Have climate activists sent the COP28 president ‘running scared’ from this London oil conference?
Hundreds of climate activists are set to disrupt a major annual meeting of oil industry leaders in London this coming week.
The Energy Intelligence Forum will see the heads of the world’s oil and gas giants – including Shell, Total and Equinor – assemble from 17-19 October, alongside financiers and UK ministers.
Until 2019, the event was more transparently called the Oil & Money conference. Climate campaigners say it remains “the Oscars of oil”, and will be protesting the industry’s “business as usual” approach outside the InterContinental London Park Lane hotel venue.
“It’s time these companies stopped acting with impunity,” says Robin Wells, director of Fossil Free London which is organising the ‘Oily Money Out’ campaign.
“The main purpose of protesting this forum is to make it clear that the industry is not welcome to come to our city, is not welcome to schmooze our politicians, is not welcome to profit at the expense of the collective survival and the health of the one home that we all share,” they add.
The conference has attracted the attention of climate campaigners before. But under the guidance of a group which has promised to make the city inhospitable for the fossil fuel industry, 2023’s event is looking particularly stormy.
With climate groups joining from across Europe and days of workshops in the lead up, Wells says that “Oily Money Out is the next big moment for the climate movement” before COP28.
What is the Energy Intelligence Forum?
Since 1980 the Oil & Money conference, as it was originally known, has brought together leaders in the world of oil, gas, politics and finance to network and discuss challenges facing the energy sector. It is hosted by Energy Intelligence, a provider of energy news, data and analysis.
Under pressure in 2019 – following the withdrawal of long-term sponsor the New York Times which said the event’s subject matter “gives us cause for concern” – the summit was rebranded.
“The energy industry is changing, and as our conference program has evolved in recent years to address the challenges of climate change and the energy transition, we felt that our conference needed a new identity and a new mandate,” Energy Intelligence said at the time.
This year’s event promises “a frank conversation around the central question: How does a divided world power the planet in a way that is reliable, affordable and clean?”
Speakers include the chiefs of a number of fossil fuel giants, including: Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Italian oil giant Eni, Amin Nasser, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, one of the world’s biggest polluters, and Anders Opedal, President and CEO of Equinor, which is behind the controversial Rosebank oil field development in the UK.
The UK’s Minister of State for Energy Security and & Net Zero, Graham Stuart, will be speaking too, as will the country’s former Minister of Energy & Climate Change Charles Hendry.
Until recently, COP28 President and CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) Sultan Al Jaber was also featured on the speakers list. But he now appears to have been dropped from the line-up.
Has the COP28 chair pulled out of the London conference?
Climate activists are claiming victory for the apparent withdrawal of Al Jaber from the conference, an aspect of the Energy Intelligence Forum they were particularly concerned by.
“It is beyond satire that an oil CEO has been made head of the global climate summit – the main opportunity for countries to get together and do something about climate, an opportunity that they squander every year, due to the influence of the fossil fuel industry,” says Wells.
“However we’ve had some great news in the fact that Al Jaber seems to be running scared from our protest,” adds Wells. “Apparently he can’t face this sort of accountability, just before his outing on the COP28 stage.”
Euronews Green has reached out to the Energy Intelligence Forum organisers to confirm whether Al Jaber is indeed no longer speaking, and why.
How are activists protesting the Energy Intelligence Forum?
Under the Oily Money Out banner, climate activists have planned three days of disruptive protests around the conference.
Big-name activists are set to join the first demonstration on Tuesday 17 October morning outside the luxury InterContinental hotel.
Wednesday 18 will see another all-day protest against Rosebank oil extraction, timed to disrupt Equinor CEO Opedal, with music and speeches from high-profile activists.
And on Thursday 19 protesters will take to the streets from Marble Arch to Wellington Arch as part of a public ‘Festival of Resistance’, calling for an end to new oil and gas.
Organisers say they expect at least a few hundred people to attend, with dozens of climate groups from across Europe travelling to London; such as StopEacop from Paris, Fridays for Future Sweden and XR Brussels.
Other disruptions are being kept secret for now, Fossil Free London indicates. The organisers have also planned an extensive programme of training and workshops in the three days leading up to the event, from 14 to 16 October.
Activities include protest song learning, talks from Fuel Poverty Action, BP or Not BP, Stay Grounded and Climate in Colour, and even a birdwatching walk with Feminist Bird Club.
Who are Fossil Free London?
Fossil Free London “disrupts the oil industry where it gathers in our city, and this is a major moment for that to happen,” says Wells.
In attempting to make London inhospitable to the fossil fuel industry, the group has undertaken a range of direct actions, stunts and protests in recent months and years.
As part of its ‘Shut Down Shell’ campaign, activists disrupted the company’s AGM in May, attempting to storm the stage in front of shareholders. In June, members picketed the Shell’s HQ every weekday morning.
Oily Money Out is all about holding the oil industry accountable, says Wells.
“The Oil & Money conference is the Oscars of oil – there’s even an awards ceremony every year which has previously been won by the CEO of Shell, Ben van Beurden [Energy Executive of the Year, 2019].”
“We need to get their oily money out, and that starts with taking to the streets and making it very clear to them and to the wider population that they’re not welcome and business as usual has to change.”
In response to a request for comment, Energy Intelligence said that: “We involve all sides in this debate, as we believe that inclusive dialogue is the only way to solve the challenging questions involved in reinventing the world’s energy system.
“We are dedicated to bringing together stakeholders in the energy system – governments, companies, finance, civil society, and academia – to discuss the best way forward for the world.
“We are aware of the plans to protest, and the need for an inclusive dialogue is precisely why we host this event. The safety of everyone involved in the Forum is always our highest priority.”