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Activists, grassroots groups tackle oil executives on climate change

Climate justice groups that converged on New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly Climate Action Summit have carpeted CEOs of oil corporations for what they described as “climate deception” and failure to take responsibility for knowingly fuelling the climate crisis.

Philip Jakpor
Philip Jakpor of the Environmental Rights Action (ERA), the Nigerian chapter of Friends of the Earth International, speaking at a rally by the venue of a private reception for oil executives in New York

Friends of the Earth International, Corporate Accountability, 350.0rg, Peoples Climate Movement New York, SustainUS and Actionaid were among the groups demanding that the rhetoric of merely talking should end and the fossil fuel industry takes full responsibility for the climate crisis and pay.

At the venue of a private reception for the oil executives in preparation for the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) CEO annual stakeholder dialogue on Monday, September 23, 2019, the activists carried placards with caricature of the oil executives and their demands boldly asking “End Fossil Fuels Now, and Keep Oil in the Soil”.

Philip Jakpor of the Environmental Rights Action (ERA), the Nigerian chapter of Friends of the Earth International, said: “In Nigeria’s Niger Delta, we continue 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.”

Jakpor explained that, unlike the people of the Niger Delta that contend with hunger because they have lost their livelihoods, “the oil executives are robust, beefy, meaty and happy because for them it is business as usual, hence they must be made to account for their harms on man and the environment”.

Lidy Nacpil of Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development said that 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.

She said: “The solutions to the climate crisis will 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 CEO continue to profit from.”

Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change at ActionAid, also said that the fossil fuel industry is making unimaginable profits at the expense of the lives and livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people around the world.

He argued that people, especially in developing countries, are struggling to cope with the impacts of a climate crisis they had no role in causing and added that fossil fuel companies must pay to clean up the mess they have made.

Sriram Madhusoodanan, Climate Campaign Director, Corporate Accountability, also pointed out that the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative is yet another green-washing attempt by destructive and dangerous fossil fuel corporations that have knowingly fuelled climate change. He stressed that the notion that the corporations would do anything to help solve the crisis they profit off from is laughable, adding also that the world cannot put out the fire with the arsonists in the room.

Jenny Bock, native New Yorker and Senior Regional Organiser at Friends of the Earth US, explained: “They knew the harm they were causing to our climate, and not only kept silent but continued doing so for decades. It’s beyond time for the fossil fuel industry to disappear. Congress and our next President must impose a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure and pass a Green New Deal that ensures fossil fuel companies and their leadership are held directly responsible for the harm they’ve caused to people and the planet.”

At an earlier meeting organised by the Demand Climate Justice Group, participating activists also demanded a transitioning from fossil fuels which they believe should be and accommodate the human rights of indigenous people, peasant farmers, women, the youth and vulnerable groups among others.

Sostine Namanya of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) in Uganda raised issues about the neglect of women and vulnerable groups by governments in tackling the climate change crisis.

Namanya explained that it is no longer in contention that women carry the heaviest burden in the climate crisis and should be accorded priority in fashioning solutions. She however revealed that the climate crisis in Uganda has led to internal displacements with women who work the hardest in the families on the frontlines of the impacts.

In the past one week there has been an uptick in global calls for more decisive actions by countries of the global north to tackle the climate change crisis. Aside the climate strike which began on September 20, over 200 representatives of indigenous people and leading environmental and human rights organisations also mobilised to demand a bridge in the gap between human rights and climate change.

At the first ever Peoples’ Summit on Climate, Rights and Human Survival held September 18 and 19 on the auspices of Amnesty International, the groups declared, among others,  that states with the greatest responsibility for climate damage should provide the financial and technological resources for the global south to facilitate their ambitious actions for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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