Power of the (Climate Conscious) People
Fight for the Bight protestors gathered on November 23rd, 2019. Victor Harbour, South Australia. Photo: Che Chorley
On the 25th of Febuary 2020, large fossil fuel producer Equinor abandoned their 8 year plan to drill into the Great Australian Bight. Australians that had protested through mass demonstrations; in swim outs, posters, music events and petitions were ecstatic. The decision to scrap the $200m project, that had the potential of destroying a pristine coastline, is an incredible portrayal of climate activism.
In terms of the climate crisis, the views and opinions of civilians, are often ignored. The question, I would like to answer, is why in this circumstance, did the corporate company retreat? Does this allow for a stronger allegiance to combat climate action? Lastly, could Equinor bridge, their large fossil fuel company into a renewable future?
The Fight For The Bight campaign was the single biggest coastal environmental action in Australian history. Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s CEO, David Ritter, praised the on going campaigning by communities, Indigenous traditional owners, local businesses, artists and surfers.
“Never doubt the power and determination of the Australian people,” Ritter said.
This stance against climate injustice demonstrates not only the strength of people in unity, but the overwhelming amount of people who see a viable future in clean energy. The protests exhibited the need for a social and physical change in big business, as energy producers can not be economically viable without it.
Fight for the Bight protestors in water on November 23rd, 2019. Torquay, Victoria Australia. Photo: Jared Lynch,
Equniors Australian Manager, Jone Stangeland, released a statement expressing why they decided to withdrawal,
“the project’s potential is not commercially competitive compared with other exploration opportunities in the company( Equinor, 2020)”.
The term ‘commercially competitive’ unjustly allows the withdrawal, to sound like an economic decision. This is hard to believe as, oil drilling takes up 3.8% of the global economy, and is the key to Equinor’s economic success. Irrespectively, Equinor could be largely influenced by two-thirds of the company, that is owned by the Norwegian Government. The stakeholders, within this party agreed to the 2016 Paris Agreement target, mandating that they pledge to achieve “climate neutrality” by 2030. EnergyQuest, CEO Graeme Bethune acknowledged,
“In our view, the decision is likely to have been driven by stronger carbon reduction targets of the European oil companies.”
To make an ally out of an enemy is no easy feat, but if the Norwegian companies social conscience was enough to allow this project to holt, they are able to cease their oil consumption and switch to renewable solutions. Equinor already take up a (poor) 2.2% of their development budget on renewable projects. The transition from fossil fuels to solar and wind farms, could be implemented in Australia, to solve their current public relationship dilemma. The pressure applied forced the company to launch it’s ‘New Climate Roadmap’ outlining they are,
“decarbonising our oil and gas production, growing within wind and solar, and developing low-carbon solutions such as hydrogen and CCS on an industrial scale”.
Ensuring Equinor has a competitive and resilient business model within the energy transition, will allow the company to have a future within the energy realm. It is obvious, for companies to invest in new processes and technologies, to mitigate the uncertainty of becoming obsolete, resulting from climate change. Additionally, research illustrates that consumers are excited to support companies actively creating a cleaner world.
Equinor has the potential to transition their systems and become a role model to other large energy companies. Through, taking a stand on emissions and supporting policies that advance climate change mitigation, they would be welcome back on Australian soil to develop a clean energy future.