Guest blog: Yes to active environmental ownership!

By Martin Norman

Translated from Norwegian to English by Ragnhild Freng Dale

Each year in May, Statoil’s owners gather in Stavanger for their Annual General Meeting. Here, they vote on pay rise and stock investments, elect new members on the corporate executive committee, and bring up other matters the board is obliged to present at the AGM. This year, the agenda includes two climate-related matters: tar sands extraction in Canada and drilling in the Arctic.

These two important environmental motions are to be discussed and voted on at the AGM this year. Both have been put forward by the environmental movement in Norway, who own shares in the company precisely for this reason.
The two motions are as follows:
1. “Petroleum extraction in icy waters is not allowed in Norway, due to inadequate technology and lack of capacity to clean up an oil spill in this environment. Therefore, Statoil should not operate in icy waters in other parts of the Arctic.” Read the full motion about the Arctic here (Norwegian only).
2. “Statoil’s continued extraction of tar sands is not in the long-term interest of shareholders.
At least 2/3 of the worlds known reserves of fossil fuels must remain in the ground to retain a 50% possibility of achieving the global target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. High levels of greenhouse gas emissions, an unstable world economy, local environmental risks and breaches of the constitutional rights of indigenous people make tar sands extraction unacceptable as a long-term strategy. Statoil must pull out of tar sands in Canada.” Read the full motion about tar sands here (Norwegian only).
Since 2008, Statoils involvement in the Canadian tar sands has been discussed at the AGM every year. The motion “Statoil must pull out of the tar sands in Canada” has been a separate motion put forward by Greenpeace and WWF each year since 2009. Though far from the only problematic involvement Statoil is engaged in, it is clear that the tar sands is by far the most controversial.
With each passing year, the importance of this motion increases. The clock is ticking if we are to win the fight for a sustainable environment: the conservative estimate from the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) shows that 2/3 of the known reserves of fossil fuels have to remain in the ground if we are to have any hope of reaching the global target of capping global warming at 2 degrees. Extracting energy through energy-intensive and unconventional sources of oil like the tar sands, and opening for drilling in the risky and controversial waters of the Arctic, is therefore completely wrong.  
Many people and organisations are active in opposing the tar sands. The Church of Norway has criticized the involvement. Opplysningsvesenets fond (Ovf), the Church of Sweden, and the British Church Fund Ecclesiastical have sold their shares in Statoil due to the company’s  activities in the tar sands. Professional investors like Storebrand and the Swedish Folksam have supported the motion calling for Statoil to pull out of the tar sands. Forfatterforeningen, Norway’s union for writers and novelists, also heavily criticizes the tar sands venture. Most youth branches of Norway’s political parties do the same, and many politicians in parliament have added their voice in support – not to mention the environmental organisations. The many critical voices come from all levels of society, and they all agree on one thing: Statoil does not have any business in the Canadian tar sands.
But what about the Statoil’s biggest owner, the Norwegian state? They choose the cowardly option: silence.
The Norwegian state owns 67% of the shares in Statoil, and can choose to steer the direction of Statoil’s future policies. Instead, they have chosen to remain embarrassingly passive.
If you agree that this is unacceptable, you can do something about it!
If you own shares in Statoil, you can vote for the environmental motions at the AGM. If you know someone who owns shares in Statoil, you can ask them to vote. You can also give us a mandate to vote on your behalf, by following this link.
Finally, you can ask those who represent you on a governmental level to take the state’s ownership of Statoil seriously in the election later this year.  
We hope you will join us in taking action for the environment!

PS: The artist Tommy Tokyo has written passionately about the tar sands, and the song “Alberta” is available here, accompanied by pictures we have taken from the tar sands extraction sites:

All links provided are in Norwegian.

Martin Norman is an energy and climate advisor for Greenpeace Norway.

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