Greenpeace stages Alpine glacier protest against oil companies
UN Summit in Johannesburg draws to a close, climate change continues
Vienna/Johannesburg, 9 September 2002¯Greenpeace activists this morning unfurled a banner with the motto "Climate change powered by Esso, Shell, BP" on Pasterze Glacier in the Hohe Tauern mountain range (Carinthia, Austria). This action was in protest against the climate-damaging policies of the international oil companies. It took 70 activists to transport the banner and roll it out on a surface area of about 5,000 square metres.
Pasterze Glacier, situated in the High Alps near Grossglockner, is thinning by about five metres and receding by 20 metres every year. Glacier melting is one of the most visible and reliable signs of global warming. Climate change provoked by the emission of greenhouse gases was also one of the topics discussed at the Johannesburg Earth Summit, which threatens to yield only meagre resolutions at its close today.
"Esso, Shell and BP are sending our climate up in smoke," said Karsten Smid, a climate expert with Greenpeace. "The oil multinationals are partly to blame for glacier melting. At the Earth Summit, the USA and Saudi Arabia joined hands with the oil lobby to prevent greater support for renewable energy forms. Esso and its parent company ExxonMobil, in particular, are sabotaging climate protection.“
In a letter to U.S. President George Bush, oil lobbyists paid by ExxonMobil wrote on 2 August: "The Johannesburg Summit will provide a global media stage for many of the most irresponsible and destructive elements involved in critical international economic and environmental issues. Your presence would only help to publicise and make more credible various anti-freedom, anti-people, anti-globalisation and anti-Western agendas. (...) We also strongly support your opposition to signing new international environmental treaties or creating new international environmental organisations. (...) The least important global environmental issue is potential global warming, and we hope that your negotiators at Johannesburg can keep it off the table.“(1)
Since the 1992 UN Summit in Rio, emissions of carbon dioxide have risen by 11 per cent. Forty per cent of the 23 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide that burden the atmosphere every year are produced during oil combustion. Taken together, Esso, Shell and BP have a market share of more than 50 per cent of international oil production.
From the start of industrialisation in the mid-19th century up to 1975, the Alpine glaciers on average lost a third of their area and half of their mass. Since then, a further 20 to 30 per cent of the ice volume has melted. Scientists expect that three-fourths of all existing Alpine glaciers will have disappeared by the year 2050.
Greenpeace activists have also taken action at an oil refinery at Bluff, South Africa which is jointly operated by Shell and BP and is notorious for oil leaks and toxic air emissions that affect the nearby community of South Durban.
“On the final day of the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, Greenpeace, through global protests is doing what governments failed to achieve: stopping the onward march of fossil fuels and expanding the use of clean energy, “ concluded Smid.