Greenpeace activists are certainly adamant to prevent BP drilling in the British North Sea, after activists climbed back onto a drilling rig on Friday, merely days after Scottish Police removed protestors from the rig. BP’s rig is located in the Vorlich Field, a recently discovered oil field located off Cromarty Firth, north of Inverness in Scotland. At approximately 30m barrels, the field is considered relatively small; it is due to come on-stream in 2020 in BP’s partnership with Israeli based Ithaca Energy.
Greenpeace’s U.K. Executive Director John Sauven highlighted the larger plight Greenpeace activists are fighting for, as a smaller step in salvaging the bleak trajectory of the planet’s climate: “We can’t give up and let oil giants carry on with business as usual because that means giving up on a habitable planet and our kids’ future,” further highlighting the estimated extraction of 30m barrels during a climate emergency as “unaffordable.”
Contrastingly, BP has decided to engage in legality and controversial ‘light action’ towards climate issues, including the Paris Climate Agreement and the Scottish Climate Change Act of 2009. “BP supports debate, discussion and peaceful demonstration, and also shares Greenpeace’s climate concerns, but the irresponsible actions of this group are putting themselves and others unnecessarily at risk, while ignoring court orders and police action.”
Greenpeace’s commendable grass-roots approach in the face of traditionally ruthless corporate ambition poignantly symbolizes the struggles of independent climate activists and organizations. When perceived holistically, considering nuances such as under-ambitious climate targets, the disturbingly rapid rate of climate change and the rigidity of businesses’ willingness to radically change, activist actions amount to common sense. Specifically, prominent corporate green-washing campaigns, including those by BP (as documented by Reuters) and Bhutan’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement – citing under-ambitious targets – conveys larger apathy concerning climate change, entrenched in commercial interests, portrayed by Paris target’s accounting for the European Union’s economic woes since the 2008 financial crises.
Greenpeace’s accusation of hypocrisy towards sovereign states, particularly the U.K., perhaps seem justified, providing grounds for a grass-roots, more hands-on and less bureaucratic means of tackling the issue. For example, BP in the U.K. continues drilling with government support – despite signing a climate pact, inferring apparent common sense – since BP’s survival and growth necessitates increased oil production. Furthermore, the Vorlich Field rig that is operated by Transocean – which also leased Deepwater Horizon, the 2010 explosion of which resulted in 11 deaths and the spilling of 4m barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico – is leased at £140k per day, with no plans to end the lease, demonstrating the commercial importance of continued oil extraction and hence counterproductive climate measures.
Most importantly, this struggle resembles decades of climate struggle, going back to 1981 when Exxon Mobil – the world’s largest oil firm at the time – uncovered exponential CO2 rises connected to operational activity, and despite this, chose to protect its bottom line. This meant incubating climate considerations into profit/loss calculations and funding climate deniers for a further three decades. If the industry acted in its interests then, why won’t it now?
Divided opinions and methods of combating climate change, whether hard-line physical approaches adopted by Greenpeace, or corporate social governance, Greenpeace’s commendable efforts symbolize the urgent and drastic actions institutions must take to protect the future of the planet. A stern Scottish Greenpeace activist conveys this sentiment: “Difficult decisions will have to be made – Scotland is not in the business of taking the easy way out – we are up for the challenge.”