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Friends of the Earth: Shell reports record profits – Pacific Grey Whales pay the price?

Friends of the Earth today (Thursday 2 February) called for a windfall tax on the oil giant Shell which has reported record annual profits of £12.93bn [1]. The campaign group said Shell was profiting from climate change and people and the environment were paying the price.

The group also highlighted the threat posed by Shell’s activities to the last remaining population of Western Pacific Grey Whales. Shell is currently seeking funding for a further oil platform and pipeline off the Russian island of Sakhalin, disturbing the endangered species’ feeding grounds [2]. An independent international panel of experts convened by the World Conservation Union last year warned Shell that the Sakhalin II project increased the risk of extinction for the Western Pacific Grey Whale [3]. Shell agreed to alter the route of the pipeline, but has refused to relocate the platform, as recommended by the experts.

Local fishermen and members of the public took part in a protest at Shell’s activities on Sakhalin just last weekend. Friends of the Earth is calling for funding for the project – due to be decided by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development later this year – to be blocked. It says that Shell must do more to reduce the damaging environmental impacts of its activities overseas.

Shell is also accused of profiting from climate change. Although the company has invested in renewable energy in recent years, such investments represent a tiny proportion of the profits it has made. Friends of the Earth is calling on the Chancellor to introduce a windfall tax on oil company profits – with the revenue invested in renewable technologies to heat and power public buildings.Friends of the Earth’s Head of Corporate Accountability Craig Bennett said:

“Shell is profiting from the current high oil prices, but we are all paying the price. Oil companies must be forced to face up to their wider responsibilities – on climate change, on the environment and on human rights. Shell claims the costs are too great to protect the Western Pacific Grey Whale – but yet again announces record profits. This just shows the need for Government intervention to make companies do more to minimise the environmental damage they cause.”

Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to use the Company Law Reform Bill, currently going through Parliament, to introduce tougher requirements for companies to report on their environmental and social impacts [4]. It also wants the Chancellor to make use of the coming Budget to introduce a windfall tax on oil companies who are reporting record profits on the back of the rising oil price.

[2] Shell has a 55% stake in the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company which is operating the Sakhalin II oil and gas project in the Russian Far East. It has requested a loan of $300 million from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) – a public bank funded by taxpayers money. The Bank is currently consulting on the loan and is expected to announce its decision later this year.
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