This blog entry was originally written by Melissa on April 28th, but due to our website migration appears to be from a different date and author.
Thirty Greenpeace activists in Stockholm have shut down the office of state-owned energy company Vattenfall, calling for 100 percent renewable energy © Greenpeace / Johanna Hanno
In Stockholm Greenpeace activists have occupied the offices of state-owned energy company Vattenfall, blocking employees from entering, ahead of the annual general meeting (AGM). Drums painted with radioactive symbols block the doors, and there is a banner on the roof, calling for 100 percent renewable energy and condemning investments in coal and nuclear. The company's press officer said "[w]e agree with Greenpeace's concerns about climate change. We are today one of the players in Europe that invest the most in renewable energy. And we are pressing on, but it will take time." However, Louis Tillman of Greenpeace Sweden replied "[a]s Europe's fifth-largest electricity company, Vattenfall would be Sweden's most powerful tool in the fight against climate change. Maud Olofsson [the Minister for Trade] has had over three years to begin the necessary transformation. But instead of investing in energy technology, we risk now new nuclear reactors in Sweden and many more coal plants abroad." Thirty activists from Germany, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Poland and Sweden are involved in the action, and so far they have not been removed.
In the UK, an industry lobby group has reported new EU legislation may force a number of British power stations to install new equipment or close early, Bloomberg reported. As many as 14 electricity plants, representing as much as a quarter of the country's generating capacity, may face closure. Despite government plans to replace old energy sources with nuclear reactors and more renewables, E.ON U.K. Chief Executive Officer Paul Golby this month urged the government to consider keeping some older fossil-fueled plants available to cope with the intermittency of wind power. Greenpeace criticised the industry's "scare stories" - with Joss Garman saying “[l]ast month Spain generated half of all its electricity from wind farms, which just goes to show we don't need to give dirty coal plants a final lease of life.”
An ongoing protest in Turkey against nuclear energy has had continued coverage in national news, with more images, showing a rally with 6,000 people, together with Greenpeace, protesting the development of a nuclear power station at Sinop. The Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior has been participating (watch the video), and will stay in the area to help with the campaign for two more days.
6,000 people in Turkey took part in a rally opposing the nuclear station. © Greenpeace
Norway and Russia to cooperate over Arctic exploitation
The New York Times reported late yesterday Russia and Norway have reached an accord over long-disputed territory in the Barents Sea, leading the way forward to talks of oil and natural gas exploitation in the region. While the country's are proud of their show of cooperation, concerns have been raised by environmental organizations about their eagerness to open the fragile region to mineral exploitation. Truls Gulowsen of Greenpeace in Norway said “[i]t just shows the greediness of Russia and Norway that the first thing they talked about is not global warming, which is what’s making this area suddenly accessible, but resource extraction. This part of the planet is extremely sensitive. It is often covered with ice and there is no technology to clean spilled oil and chemicals out of ice.”
BP opposed regulations on offshore oil drilling, before the Mexican Gulf spill
In the Gulf of Mexico, the ongoing oil spill disaster highlights the disproportionate environmental risk posed by new fossil fuel development (given the limited impact it will have on long-term energy security, and its contribution to the immediate threat of climate change). This latest disaster has even made the Governor of Louisiana rethink his recent support for offshore drilling in the US. International news continues to cover the spill, in response to which Mexico's ministries of energy and the environment and natural resources have not yet issued statements. Greenpeace Mexico has warned that the water pollution threatens marine fauna, waterfowl, beaches and wetlands in and off the coast of Tamaulipas. There are six species of whales in the area, and it is currently fishing season for bluefin tuna.
Interestingly, it turns out BP - the company responsible for the leak and criticised for its handling of the crisis - actually protested stricter safety rules proposed last year by the US agency that oversees offshore drilling. The British oil giant was one of several companies that wrote to the US Minerals Management Service September 2009 saying additional regulation of the oil industry was unnecessary. BP said in its letter that the current voluntary system of safety procedures was adequate. Asked about their efforts to contain the spill (which has proven difficult) a BP spokesman gave a somewhat hyperbolic reply that the company's approach was "to massively over-respond." In the last quarter, BP's profits more than doubled to $US6.1 billion ($6.6bn) from a year earlier, "on the back of higher oil prices and better operational performance", the Wall Street Journal reported.
US Climate legislation update
In the US, a coalition of 31 environmental groups (including Greenpeace) have written to the Senate calling on them "not to squander the great promise of bi-partisan action" over climate legislation. "This must be the year that the United States passes comprehensive climate and energy legislation into law in order to create jobs, strengthen our national security, and reduce carbon pollution. We can't afford to delay action any longer; we urge the Senate to take up a comprehensive energy and climate bill in June," the letter read. Phil Radford of Greenpeace US was quoted saying "it’s clear that polluter lobbyists have succeeded in hijacking this climate policy initiative and undermined the ambitious action necessary." The bill, which was due on Monday, was postponed indefinitely as legislators "scrambled to salvage ties with their only Republican ally".
New evidence released by Greenpeace: Sinar Mas clearing Indonesian rainforest
Oran-utan rainforest habitats are being destroyed for palm oil plantations, Indonesia © Greenpeace
Yesterday allegations made by Greenpeace that the palm oil giant Golden Agri-Resources (the parent company of Sinar Mas) was lying to shareholders about its environmental standards and clearing areas of rainforest, were reported in regional news as their AGM took place.The company responded in a classic effort to save face by rushing out a statement 30 minutes before the Greenpeace announcement, saying it had suspended a duty manager from the plantation under scrutiny. The company also said it was commissioning an "independent" investigation into the allegations. An AFP story covered in detail the claims that new evidence proves Sinar Mas' subsidiary PT-BAT is continuing deforestation in the habitat of endangered orangutans, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Bustar Maitar of Greenpeace was quoted saying "[t]hese cases show that Sinar Mas' commitments are meaningless and nothing but greenwash." Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever and Switzerland's Nestle have already dropped the company as a direct supplier in response to protests by Greenpeace; and the US food company Cargill became the latest multinational in March to demand answers from Sinar Mas about its destructive practices. The story was covered in a video report by Al Jazeera on Youtube and across Australian news.
Polluting Baikal for some toilet rolls
In Russia, an action against the operations of a paper pulp factory that would pollute Lake Baikal has been staged by three environmental organizations including Greenpeace, in which 200 toilet rolls were sent to the office of Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, AFP reported. "If the authorities are so desperate for this paper and want to destroy Baikal, we offer them the paper," the coalition said in a statement. A banner was also hung on the gates of the White House An official apparently accepted the toilet paper and promised to forward it to Vladimir Putin as soon as possible, although it would most likely be distributed among retirees, an AFP reporter said. Prime Minister Putin signed governmental decree No.1 on 13 January 2010 permitting toxic discharge into Lake Baikal, a World Heritage site since 1996. The lake is one of the world's most pristine and unique fresh water habitats, home to innumerable endemic species and supporting local communities. (Read more).