Tuesday 2 July, London: The Rebellion Against Big Oil Continues

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  • From 12pm on 2 July, as Climate Action Week gets underway in London, members of Extinction Rebellion Arts and Culture will conduct a silent procession starting  at Ebury Bridge, continuing through central London and visiting the offices of 5 oil supermajors (ENI, CNPC, SAUDI ARAMCO, REPSOL and BP) to declare them a crime scene
  • All 5 companies are part of the ‘Oil and Gas Climate Initiative’, yet have plans for continued fossil fuel exploration over the next decade 
  • Members of Extinction Rebellion Arts and Culture will deliver a copy of the Extinction Rebellion Handbook ‘This is Not a Drill’ to the company offices and will call on directors and employees to ‘do the right thing by your loved ones and the rest of all humanity…cease exploration, act now and join Extinction Rebellion’
  • At 6pm the procession will join with Extinction Rebellion Lambeth as they stage a die-in at the Royal Opera House to demand they act in accordance with the realities of the climate and ecological emergency and drop BP as a sponsor

On Tuesday 2 July, members of Extinction Rebellion Arts and Culture and Extinction Rebellion Lambeth continue their disruption of ‘business-as-usual’ for oil majors. As City Hall hosts its first London Climate Action Week to discuss responses to the climate and ecological emergency, Extinction Rebellion Arts and Culture will call on oil majors to also play their part, act now and cease plans for further oil exploration. 

From 12pm around 50 members of Extinction Rebellion Arts and Culture will take part in a silent procession through Central London stopping at 5 fossil fuel majors (ENI, CNPC, SAUDI ARAMCO, REPSOL and BP) to declare a crime scene at their offices, deliver a copy of the Extinction Rebellion Handbook ‘This is Not a Drill’ and ask they play their part in tackling the climate and ecological emergency. The procession will also pause at 5 street corners along the route to sound the alarm bell about the climate and ecological emergency for members of the public. [1]

At 6pm Extinction Rebellion Lambeth will stage a die-in at the Royal Opera House to demand that they drop BP as a sponsor. The action will disrupt the arrival of the paying audience to the evening’s performance of Bizet’s Carmen, which is due to be screened nationwide via the BP-sponsored Big Screens event. [2] The action follows Extinction Rebellion Lambeth’s successful disruption of the BP Big Screen in Trafalgar Square on 13 June and comes as cultural institutions begin to feel increased pressure over oil sponsorship.

Carmen’s Carbon Procession

Timeline:

12pm: Procession meeting and preparation Ebury Bridge/Sutherland St

12.45pm Depart Ebury Bridge/Sutherland St

1pm Eni 10 Ebury Bridge Rd, Belgravia, SW1W 8PZ 

1.50pm Petrol China (International) CNPC 5 Wilton Road SW1V 1AN 

3.15pm SAUDI ARAMCO 10 Portman Square W1H 6AZ

4.20pm REPSOL 11-12 St. James’s Square SW1Y 4LB

4.50pm BP 1 St. James’s Square SW1Y 4LB

Taking visual and musical cues from Bizet’s Carmen, members of Extinction Rebellion Arts and Culture will visit 5 members of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a coalition of major oil and gas companies created to promote a climate-friendly image for some of the world’s largest polluters, to declare a crime scene at their offices and to call on company directors and employees to “do the right thing by your loved ones and the rest of all humanity…cease exploration, act now and join Extinction Rebellion”. Each company will be left with their very own copy of the Extinction Rebellion Handbook, ‘This is Not a Drill’.

While the procession itself will be silent, the ceremony at each stop will be conducted with full noise and visuals. Musicians will play a reworked Carmen’s Habanera sung by Simone Ibbett-Brown, an opera singer of East Anglian/Jamaican descent who has previously performed with English National Opera and at the Royal Opera House in a workshop of Na’ama Zisser’s Mamzer. 

Composer Benjamin Comeau described his reworking of Carmen’s Habanera as: “A gritty and fabulous reworking of Bizet’s legendary melodies written for Carmen, rearranged for outdoor procession with folk instruments including guitars, accordion, percussion. Sensual yet politically confronting, with new words to challenge us all on the climate emergency”

Actor, Tamaryn Payne as Carmen dressed in a dramatic costume with a 5 meter train signifying dirty oil will then read out the crime scene declaration penned by Mrs Noah playwright and activist April De Angelis. 

“My name is Carmen

You know who I am…

Your dirty oil will kill us all

Your reckless excavations for shabby profit

Continue although you’ve been told

that even to burn one fifth of the fuel

in our reserves

would heat our planet past two degrees 

And burn us all if the wrong kind of fire

Not the pleasurable flames of love

But a monstrous raging inferno that kills destroys melts and dries

You’d heat up our world

And flood us

Not in love

But in  the sea’s deadly rise”

Tamaryn Payne said: “Since joining Culture Declares Emergency I want to do what I can as an actor to bring a voice to this incredible movement. The time to change is now. We cannot wait any longer, I aim to appeal to the bosses of these companies by calling on their humanity. I know it is there within them”.

In between visits to oil major’s offices the procession will stop at street corners to alert Londoners to the number of companies in the capital engaged in direct and ongoing contribution to dangerous global heating. They will use sirens, bells and shakers to sound the alarm about the climate and ecological emergency. [3]

Procession organiser and member of Extinction Rebellion Arts and Culture, composer Lola Perrin said: “Engaging with Londoners and creating a domino effect of new conversations in ordinary everyday spaces is a key part of what we aim to do with this action. I have dedicated the last four years to triggering these conversations in unexpected places. Everyone must know the truth”

Why visit these 5 fossil fuel companies?

The crime scenes will be declared at the offices of 5 leading members of The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative. This is a consortium of 13 of the world’s largest oil and gas producers designed to promote a climate-friendly image. [4]

They claim that: 

“OGCI member companies are dedicated to the ambition of the Paris Agreement to progress to net zero emissions in the second half of this century.” [5]

In reality, they seek to increase their production of numbers of barrels of oil per day with BP alone having committed £41bn to new oil exploration over the next 10 years [6]. Climate science tells us that if we are to even stay within the 2 degrees of global heating mandated by the Paris Agreement – which would in itself bring catastrophic effects [7] – 80% of accessible oil reserves must stay in the ground. Further oil exploration is clearly incompatible with keeping global warming below the 1.5 degrees limit we need to mitigate the risk of societal collapse, mass migration and hunger. [8]

According to InfluenceMap the initiative was started in 2014 as an attempt by leading energy companies to “improve their image in the face of longstanding criticism of their business practices ahead of UN COP 21 climate talks in Paris.” Analysis by the group shows a major disconnect between climate rhetoric and action among three key policy strands: carbon tax, emissions trading and greenhouse house emissions regulations. [9]

Keep Carmen, Drop BP at the Royal Opera House

At 6pm the procession will meet with members of Extinction Rebellion Lambeth at the Royal Opera House to stage a die-in as they disrupt entrance to the evening’s showing of Carmen. The performance on Tuesday 2 July is due to be screened nationwide as part of the BP-sponsored Big Screens event.

This is not the first run-in Royal Opera House have had with Extinction Rebellion Lambeth. On 13 June, over 200 members of the group disrupted the BP Big Screen showing of Romeo and Juliet exposing the truth of BP’s climate crimes and calling on the Royal Opera House to drop BP as a sponsor [10]. Today that pressure escalates with the action taking place outside the Royal Opera House itself.

Visually, the action will draw on the red blood of Bizet’s Carmen drawing a parallel with the blood and destruction caused by BP’s ongoing fossil fuel exploration. 

This action comes in a month where cultural institutions are feeling increased pressure from across the activist movement to recognise the role they play in legitimising the activities of big oil companies by lending them a platform to greenwash their image. Actions by Extinction Rebellion have put the focus on the Royal Opera House and the Natural History Museum’s relationships with big oil. On 20 June, a sit-in by XR Youth forced the Natural History Museum to move the location of the Petroleum Group Dinner they were hosting [11]. Earlier this month, BP or not BP disrupted the National Portrait Gallery Awards. With figures like Mark Rylance and Gary Hume speaking out, this conversation is finally being placed centre-stage [12].

NOTES
[1] https://www.facebook.com/events/375329893095354/

[2] https://m.facebook.com/events/717595762003127?acontext=%7B%22ref%22%3A%223%22%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D&aref=3

[3] Ekwurzel et al, “The rise in global atmospheric CO2, surface temperature, and sea level from emissions traced to major carbon producers,” Climatic Change, October 2017 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-017-1978-0

[4] The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative has 13 members: BP, Chevron, CNPC, Eni, Equinor, Occidental Petroleum, Pemex, Petrobas, Repsol, Saudi Aramco, Shell & Total.

[5] https://oilandgasclimateinitiative.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/OGCI_Report_2018.pdf

[6] https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/oil-gas-and-mining/overexposed/

[7] “The impacts of climate change at 1.5C, 2C and beyond,” Carbon Brief, 2018 https://interactive.carbonbrief.org/impacts-climate-change-one-point-five-degrees-two-degrees/

[8] Duncan Clark, “How much of the world’s fossil fuel can we burn?” Guardian, 25 March, 2015https://www.theguardian.com/environment/keep-it-in-the-ground-blog/2015/mar/25/what-numbers-tell-about-how-much-fossil-fuel-reserves-cant-burn

[9] https://www.desmog.co.uk/2015/11/02/oil-gas-industry-publicly-support-climate-action-secretly-subverting-process-new-analysis#!/trends

[10] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2019/jun/12/extinction-rebellion-protest-bp-trafalgar-square-royal-opera-house-romeo-and-juliet-in-pictures

[11] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaqcZzUFubs

[12]  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/21/royal-shakespeare-company-rsc-bp-sponsorship-climate-crisis

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