, Shell, and Total.
At the invite-only dinner, organised by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), the activists attempted to disrupt award presentations to CEOs before they were escorted out of the event by security and officers of the New York Police Department who claimed the event required “presidential-level security.”
“Tonight, OGCI kept out who needed to be heard most,” said Edric Huang of SustainUS, one of the activists.
“While communities have to abandon their homes, while US-based youth of colour have to bear the brunt of environmental racism every day, these fossil fuel industry executives wine and dine their way to profit.
“Today, we are here to expose them and make them pay. Right now, they’re keeping out people who should be in the decision-making process. They should not be throwing dinner parties.”
Outside the event, protesters spoke about the abuses of the oil corporations and demanded that they pay for their damages.
Philip Jakpor, the spokesperson of the Environmental Rights Action and Friends of the Earth International, said inhabitants in Nigeria’s Niger Delta have continued to experience “first-hand” the destructive impacts of the fossil fuel industry.
“We have lived with noxious gas flares for the past 50 years and hold these CEOs accountable. They must be kicked out of the climate space. And they must be made to pay. This is what we demand.”
Lidy Nacpil of the Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development said the solutions to the climate crisis would not come from a board room or an invite-only soiree.
“It will come from the communities on the frontlines of this crisis fighting the very business that these CEOs continue to profit from.
“While people fight for survival around the globe, fossil fuel CEOs continue to push false solutions that will only make the crisis worse and the impact more deadly.”
Under the Paris Climate Agreement, nations are expected to commit to more aggressive climate plans by 2020; signatories to the agreement have struggled to meet their commitments.
‘Climate crisis, deception’
Activists say despite touting its support of the Paris Agreement, the OGCI member corporations like Exxon and Shell have knowingly fuelled the climate crisis, funded climate deception, and spent billions of dollars seeking to undermine climate action.
“The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative is yet another greenwashing attempt by destructive and dangerous fossil fuel corporations that have knowingly fueled climate change,” said Sriram Madhusoodanan, Climate Campaign Director, Corporate Accountability.
“The notion that these corporations would do anything to help solve the crisis they profit off of is laughable. We can’t put out the fire with the arsonists in the room, so it’s time for polluters to pay for their abuses, get out of the policymaking process, and for governments to advance real, just solutions.”
Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change at ActionAid, said the fossil fuel industry is making unimaginable profits at the expense of the lives and livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people around the world.
“These people, especially in developing countries, are struggling to cope with the impacts of a climate crisis they had no role in causing. Fossil fuel companies must pay to clean up the mess they have made.
“Rich country governments must stop giving handouts to those companies. Instead, they need to support communities on the frontline of the climate emergency rather than those who created the crisis in the first place.”
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