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NYC youth and global frontline leaders disrupt Oil & Gas Climate Initiative greenwash soirée

Global activists confront oil major CEOs at fancy dinner on sidelines of New York Climate Week

NEW YORK – Two days after hundreds of thousands marched through New York demanding action to confront the climate crisis, youth activists disrupted a greenwashing event attended by several oil major CEOs. They then joined global frontline movement leaders to denounce these polluting corporations’ abuses and demand real, people-first solutions to address the climate crisis and ensure polluters pay for the damage they have knowingly caused.

The event, organized by the industry-funded Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), included CEOs from some of the largest and most destructive corporations in the world: BP, Chevron, CNPC, Eni, Equinor, Repsol, Oxy, PEMEX, Saudi Aramco, ExxonMobil, Petrobras, Shell, and Total. At the invite-only dinner, CEOs of the world’s major oil and gas corporations attempted to cozy up to environmentalists and government representatives on the sidelines of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit.

As the dinner began, seven youth activists attempted to enter the meeting, disguised as hotel staff and dinner attendees. Despite their best efforts, they were unable to present an award to the CEOs present for knowing and lying about climate change and its harms for decades, while continuing to extract and burn fossil fuels. Event security and the NY Police Department escorted the young activists out, claiming that the event required “presidential-level security”. After the interruptions, the activists joined a protest outside where Harjeet Singh, Sostine Namanya, Philip Jakpor, and Edric Huang spoke to the abuses of these corporations, demanded that they pay for their damages, and called for real solutions to address the climate crisis. 

Following the press conference, organizers projected messages on the frontage of the Gramercy Park Hotel:

  • System change not climate change.
  • 100 companies, 71% of global emissions. 13 of their CEOs in this hotel. 
  • Make polluters pay. Make Big Oil pay. 

For the last several years, OGCI has touted its support of the Paris Agreement, but its member corporations like Exxon and Shell have knowingly fueled the climate crisis, funded climate deception, and spent billions of dollars seeking to undermine climate action. Tomorrow, the oil and gas executives are scheduled to hold an all-day industry meeting and “youth dialogue” at the Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan. 

Speakers (in order of appearance):

Mayana Nell Torres, SustainUS (emcee)

Kulsum Rifa, SustainUS 

Philip Jakpor, Head of Media, Environmental Rights Action and Friends of the Earth International

Lidy Nacpil of Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development

Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change at ActionAid.

Edric Huang of SustainUS

Quotes from speakers:

  • “In Nigeria’s Niger Delta we continue to experience first-hand the destructive impacts of the fossil fuel industry,” said Philip Jakpor, Head of Media, Environmental Rights Action and Friends of the Earth International, “We have lived with noxious gas flares for the past 50 years and hold these CEOs accountable. They must be kicked out of the climate space. And they must be made to pay. This is what we demand.” 
  • “While people fight for survival around the globe, fossil fuel CEOs continue to push false solutions that will only make the crisis worse and the impact more deadly,” said Lidy Nacpil of Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development, “The solutions to the climate crisis will not come from a board room or an invite-only soiree. It will come from the communities on the frontlines of this crisis fighting the very business that these CEO continue to profit from.”
  • “The fossil fuel industry is making unimaginable profits at the expense of the lives and livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people around the world,” said Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change at ActionAid. “These people, especially in developing countries, are struggling to cope with the impacts of a climate crisis they had no role in causing. Fossil fuel companies must pay to clean up the mess they have made. Rich country governments must stop giving handouts to those companies. Instead, they need to support communities on the frontline of the climate emergency rather than those who created the crisis in the first place.”
  • “Tonight, OGCI kept out who needed to be heard most. While communities have to abandon their homes — while US based youth of color have to bear the brunt of environmental racism every day — these fossil fuel industry executives wine & dine their way to profit,” said Edric Huang of SustainUS. “Today, we are here to expose them and make them pay. Right now, they’re keeping out people who should be in the decision-making process. They should not throwing dinner parties” 

Additional quotes from participating organizations:

“The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative is yet another greenwashing attempt by destructive and dangerous fossil fuel corporations that have knowingly fueled climate change. The notion that these corporations would do anything to help solve the crisis they profit off of is laughable. We can’t put out the fire with the arsonists in the room, so it’s time for polluters to pay for their abuses, get out of the policymaking process, and for governments to advance real, just solutions.” – Sriram Madhusoodanan, Climate Campaign Director, Corporate Accountability

“Fossil Fuel executives like Shell’s Ben van Beurden, Exxon’s Darren Woods, and BP’s Bob Dudley are destroying our planet,” said Jenny Bock, native New Yorker and Senior Regional Organizer at Friends of the Earth Action. “They knew the harm they were causing to our climate, and not only kept silent but continued doing so for decades. It’s beyond time for the fossil fuel industry to disappear. Congress and our next President must impose a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure and pass a Green New Deal that ensures fossil fuel companies and their leadership are held directly responsible for the harm they’ve caused to people and the planet.”

“These companies funded the earliest climate science. They were among the first to figure out that extracting and burning fossil fuels significantly impacts the presence of GHGs in our atmosphere and has serious environmental impacts,” said Lena Greenberg of SustainUS. “What did they do with this knowledge? They led a dangerously effective disinformation campaign. This deprived civil society and governing bodies from the unbiased information necessary for writing and advocating for effective climate policy.” 

“Any climate summit held by the world’s top funders of climate denial is a sham,” said Jean Su, energy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These corporations continue to obstruct climate action, make minimal investments in clean-energy technologies and pollute communities suffering the brunt of climate devastation. If fossil fuel CEOs really wanted to preserve a livable planet, they’d keep their dirty product in the ground. But they’d rather maximize their profits and watch the world burn.”

“The companies in OGCI pretend to care about the climate crisis, yet are actively building out enough fossil fuel infrastructure to shatter the world’s carbon budgets and make a mockery of the Paris Agreement,” said Collin Rees of Oil Change International. “There are quite literally billions of lives at stake, and it’s past time for a swift and just phase-out of the fossil fuel industry in a way that protects workers and impacted communities, not the CEOs who’ve caused the problem.”

“Fossil fuel companies are amongst the wealthiest and most powerful corporations in history at the expense of our climate, people’s lives and livelihoods. It’s time for them to pay for the damage they inflict on communities all over the world, particularly those most vulnerable to locked in climate change. We must stop the expansion of the fossil fuel industry immediately. Not a single new mine can be dug. Not another pipeline built. Not one more emitting powerplant fired up. And we have to get to work transitioning away from the systems we already have – doing so in a way that recognizes the communities relying on these industries today but also acknowledges the harms that too many communities have suffered as a “side-effect” of fossil fuel use and extraction.” May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org

Participating organizations include: 

Contacts: Patrick Davis, (202) 222-0744, pdavis@foe.org
Lena Greenberg, (646) 620-5344, lena.greenberg@sustainus.org
Taylor Billings, (504) 621-6487, tbillings@corporateaccountability.org
Jean Su, (415) 770-3187, jsu@biologicaldiversity.org
Kim Bryan +44 7770881503 kim.bryan@350.org