Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo arrested taking action against Arctic oil drilling

by Kumi Naidoo

June 17, 2011

UPDATE: 11:45AM – Kumi has been arrested and is being taken to Greenland by helicopter. In a final radio transmission he said:

“It looks like I’m being arrested now. They say I’m going to be taken to Greenland, but what happens after that I don’t know. I did this because Arctic oil drilling is one of the defining environmental battles of our age. I’m an African but I care deeply about what’s happening up here. The rapidly melting cap of Arctic sea ice is a grave warning to all of us, so it’s nothing short of madness that companies like Cairn see it as a chance to drill for the fossil fuels that got us into this climate change mess in the first place. We have to draw a line and say no more. I’m drawing that line here and now in the Arctic ice.”

You can take action online: Stop Oil Drilling in the Arctic!

Live feed:

After a freezing dash out from the coast of Greenland in a small boat to meet the Esperanza, I’m now preparing to leave again at first light to board the Cairn oil rig Leiv Eiriksson.

With one companion I’ll follow in the footsteps of the twenty Greenpeace activists who’ve gone before me in the past two weeks. Together they prevented Cairn’s reckless deep sea oil drilling here in the Arctic for a total of five days.

Most of them spent almost two weeks in jail and have been deported for their trouble. 

Cairn’s response was an attempt to silence peaceful protest with a massive lawsuit against Greenpeace International. In it they demanded we pay 2 million euro for each day our action prevented their oil drilling operation. But, despite a small army of expensive lawyers, it didn’t go Cairn’s way in court. The judge awarded them far less than they asked for and even questioned why Cairn didn’t publish its oil spill response plan as we asked.

What’s a spill response plan? It’s the document that an oil company has to draw up explaining how it would clean up a spill. They are nearly always made public, but Cairn is keeping its one secret. Why? Because you can’t clean up an Arctic oil spill, that’s what the experts say, and publishing the plan would show that Cairn hasn’t got a viable plan.

We have made repeated requests for Cairn’s oil spill plan, including phone calls, faxes, emails, a visit to the company’s UK headquarters and finally our delegation of 18 boarding the rig. Cairn claims the Greenland authorities won’t allow it to publish the spill plan, but Greenpeace has legal advice making it clear that Cairn could easily publish the plan if it wanted to. It’s standard industry practice.

Cairn is keeping the plan secret because it knows it is not worth the paper it is written on. Cairn is hiding it from the people of Greenland whose real economy depends on fisheries and a clean environment. It is hiding it from Greenpeace because it knows it cannot clean up a spill. It is hiding it from its investors who, if they knew the full extent of the risks, would think twice about investing.

In the final hearing the court did stipulate that Greenpeace is liable for 50,000 euro for each further day we interfere with Cairn’s drilling. It’s far less than Cairn asked for, but still a significant sum.

I have with me the names of 50,000 people who emailed Cairn to demand they publish their spill response plan. I am about to go aboard the rig to deliver those 50,000 names with a personal call that Cairn leaves the Arctic.

For me this is one of the defining environmental battles of our age, it’s a fight for sanity against the madness of those who see the disappearance of the Arctic sea ice as an opportunity to profit. As the ice retreats the oil companies want to send the rigs in and drill for the fossil fuels that got us into this mess in the first place.

Fossil fuel driven climate change is already making life hard for millions. I have seen this first hand where I come from in Africa and it will only get worse unless we can phase out our addiction to oil.

We have to draw a line somewhere and I say we draw that line here today.

The Arctic oil rush is such a serious threat to the climate, to this beautiful fragile place and to our hopes for a better future that I felt we had no choice. So I volunteered to come to the rig and make a personal appeal backed by Greenpeace supporters everywhere to call for an end to this dangerous arctic oil drilling.

Cairn has something to hide, they won’t dare publish their plan to clean up an oil spill here in the Arctic, and that’s because it can’t be done. I’m going onto that rig to give them the names of fifty thousand people who’ve emailed them to demand they publish their plan, and I won’t leave until I have it in my hands.

Kumi Naidoo

By Kumi Naidoo

Kumi Naidoo has served as executive director of Greenpeace International since November 2009.

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