Tonight is the Annual General Meeting in oil company Statoil, and, thanks to Greenpeace, they have the chance to take an important first step towards becoming a greener, more sustainable company.
Deciding Statoil's future is almost the same as deciding Norway's future. 67% owned by the Norwegian state, Statoil has become a very integrated part of Norwegian society, and is perceived by many Norwegians as the engine behind the Norwegian wealth.
The company is known to be responsible and sustainable. However, some if its projects does not fit into that description. Among those are the controversial tar sands project in Canada, where Statoil has been present since 2007, and the company’s growing presence in the Arctic, where Statoil now is the most aggressive company as the only one with licenses in all Arctic jurisdictions.
Greenpeace owns 4 shares in Statoil, which gives us the opportunity to be present and put forward motions for voting at the AGM. This year we have two proposals: one is that Statoil follow Norwegian environmental standards abroad, meaning that they cannot drill in icy waters anywhere in the Arctic, and the other, together with WWF, that Statoil pull out of the controversial tar sands project in Canada.
Tonight we will present these two proposals, and the shareholders are given a chance to vote for a greener, more responsible Statoil; a NewStatoil.
Greenpeace and other environmental organizations have long warned against the environmental risks and damages connected to Canadian tar sands and Arctic oil drilling. But environmentalists are no longer the only ones sceptical to Statoil’s investments in these risky projects – increasingly, both politicians and large investment institutions are speaking out against Statoil's unconventional projects, claiming they are too risky and the wrong direction for Statoil.
Several reports have warned that investments in unconventional resources such as tar sands and Arctic oil will be worthless if the world succeeds in our climate goals. This is of great concern for investors. Major professional investors, such as Boston Common, Norwegian Storebrand and Swedish Folksam are among those that have expressed concern. They are all voting for our proposal to pull Statoil out of the tar sands.
What about the Norwegian state?
Although Statoil is owned 67% by the Norwegian people, giving politicians the possibility to intervene, the government leaves the decision to Statoil's board. “We don’t like it, but we will not do anything about it”- seems to be the mantra.
However, we have seen a movement within several parties, last with the Labour party's group here in Stavanger, the oil capital of Norway, which recently put out a resolution saying they want Statoil to pull out of tar sands. If we are seeing a shift within the Labour party, the largest opposition party, that could potentially mean a parliamentary majority for instructing Statoil to take a new course.
A greener alternative
Experts, investors and politicians alike increasingly see Statoil's unconventional investments as too risky. We already know that these investments pose a giant risk to the environment, both in terms of GHG emissions, the pristine Arctic environment and the areas in Alberta, Canada where First Nations have lived for centuries.
Tonight's proposals at the Statoil AGM are an opportunity for the shareholders to bring Statoil in a new and more sustainable direction. There is an alternative, a better way for Statoil, to become an energy company for the future. I hope that we will see a NewStatoil, and that the owners use this opportunity to take the first necessary steps in that direction.
Martin Norman, tar sands and climate campaigner in Greenpeace Norway