Greenpeace Act After Earth Summit Failure On Clean Energy
Durban,4 September 2002: On the final day of the Earth Summit, Greenpeace activists did what governments have failed to do at the Johannesburg meeting and took action to demand "Clean Energy Now" at a notorious oil refinery in Durban.
Five activists gained access to a bridge spanning oil pipelines from the plant at Bluff, on the outskirts of the city. Three climbed the 30 metre bridge and heralded flags, which read "Clean Energy Now".
"The Earth Summit has failed to take action against dirty energy policies which are fuelling climate change," said Paul Horsman from Greenpeace. "Big business and polluting governments like the US have joined forces in Johannesburg once again to deny people the right to clean and safe energy. Even now in the last few hours of the conference they are also trying to undermine any attempts to make corporations accountable for the devastation they bring not just to the climate but also to local communities," Horsman added.
The fossil fuel facility at Bluff 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. Poorly maintained pipes, run right through the middle of the local communities. Neither company has accepted any responsibility for the poor health of local people nor have they made sufficient attempts to clean up the large scale pollution that has been allowed to continue for forty years.
"The earth summit was on the brink of bringing corporations like Shell and BP to task, by making them accountable for the damage they do, "said Zeina Alhajj of Greenpeace. “But in the dying moments of the conference even that hope has been being undermined. Once again governments are caving in and allowing company profits to dictate government policy. " said Alhajj.
Throughout the Earth Summit discussions governments have failed, in the face of the fossil fuel and nuclear industry lobbies, to agree targets for increasing the amount of clean sustainable energy needed both to fight climate change and tackle the obscene levels of poverty around the world. In addition, despite agreeing to develop an intergovernmental framework to make corporations accountable for their actions and pollution, the agreement was undone in the dying hours of the Summit because of US opposition and interference from big business.
Notes: The five activists are from Cameroon, United States, Hong Kong/China, Australia and Portugal. Briefing paper on Shell/BP refinery environmental impact also available.