Thursday, February 27: Greenpeace has published an open letter calling on the organisers of music festival WOMAD to dump oil industry sponsorship.
Todd Energy and Austrian oil giant OMV are on the bill again this year, despite persistent criticism from local groups that such sponsorship erodes the spirit of WOMAD, which promotes itself as environmentally friendly and a celebration of multiculturalism.
Greenpeace programme director, Niamh O’Flynn, says if WOMAD ended fossil fuel sponsorship for future festivals, it could have a big impact.
"History has shown us that when people, businesses, and brands publicly distance themselves from those who are causing harm, they can spark action in many others," she says.
"Some of the most traditionally conservative organisations in the world, such as BlackRock, are distancing themselves from the oil industry. For a forward-thinking outfit like WOMAD, this should be a no-brainer.
"As an international festival that celebrates diversity, and brings artists together from all over the world, WOMAD is in a unique position to use its platform to take a stand and protect the values it promotes.
"We know that climate change is an injustice that disproportionately affects developing nations, indigenous people, people of colour, women, people with disabilities, and poorer people. These are the people who are also the least responsible for causing it."
One of WOMAD’s oil and gas sponsors, OMV, is on the list of just 100 companies that have driven more than 70% of the world’s climate emissions.
OMV is also one of three companies accused of being complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan. In 2010, international report Unpaid Debt alleged that the exploitation of oil in Southern Sudan by OMV and two other oil companies triggered a war that resulted in the death of thousands of people and the violent displacement of 200,000 others.
"Between fueling the climate crisis and having a Wikipedia entry with a section labelled ‘War crimes in Sudan’, OMV is not the sort of company you want sponsoring a vibrant music festival like WOMAD," O’Flynn says.
As well as inviting supporters and the general public to sign onto the open letter, Greenpeace is reaching out to artists performing at WOMAD.
"Our friends and family members in Australia have lost their lives, homes, and livelihoods in devastating bushfires driven by climate change, and over a billion animals have died," O’Flynn says.
"Last year we saw more than 170,000 people up and down the country, led by young people, leaving their homes, schools, and workplaces to hit the streets and demand climate action.
"We love WOMAD’s music, but its oil industry sponsors really suck. We’re in a climate crisis, and the time for destructive industries being able to plaster their brands all over public events has well and truly passed.
"Womad shouldn’t be letting oil companies use its good name to gain social licence."