26 May 1998

Sarah Burton, Campaigns Manager, Greenpeace

BP resigned from the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) some years ago. In fact BP and Shell have both resigned from the GCC but remain members of the American Petroleum Institute (API), which itself is also lobbying the United States very hard not to sign on to the Kyoto Agreement. We, and others probably, but certainly Greenpeace, has put them under tremendous pressure to come out of the API, as well as the GCC, for exactly the same reasons, and it seems to be their response, that they will stay in the Institute but they will not allow their money to be used for a campaign against ratification of the Kyoto Agreement.

I am not saying Shell are particularly slow or bad, but what I am saying is that for a company that is trying to present itself as being sustainable, they do not actually show by their actions that they are sustainable. A sustainable energy company would be moving much faster into renewable energy, because they realised that they had to. Dr Chris Fay, head of Shell UK, has said that there are fifty more years of oil and gas. We think that we need to phase out oil and gas within thirty to forty years because of the carbon logic and climate change.

Even if the oil industry does have fifty years of oil and gas, how are they going to replace that oil and gas within the next fifty years? And the answer has got to be much more serious investment in wind, solar, wave, or whatever the renewable energy source is that they feel particularly akin to in their company. I know Shell has a solar company, and I know Shell’s solar company is very, very small in comparison to the fossil fuel company. I know Shell is looking at offshore wind, and perhaps even offshore wave; thinking about it, investigating etc. But again, the amount that they are willing to invest is tiny .

What Greenpeace feels about their investment is, that if it were a serious attempt to establish a renewable energy business, it is not being done quickly enough to meet the challenge posed by climate change – if that is what they are doing. So I am not going to suggest that it is pure PR, or that it is real. All I am saying is, if it is more than PR, but a real attempt to establish Shell in the vanguard of renewable energy, it is pathetic.

I have a very similar message for BP. Because again, BP has a solar company. There is no question that they have increased their investment in their solar arm, and yet they do not produce any solar power in the UK. This is a British company. It is a company led from the front, so to speak, by John Browne, very much at the forefront of in terms of climate change; the first company to come out and say "yes, we need to have a proactive response to climate change. It is real, it is happening, we are no longer going to dispute the science. We are going to act as if it is happening, and we are going to respond to it." And their response is very small beer.

If these oil companies are going to respond properly, they should be doing a number of things. Not only building a factory in the UK to produce thousands of solar panels, which is what we need, or wind turbines. What we also need are companies like Shell, and like BP, really stimulating Government response on renewables.

We need the Government to stop subsidising the fossil fuel industry and to start putting their money into sustainable energy. And who better to stimulate that sort of Government response than these huge, important and financially stable British companies. Chris Fay of Shell and John Browne of BP are exactly the sort of people that Tony Blair listens to. And what are they saying to him? I do not believe they are saying they need more Government support for renewables. But they do. They need to say that in order to be taken seriously.

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