Two Greenpeace activists have scaled the five-star Intercontinental Hotel in Mayfair and unfurled a giant banner over its entrance reading ‘Make Big Oil Pay’ in protest at a major summit of oil and gas industry leaders taking place inside the building, where Shell CEO Wael Sawan is giving a keynote speech later on Tuesday.
Hundreds of demonstrators including Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg faced a heavy police presence as they gathered in front of the luxury Park Lane hotel to protest against the influence of the fossil fuel industry on UK and global climate politics.
From 8am protestors blocked all entrances and prevented delegates from entering. Two climbers abseiled from the top of the building to unfurl the 30m long banner. The climbers then hung above demonstrators with hand banners bearing the slogans ‘People Before Profit’ and ‘Make Big Oil Pay’.
On the ground, activists held wooden boards featuring 10 shots by South African photographer Gideon Mendel depicting survivors of climate disasters from around the world standing in floodwater in their homes and neighbourhoods to illustrate the loss and damage caused by climate change .
Due to their outsize contribution to current and historic global greenhouse gas emissions, Greenpeace is calling for fossil fuel companies like Shell to pay into the Loss and Damage Fund agreed by world leaders last year, which aims to provide financial assistance to nations most vulnerable and impacted by the effects of climate change.
A report released last week found that extreme weather driven by climate change has caused at least $2.8 trillion in damage between 2000 and 2019.
At a press conference earlier in the day, Greta Thunberg called out “spineless politicians” for meeting with oil industry lobbyists. She then joined demonstrators outside the conference. The mass demonstration was organised by Fossil Free London under the slogan ‘Oily Money Out’ and saw protesters blocking entrances to the conference, preventing delegates from entering and creating disruption with drumming and protest chants. The protest marked the first of three days of action aimed at shutting down the conference.
Further protests are planned throughout the three day conference, which is attended by executives from across the fossil fuel industry, with delegates from BP, Chevron and Saudi Aramco also scheduled to speak, as well as Graham Stuart MP, the UK Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, COP28 President and head of the Emirati state oil company Adnoc, was also scheduled to speak but was quietly removed from the running order late last week.
Maja Darlington, campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said, “Oil bosses are toasting each other in a luxury hotel and plotting how to make even larger profits, while millions struggle to rebuild after a summer of extreme weather. Big oil is profiting from humanity’s loss and those who have done the least to cause climate change are being forced to pay the price.
“People are sick of watching their energy bills rise and the injustice of floods and wildfires around the world while their elected officials rub shoulders with oil bosses in Mayfair. Letting oil companies like Shell decide our planet’s future is like putting an arsonist in charge of a fire station. It’s time to get their oily influence out of our politics and make Big Oil pay for the millions losing lives and livelihoods because of this industry’s ruthless pursuit of profit.”
Greta Thunberg said, “Behind these closed doors at the Oil and Money conference spineless politicians are making deals and compromises with lobbyists from destructive industries; the fossil fuel industry. People all over the world are suffering and dying from the consequences of the climate crisis caused by these industries who we allow to meet with our politicians and have privileged access to.”
She added: “That is why we have to take direct action to stop this and to kick oily money out of politics.”
Robin, Director of Fossil Free London, said, “The fossil fuel industry and their bankers sit at the polluted heart of the climate emergency. Fossil fuel giants have known about the damage they were causing to the climate for decades, but they covered up the evidence and funded misinformation to prevent action and protect their profits.
“That’s why we’re targeting the biggest annual gathering of fossil fuel companies here in London. We need them and their oily money out of our politics and out of the climate negotiations at COP28 next month.”
Since becoming CEO of Shell in January, Wael Sawan has faced severe criticism for rowing back on Shell’s climate pledges, slashing investment in renewables and boosting oil and gas production. Last month, Shell employees sent an open letter to Sawan stating they are “deeply concerned” by the oil giant’s shift away from green energy.