INSIGHT by Greenpeace
Oil giant Shell has launched an intimidation lawsuit against Greenpeace UK and Greenpeace International – demanding Greenpeace stop protests at its infrastructure at sea or in port anywhere in the world, forever, or face an $8.6m damages claim and an injunction.
The lawsuit is Shell’s response to a peaceful protest by Greenpeace International earlier this year, in which activists occupied a moving oil platform to protest against the climate change loss and damage caused by Shell.
The claim is one of the biggest legal threats against the Greenpeace network’s ability to campaign in its more than 50-year history. Campaigners believe the aggressive legal tactics are a bid to silence growing dissent over moves by Shell’s chief executive Wael Sawan to double down on fossil fuel investment and abandon any pretence of transition to renewables.
Yeb Saño, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, has been personally affected by climate crisis typhoons and volunteered to be part of the oil platform protest with Greenpeace International. He is among the activists individually named in Shell’s legal claim, as he initially attempted to board the platform and later protested its arrival in a Norwegian port.
Mr Saño, who has previously acted as lead negotiator for the Philippines at global climate talks, said: “I have lived through the devastation caused by Shell and companies like them. Ten years ago I spoke at COP global climate talks while my brother was still missing in the fall-out from Super Typhoon Haiyan. Incredibly, he survived, but he helped carry the bodies of 78 innocent people who tragically did not. Shell is trying to silence my legitimate demands: that it must stop its senseless and greedy pursuit of fossil fuels and take accountability for the destruction it is wreaking upon the world. I will stand up in court and fight this; and if Shell refuses to stop drilling, I refuse to stop fighting for climate justice.”
“Under Wael Sawan, Shell’s abandoned any pretence of good intentions, and is brazenly embracing a sinister strategy that’s not just risky for shareholders, but completely devastating for people on the front-lines of the climate crisis. Sawan’s ditching green policies, sacking former colleagues from his renewables division, and he’s gas-lit the world by claiming a retreat from fossil fuels would be ‘dangerous’. Now he’s trying to crush Greenpeace’s ability to campaign, and in doing so, seeking to silence legitimate demands for climate justice and payment for loss and damage. We need this case to be thrown out and for Shell to be regulated by the government because it’s clear Sawan is hell-bent on profit, regardless of human cost.”
-Areeba Hamid, co-executive director of Greenpeace UK
The lawsuit is over a peaceful protest which saw six activists occupy Shell’s Penguins floating production storage and offloading [FPSO] unit for 13 days, from January 31 to February 12. During that time Shell announced record annual profits of nearly $40bn.
Activists were calling on the company to stop drilling for new oil and gas, and instead take responsibility for causing climate breakdown, and start paying into the climate loss and damage fund which has been agreed by world leaders at global climate talks. The Penguins platform is the first new operated vessel for Shell in the northern North Sea for 30 years. At peak production the project is expected to yield the equivalent of 45,000 barrels of oil per day, and Shell has suggested it could open up further areas for exploration.
At the time of the protest Shell and its co-claimant, platform builder Fluor, claimed they would seek damages upwards of $120,000.
In correspondence they have said the damages would be over $8m but they have offered to settle for a reduced amount of $1.4m damages, and a legal undertaking that all Greenpeace organisations would agree to never protest on its infrastructure again, at sea or in port anywhere in the world. If this case were to go to court, it would come with a risk of legal fees through the courts process which could amount to further millions.
Greenpeace UK and Greenpeace International responded that they would agree to such a protest ban if Shell agreed to stop wrecking the climate – by complying with the Netherlands court order requiring the company to reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030, relative to 2019, across all activities.
Negotiations between the parties have now concluded, and since November 1 legal costs are mounting, while Greenpeace awaits the details – known as ‘particulars’ – of Shell’s claim.
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