by Daphne Liddle
HUNDREDS of climate change protesters, including indigenous people from Alberta in Canada, last week targeted the London headquarters of oil giant BP and the Royal Bank of Scotland over the excavation of thousands of acres of tar sands in order to extract usable oil.
The protest was just one of a week-long series of well publicised actions on environmental issues initiated from the climate camp on Blackheath in south London.
These included the occupation of the lobby and main entrance of the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Four protesters walked into the reception, two in suits and two wearing goggles and flippers, and wedged a kayak in the main entrance.
They occupied the lobby in a peaceful sit-down while their comrades unfurled a banner that said “Climate Emergency: Sink or Swim” and proceeded to hand out goggles to passers-by.
One activist said: “We want no more false solutions to climate change and an end to carbon trading, the DECC’s current policies do not go far enough.”
On Tuesday activists occupied the head office of the RBS - currently owned by taxpayers.
Dressed as construction workers, they used stepladders, locks and superglue to form a blockade at the RBS building in the City of London, unfurling banners which read “RBS: under new ownership” and “Ethical renovation in progress”.
And they carried banners protesting at RBS investing in BP’s extraction of oil from Albertan tar sands. “Tar sands oil is blood oil,” said one banner; “Tar sands oil = dirtiest oil on Earth” said another.
They also took this protest to the BP headquarters in St James Square. Here Clayton Thomas-Muller from Alberta opened proceedings with a traditional Sun-dance ceremony and song.
He called on his 200-strong audience of protesters and passers by: “When I say ‘BP’, you say ‘criminal’,” and they duly obliged.
His comrade, George Poitras of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, added: “We have buried over 100 people since 2000 - our community is in a state of constant mourning.”
Their campaign concerns the digging of bitumen from an area they compare to the size of England, in Alberta, Canada.
It is big business in the region, with output expected to triple by 2020 with oil firms turning to it as stocks decline elsewhere.
In 2007, BP entered a joint venture with Canada’s Husky Energy aimed at producing 60,000 barrels a day from 2014, rising to 200,000 barrels over time.
The Canadian Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign says the process produces three to five times the volume of carbon dioxide per barrel as conventional oil production.
Separating the tar from sand uses the same volume of natural gas per day as heating 3.2m Canadian homes for a year, the group says, and that is before it is converted to oil.
Some forms of extraction also create huge tailings ponds - stores for toxic waste made up of water, clay, sand, residual bitumen and heavy metals.
George Poitras claims leaks from these ponds - along with legal effluent release - have a serious environmental impact.
“We’re about 250km downstream from tar sands activities, on Lake Athabasca,” he said.
“Our traditional hunters and trappers have noticed that water levels have receded and fish are diseased and have blisters or mutations. The taste of animals is different and their flesh is discoloured.”
Poitras says his people are increasingly afflicted with cancers. “In a community of 1,200 people, we have buried over 100 since 2000. This is not exaggeration. Our community is in a state of constant mourning.”
Last Tuesday BP announced a “giant” new oil discovery in its fields in the Gulf of Mexico. BP is the largest producer of oil and gas in that area, with net production equivalent to more than 400,000 barrels of oil a day.
Meanwhile the climate camp broke up on Wednesday and participants went away with plans for a mass invasion of the E.on power station at Ratcliffe in Nottinghamshire.
Campaigners are hoping to force the station to close down for a couple of days on 17th and 18th October.
“We are doing this because it’s time to imagine a world without coal,” said Charlotte Johnson, protest organiser.