Dutch oil giant Shell has launched an intimidation lawsuit against Greenpeace UK and Greenpeace International, demanding that the organisation stop all protests at Shell infrastructure, at sea or in port, anywhere in the world, forever.
Greenpeace says it will not back down.
The unprecedented legal action comes in response to Greenpeace’s occupation of a Shell oil platform en route to drill in the North Sea. In February this year, six activists boarded and occupied the platform for 13 days in protest against Shell’s plans to keep drilling for more fossil fuels. The claim is one of the biggest legal threats against the Greenpeace network’s ability to campaign in its more than 50-year history.
For many years, Greenpeace has been a thorn in the oil giant’s side all over the world, including in New Zealand. Most notably, in 2012, actress Lucy Lawless joined six Greenpeace activists in occupying the Shell-contracted drilling ship Noble Discoverer in Taranaki to prevent it from travelling to the Arctic to drill for oil.
In response to the lawsuit, Lawless says:
“I know some of the people at Greenpeace. I know they won’t back down to legal threats from the likes of Shell – because opposing the oil industry is too important. The climate crisis – driven by oil and gas – threatens all that we know and love. It threatens our children’s chance at a future.
“I know how persistent Greenpeace is. I’ve jumped into the icy Barents Sea with Greenpeace activists to stop oil exploration there. I’ve sailed on the Rainbow Warrior, and I’ve occupied the derrick of a Shell drillship in Taranaki for four nights with them, too.
“I know how important peaceful protest is. And when Greenpeace takes on Shell again, I’ll put my hand up to be right there with them again, legal threats or not.
“Oil exploration threatens the very future of life on earth. Oil companies are driving the climate crisis, causing more frequent and more severe extreme weather events. I will continue to stand against the oil industry, just as I have before. Shell’s threats won’t stop me.”
Greenpeace Aotearoa spokesperson Amanda Larsson says, “Greenpeace will not back down, and we will fight this legal threat from Shell. We will continue to resist the oil industry here in Aotearoa and around the world until they put the health of the planet over their drive for profit and stop drilling for oil. The science is very clear that for us all to have a future, the oil industry can have no future.
“The world is teetering on the brink of climate catastrophe thanks to the fossil fuel industry, and Shell is one of the worst culprits. Even now, as the costs of climate disasters pile up, Shell continues to make record profits and shows no sign of slowing down or making amends,” says Larsson.
“Peaceful protest is essential in bringing about the change that will see the end of this dangerous industry. Governments are failing to protect us from the oil industry, and that will only change through peaceful protest.
“When Shell was last in Aotearoa, searching for new oil and gas at the invitation of the previous National Government, hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders pushed them out by signing petitions, attending marches and hīkoi, and crucially, participating in peaceful protest,” she says.
In 2016, Shell instructed its investment bank to offload its more than $1 billion New Zealand oil exploration and production portfolio. The portfolio was eventually acquired by the Austrian oil company OMV. In 2018, then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a ban on all new offshore oil and gas exploration permits.
Larsson says, “This move by Shell to stop legitimate environmental protest is reminiscent of the Anadarko Amendment passed here in New Zealand by the John Key Government, in an attempt to placate the oil industry by stopping protest at sea.”
Greenpeace continued to take action against the oil industry in spite of the law change. Most notably, the late Jeanette Fitzsimons and the former Greenpeace Director Bunny McDiarmid led a flotilla into the exclusion zone of the drillship Noble Bob Douglas in 2013, protesting Anadarko’s plans to drill for oil.
“Greenpeace will continue to resist climate polluters all around the world – and we’re committed to doing so here in Aotearoa in the face of Christopher Luxon’s threat to bring back new offshore oil and gas exploration,” says Larsson.
open letter to the oil and gas industry https://petition.act.greenpeace.org.nz/climate-resist-oil-gas-exploration-open-letter