Victorine Che Thoener,
Senior Campaign Adviser, Greenpeace International.
Today, I am on board the Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise ship, as we confront the fossil fuel company, Shell, for its role in causing climate devastation around the world – while paying nothing for this destruction. It is now a trend almost everywhere in the world, fossil fuel and oil extraction are becoming the new trend and a real treasure, to a chosen few. True, governments do need money, and it seems easier and quicker for them to have it through the exploitation of fossil fuels.
Just a few days ago, Uganda launched its first drilling activities at the Kingfisher oil fields in Lake Alberty, despite criticism around the project by environmentalists. From Uganda to the DRC, it is almost the same scenario, or even worse. In 2021, the DRC government approved the auction of 27 oil blocks and three gas blocks for exploitation. This initiative, presented as a way of saving the DRC economy, is a threat to the Congo’s rainforest and peatlands. Of importance is the fact that three of the oil blocks straddle one of the world’s largest carbon sinks, estimated to store 30 billions tons of carbons.
Shell, the company activists confronted on the 31st of January, has been causing a lot of damage worldwide for many decades. Since Shell’s arrival in the Niger Delta in the 1950s, it has been involved in human rights and environmental violations. Data shows that since 1965, Shell’s carbon emissions made up 2.3% of the whole world’s TOTAL emissions.
Behind false promises, communities lives are still in danger
For more than a decade now, world leaders have been preaching a well prepared message on climate action. During global events that are becoming more like a kind of exhibition parade, they showcase themselves as being committed to fighting climate change. But the reality is totally different. While all these leaders are delaying action, thousands of people have been and are still suffering under climate impacts. In Cameroon, we have recorded several extreme weather events. In 2019, landslides caused by heavy rains killed 42 and left hundreds homeless. In September 2022, reports said floods destroyed thousands of homes. The Littoral and North regions of the country were the most affected. Data from relief web shows that in September 2022, more than 37 000 people were affected by floods and that affected populations are living with host families, in schools, or in makeshift camps.
It is saddening to think of the suffering linked to climate impacts. The destruction, displacement, loss of lives and general misery.
The confrontation at sea we organized with our activists is our way to stand firm and say enough is enough. It is our way to name and shame Shell and the wider fossil fuel industry who are shamelessly profiting from climate injustices and driving climate change. We targeted Shell, but the message we want to send to the world is for all companies in the fossil fuel and polluting industry “Stop drilling. Start paying”. This action is our way to join our voice to those of all the communities who are also rising up to take action and stand against climate criminals.
How many more people need to die or be displaced and how much more of nature needs to be destroyed before it is enough? Now is the time for these companies and governments to stop destroying and start paying for the loss or damage they have caused to lives, homes, livelihoods, language and culture. Of course there is no amount of money that can make up for the lives lost because of climate change, but people and communities who are suffering these impacts, especially in low income countries, really need help and support to rebuild their lives. We are in this together since climate change is global and not local. There is therefore a need for us to build a strong sense of community, which brings to mind Ubuntu, an African Nguni Bantu term which means “I am because you/we are”.
For a safe, fair and healthy world, we need climate justice. It is time for Shell and all other fossil fuel companies to pay for the loss and damages from their emissions and to stop expansion of their activities. Instead we must have a speedy transition to clean, accessible and affordable energy for everyone. Shell must stop drilling, and start paying. That would be justice.