The container I’m currently inhabiting has everything I need to keep going for quite a while, so I don’t want to sound too self-pitying, but it is, nevertheless, a box. It’s got a chemical toilet, an internet connection and heavy bolts to fasten it to the pavement, and it’s blocking the entrance to BP’s London headquarters. As a consequence, BP’s HQ is empty.
As I’m sat here, some of BP’s executives are sat at home enjoying an unexpected break, and some are at BP’s AGM, this year moved to Aberdeen, a location that they thought would make the type of disruptive climate protests sweeping the country more difficult. Their group chief executive, Bob Dudley, is on stage today, possibly as you are reading this. Shareholders will be interested in BP’s business plan – in the past the company has claimed that this is “consistent” with the Paris agreement to limit global heating to 1.5C. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that this isn’t true, but it’s amazing how much credence is given to claims with an oil major’s money behind them.
If national governments start introducing the kind of legislation that would make Paris a success, BP would need to adopt a very different business plan. But it doesn’t think that will be necessary. Why not? Because it is spending more than any other oil major, more than $50m in 2018, lobbying against exactly that kind of legislation. That’s $20m more than it spent on trying to publicly brand itself as climate friendly and supportive of the kind of legislation it’s blocking.
Spending $50m might sound like a lot, but BP’s “Paris-consistent” business plan includes spending far more on new oil fields. What would be a genuinely Paris compatible amount to spend on new oil fields? A new report from Global Witness has calculated that figure precisely: $0.
The new fields BP is looking at include the Arctic, where its previous business plans have melted a lot of the ice and made more oil and gas fields accessible. These are places where oil spills would be ecologically disastrous. But the key point is that any new oil fields would shatter our climate targets, and potentially tip us into runaway climate change, where millions of deaths would be a best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario could have a death toll in the same region as BP’s annual spend on making it happen.
So what should BP do? It should go 100% renewable, starting with abandoning all of its fossil fuel exploration plans, today, and become part of the solution to the catastrophic problem it has caused. This isn’t its only option – the other is to shut down completely. Both of these business plans are fully consistent with the Paris agreement.
• Jane Hayes is a Greenpeace activist and retired midwife