BP Accused of 'Side-Stepping' Russian Sanctions
By Andy Rowell
A new expose published Monday reveals how BP, working closely with the British government, has been "side-stepping" sanctions introduced after the Russian annexation of Crimea.
The expose is based on documents, obtained under British Freedom of Information laws, which have been obtained by the campaign organization, Culture Unstained, part of the ArtNotOil Coalition, which campaigns to kick fossil fuel money out of the arts. The campaign group is particularly critical of BP's ongoing sponsorship of the British Museum in the UK.
The documents reveal what Culture Unstained calls the "close working relationship between UK government and BP over Russia" despite the fact that the material "suggests that BP is attempting to bypass sanctions preventing shale drilling in Russia."
The British Government's hypocrisy is evident in the fact that despite taking a strong public line on Russia, the UK government has been helping BP water down U.S. sanctions and hosting events to boost UK ties with Russian oil and gas sector.
Over a period of several months, the documents outline how BP had numerous meetings with British government ministers and embassy staff, with British Ministers repeatedly offering support for BP's business in Russia.
For example, in February 2017, the British Embassy in Russia hosted a Seminar on Vocation and Professional Education in the Oil and Gas Sector. It was designed to strengthen collaboration on "UK and Russia education companies, schools and universities in one of the key industries—oil and gas." The president of BP Russia, David Campbell, gave the opening remarks at the event.
Two months later, the Department for International Trade hosted a workshop on "How to break into the Russian Oil & Gas Sector." It highlighted that "maintaining oil & gas production requires large scale use of new technologies, which largely are not restricted by sanctions, and offered 'presentations by legal advisors about sanctions.'"
Meanwhile, in June 2017, when new U.S. Sanctions on Russia were being proposed, BP and other oil companies started mobilizing against the U.S. bill. Within days, the British Embassy in Russia emailed BP to discuss "what this could mean for UK interests." Of particular concern was BP's 19.75 percent stake in Russian state oil company, Rosneft.
That same month, in a meeting with the British trade minister, Greg Hands, in June 2017, the documents suggest BP appears to have been attempting to work around sanctions to gain approval for an unconventional shale oil project.
BP was waiting for a license that "In the company's view … turns on the definition of shale." EU sanctions had aimed to prevent European companies helping Russian companies extract unconventional oil, by ruling out oil "located in shale formations by way of hydraulic fracturing."
Within months, according to Culture Unstained, BP's lobbying effort against U.S. sanctions "seems to have been successful."
On Aug. 2, BP CEO Bob Dudley told market analysts that the original draft of the sanctions bill had been full of "'very significant unintended consequences' but now the company was not "aware of any material adverse effect on our current income and investment in Russia or elsewhere, or our ability to work with Rosneft itself".
Chris Garrard, Co-director of Culture Unstained, argues that, "BP is turning massive profits in Russia by partnering with Rosneft, a company responsible for record numbers of oil spills, turning a blind eye to corruption and cozying up to Putin's notorious 'right-hand man.' But instead of holding BP to account, the UK government seems willing to help the company sidestep sanctions while the British Museum launders its brand."
Meanwhile yesterday afternoon, activists from the group, BP or not BP? dropped an eleven-metre floor-to-balcony banner refelcting the 2,727 oil spills caused by BP's Russian partner, Rosneft, in a single region in just one year in the British Museum.
Performers then showered thousands of paper "oil drops" from balcony in the iconic Great Court to protest against the final day of the BP-sponsored Scythians exhibition, held in partnership with the Russian State Hermitage Museum.
"BP is deeply embedded in this Russian oil giant, which is well-known as one of the most corrupt and polluting in the world," said Helen Glynn, who took part in the performance. "So why has the British Museum allowed BP to sponsor an exhibition of artefacts from the very regions and cultures that the company is putting at risk?"
"This week, the New York Mayor announced that the city is suing BP and four other oil companies for the climate change damage they have caused," she said. "The British Museum faces huge repetitional risks by continuing to promote and defend a company so toxic that one of the world's richest cities has now turned against it."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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