Extinction Rebellion (XR) and XR Youth Cambridge returned to the Cambridge-based research centre of oilfield services giant Schlumberger today, highlighting its role in environmental destruction in a socially distanced protest. The group blockaded the site entrance to disrupt business-as-usual at the company, while protestors also staged an “oil spill” on site and locked on to the building.
Schlumberger, the world’s leading oilfield services company, operates in 85 countries and at its research centre in Cambridge it develops new ways of extracting oil and gas through Arctic exploration, deep-sea drilling, fracking and “re-fracking”. The company has just accepted a £150m bailout loan from the UK government, in the same month that the government’s own Committee on Climate Change urged radical action to use the Covid-19 recovery to move the UK away from fossil fuels and onto a sustainable footing. XR Cambridge says the “oil spill” stunt it undertook today was intended to make Schlumberger look as oily on the outside as it is on the inside. Schlumberger was heavily involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill ten years ago, the clean-up for which is ongoing and predicted to still be in progress in another ten years time. It was the biggest environmental disaster in US history.
XR Cambridge says the government has to shut down companies like Schlumberger now if we are to have any chance of averting climate catastrophe. The group also points out that Schlumberger is one of many fossil fuel companies with deep connections to Cambridge University – which maintains these ties despite claiming to be following science-based targets to limit global heating to 1.5°C. As well as hosting Schlumberger on its West Cambridge Site, the University maintains the Schlumberger Cambridge International Scholarship to train another generation of professionals to work in the fossil fuel industry. The University also also hosts the BP Institute and associated professorships.
Jamie, of Extinction Rebellion Cambridge, says “We are here today because neither the government nor the University will stand up to the fossil fuel industry. With every new report and research paper we see that the biggest emergency in human history is worse than we previously thought. Yet those in positions of responsibility refuse to act. As we come out of this global pandemic, none of us want to be out here protesting. But the government and the University are up to their eyeballs in oil and happy to stay that way – so it is left up to us to sound the alarm and shut down the planet-destroyers.
“Two weeks ago, the chief of the International Energy Agency said that we have just six months left to take action to avoid an irreversible carbon rebound in the wake of Covid-19. And a new paper published this month suggested we could be on track for much higher levels of warming than we previously thought. The Arctic is on fire, England has just experienced its driest May on record, the UK has just had its sunniest Spring – when will politicians get their heads out of the sand and stop companies like Schlumberger from killing us all?”
The group says the government must use the historic opportunity presented by Covid-19 to tackle the climate and ecological emergencies the world faces. “The UK government must do what all the scientists and even their own advisors are saying and act now before it is too late”, said Jamie. “We are almost out of time, and now we have an opportunity to restructure the way we live away from damaging fossil fuels. The government could use the economic downturn to invest in green jobs, green infrastructure projects. Boris Johnson says he wants to ‘build back better’ but he doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase – all he has done is reallocate existing money to fix a small portion of the damage done by a decade of austerity imposed by his own government. The lies and spin have to stop – we need real action on the climate emergency.”
XR Cambridge also points to the fossil fuel industry’s appalling human rights record, which contradicts Schlumberger’s claim that it is “conducting business in a manner that preserves and respects human dignity” and that it has a “long-standing culture of global social and environmental stewardship”. XR Cambridge says that evidence from across the oil industry contradicts this, citing NGO reports which detail discrimination, sexual harassment and illegal contract termination. The activists also point to the destruction the fossil fuel industry is causing to the planet and communities around the world.