#UNGA74: Grassroot Movements Slam Oil Executives For Climate Crisis

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Philip Jakpor, Head of Media/Campaigns, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, condemning the destructive impact of fossil fuel in the Nigeria's Niger Delta region and around the world during a protest that carpeted Oil Executives on the sideline of UNGA74's Climate Summit in New York.

Several gassroot movements that have been mobilizing on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly Climate Action Summit in New York had carpeted CEOs of oil corporations for their extractive activities that have continued to harm the environment and man, saying their failure to take responsibility has fuelled the climate crisis, now at a disaster level around the world.

The protest which took place just outside of the venue of a private reception for the oil executives in preparation for the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) CEO annual stakeholder dialogue Monday, saw the activists groups chanting solidarity songs while displaying the placards with pictures of the oil executives. They also demanded an end to fossil fuels, asking the oil majors to ‘keep oil in the soil’ as one of the placards read.

Some of the participating groups include Friends of the Earth International, Corporate Accountability, 350.0rg, Peoples Climate Movement New York, SustainUS and Actionaid.

Speaking at the activists’ protest, Philip Jakpor of the Environmental Rights Action – the Nigerian chapter of Friends of the Earth International said: “In Nigeria’s Niger Delta we continue to experience first-hand the destructive impacts of the fossil fuel industry. 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.”

Jakpor explained that unlike the people of the Niger Delta that contend with hungry because they have lost their livelihoods, “the oil executives are robust, beefy, meaty and happy because for them it is business as usual, hence they must be made to account for their harms on man and the environment.”

Lidy Nacpil of Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development said that 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. According to her, “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.”

According to Harjeet Singh, a global leader on climate change at ActionAid, the fossil fuel industry is making unimaginable profits at the expense of the lives and livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people around the world.

He argued that people, especially in developing countries, are struggling to cope with the impacts of a climate crisis they had no role in causing and added that fossil fuel companies must pay to clean up the mess they have made.

Sriram Madhusoodanan, Climate Campaign Director, Corporate Accountability also pointed out that the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative is yet another green-washing attempt by destructive and dangerous fossil fuel corporations that have knowingly fueled climate change. He stressed that the notion that the corporations would do anything to help solve the crisis they profit off from is laughable, adding also that the world cannot put out the fire with the arsonists in the room.

“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,” Jenny Bock, native New Yorker and Senior Regional Organizer at Friends of the Earth US stated.

Meanwhile, participating activists also demanded a transitioning from fossil fuels which they believe should be and accommodate the human rights of indigenous people, peasant farmers, women, the youth and vulnerable groups among others.

Sostine Namanya of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) in Uganda raised issues about the neglect of women and vulnerable groups in tackling the climate change crisis.

Namanya explained that it is no longer in contention that women carry the heaviest burden in the climate crisis and should be accorded priority in fashioning solutions. She however revealed that the climate crisis in Uganda has led to internal displacements with women who work the hardest in the families on the frontlines of the impacts.

In the past one week there has been an uptick in global calls for more decisive actions by countries of the global north to tackle the climate change crisis. Aside the climate strike which began on September 20, over 200 representatives of indigenous people and leading environmental and human rights organizations also mobilized to demand a bridge in the gap between human rights and climate change.

At the first ever Peoples’ Summit on Climate, Rights and Human Survival held September 18 and 19 on the auspices of Amnesty International, the groups declared among others,  that states with the greatest responsibility for climate damage should provide the financial and technological resources for the global south to facilitate their ambitious actions for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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'Dotun Akintomide's journalism works intersect business, environment, politics and developmental issues. Among a number of local and international publications, his work has appeared in the New York Times. He's a winner of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Award. Currently, the Online Editor at The New Diplomat, Akintomide has produced reports that uniquely spoke to Nigeria's experience on Climate Change issues. When Akintomide is not writing, volunteering or working on a media project, you can find him seeing beautiful sites like the sandy beaches that bedecked the Lagos coastline.

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