do: protect the Earth. don't: drill in the Arctic

Today is an historic day for Shell.

For years, Shell has been investing its money in polluting oil drilling. From the Niger Delta to the Canadian Boreal forests people have to deal with the consequences of our environmentally destructive policies every day. Of course, Shell has said beautiful things about corporate social responsibility, presenting lovely brochures and impressive scenarios for the future. Meanwhile, Shell has expanded its investments in tar sands and Arctic drilling. This has to stop.

This morning at 6.30 as executive director of Greenpeace Netherlands, I have succeeded former Shell CEO Peter Voser. I have taken my place in the international headquarters of Shell here in The Hague. From this day forward, I will radically change our course. After years of misleading statements about sustainability, we will stop talking and start doing it. As the world’s biggest company, we have the responsibility to pass the Earth onto coming generations. That will be my number one mission as new CEO of Shell.

My first move as CEO will be decisive and effective; no drilling for oil in the pristine Arctic. The chance of a major oil spill in that fragile area is enormous. At the same time, our own plans reveal that we are barely able to clean up spilled oil in the Arctic Ocean. That’s why I will call upon our Alaska drilling fleet to withdraw. From this day on, we will invest our billions in renewables: from wind to solar power. Greenpeace will provide to us, at no expense, the knowhow to make the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Our shareholders will welcome this move. The world’s biggest insurance market Lloyds of London and the German bank West LB have publicly announced that Arctic drilling is too dangerous. They warn that the high risks of drilling in the fragile Arctic could end up ruining the fragile ecosystem. This would inevitably have a disastrous impact on our share price. I recognise the concerns about a possible oil spill. A US government institute has also estimated the chance of a major oil spill during the lifetime of an oil rig is one in five. This would be an environmental, as well as a financial catastrophe, if oil were to gush for months unlimited into the region.

The recoverable oil in the offshore reservoirs in the Arctic could supply the planet for only three years. After that, we would still have to make the transition to clean energy. Why postpone the transition to a clean and sustainable future for three years only to endanger a unique ecosystem and risk billions in losses. Numerous energy scenario’s prove that world energy demand can be supplied with clean energy. So why wait? The transition will not take place overnight, but will prove to be possible in the coming decades.

Shell will now take the lead in that transition. We will use our influence to tackle climate change and stop pollution. We will clean up the Niger Delta, and withdraw from the Canadian Boreal forests and the Arctic. No more drilling for new wells. Starting from today, all our billions of dollars will go to renewable energy. Clean energy for a clean future.

We are ready. Let’s go.

Sylvia Borren is the executive director of Greenpeace Netherlands (and since this morning, new CEO of Royal Dutch Shell).

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