Davos 2023: Big Oil in the crosshairs of protests by climate activists

DAVOS, Switzerland, 16 Jan. (Reuters) – Major oil companies came under pressure at the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) from activists accusing them of hijacking the climate debate, while a Greta Thunberg-sponsored “cease and desist” campaign gained support on social media.

Major energy companies including BP (BP.L), Chevron (CVX.N) and Saudi Aramco (2222.SE) are among the 1,500 business leaders gathered for the annual meeting in the Swiss resort of Davos, where global threats, including climate change, are being discussed. the agenda.

“We demand concrete and real climate action,” said Nicolas Siegrist, the 26-year-old organizer of the protest who also heads the Young Socialist Party in Switzerland.

The annual meeting of global business and political leaders kicks off Monday in Davos.

“They will be in the same room with state leaders and will stand up for their interests,” Siegrist said of the involvement of energy companies at a demonstration attended by several hundred people on Sunday.

The oil and gas industry has said it must be part of the energy transition, as fossil fuels will continue to play an important role in the world’s energy mix as countries transition to low-carbon economies.

On Monday, a social media campaign ramped up pressure on oil and gas companies by promoting a “cease and desist” message through the nonprofit website Avaaz, sponsored by climate activists Thunberg, Vanessa Nakate and Luisa Neubauer.

It demands energy company CEOs “immediately stop opening new oil, gas or coal extraction sites, and stop blocking the clean energy transition we all so desperately need,” and threatens legal action and more protests if they don’t obey.

The campaign, which was signed by more than 660,000 people, had been shared nearly 200,000 times by Monday morning.

Sumant Sinha, head of one of India’s largest renewable energy companies, said it would be good to include major oil companies in the transition debate as they have a vital role to play.

“If oil people are part of these conversations to the extent that they’re also committed to change, then it’s better to have them in the tent than to have them out,” said Sinha, chairman and CEO of ReNew Power. told Reuters, saying recording should not lead to “sabotage”.

Rising interest rates have made it more difficult for renewable energy developments to attract financing, giving traditional players with deep pockets a competitive advantage.

As delegates began to arrive in Davos, Debt for Climate activists protested at a private airport in eastern Switzerland, which they said would be used by some WEF participants, and issued a statement calling for the cancellation of foreign debt of poorer countries to accelerate the global energy transition.

Additional reporting by Kathryn Lurie; Edited by Alexander Smith and Alex Richardson

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