Another day, another sunrise, and yet another announcement from a fossil fuel giant reporting record-breaking profits. Just yesterday, Equinor, Norway’s state-owned oil company, announced profits of £62 billion for the year 2022, which is more than double its previous high.
These profits come hot on the heels of BP, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies based in the UK, which earlier this week reported its 2022 annual profits. The company saw a remarkable increase in profits, more than doubling from £9.45 billion in 2021 to over £23 billion last year, the highest in its 114-year history. Last week, Shell, another global energy multinational, announced its highest profits in 115 years, amounting to £32.2 billion.
Since the start of the devastating war in Ukraine led by Vladimir Putin almost a year ago, fossil fuel giants have been the clear “winners.” With surging oil and gas prices over the past few years, companies like BP, Shell, and Equinor have seen a boom like never before.
These companies’ CEOs have publicly acknowledged their recent success. BP’s CEO, Bernard Looney, famously said in 2021 that the company was like a “cash machine” since recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, with the company’s finance boss, Murray Auchincloss, adding that they had “more money than they knew what to do with.”
However, as the fossil fuel giants continue to drill, the public continues to pay for the consequences. We pay for the climate emergency, which is causing record-high temperatures, floods, and droughts. We pay for the cost-of-living scandal that is pushing millions into fuel poverty. And we pay for the health crisis that is putting immense strain on the NHS.
It’s not hard to see the connection. Fossil fuel companies keep pumping carbon emissions into the atmosphere, exacerbating the climate emergency and handing out billions to shareholders while our energy bills remain high. These companies are poisoning our air and severely impacting our health, putting even more strain on our healthcare system. It’s time to call them out for what they truly are: climate criminals.
Some of these companies have known about their damaging effects on the climate for as long as 50 years, yet they continue to pollute our planet and escape with record-breaking profits. Despite the slick advertising that suggests otherwise, Shell spent barely half of its £1.6 billion marketing budget on its Renewables and Energy Solutions division. BP has even announced that it is scaling back plans to reduce its oil and gas emissions, reducing its target from 35-40% to 20-30%.
The government is also complicit in these crimes. The Tories have locked the country into new climate-damaging fossil fuels, from dirty oil and gas fields in the North Sea to dangerous coal mines, which will lead to even more climate destruction. Instead of properly taxing these greedy fossil fuel giants, the government has chosen to give them tax relief worth £10.6 billion and subsidize them to the tune of approximately £12 billion each year, on average. They’ve also chosen to give them £1 billion in free pollution permits instead of charging them for the damage they’re causing to the climate.
The recently announced Department for Energy Security and Net Zero by Rishi Sunak is a step in the right direction, but we won’t reach net zero if ministers continue to make disastrous political choices. It’s time for fossil fuel giants to be kicked out of our finance industry, with measures in place to force banks to drop fossil fuel investments within 12 months. They must be banned from advertising and removed from politics, with no more climate change skeptics like former Australian PM Tony Abbott becoming government advisors.