BP praised for ambition to destroy Africa but potentially a bit slower
From the Wit-hole countries is African Arguments’ satirical section. It’s the news, but absurd. It’s sometimes better than the real thing, sometimes not quite real, and sometimes much more real.
In a heavily-trailed speech last week, BP’s new CEO Bernard Looney announced a new low-cost idea to improve the oil and gas major’s public image. Speaking to journalists and investors, he explained that the leading polluter would pretend to be concerned about the climate crisis by now saying it would like to become a net zero carbon emitter “by 2050 or sooner”.
The multi-millionaire boss of the world’s 7th biggest multinational apologised that no one had had time to put together a plan for the ambition just yet. Looney’s understanding, he said, was that someone would get round to it by September (or sooner), but emphasised that it would be “an ambition” and therefore void of any measurable targets, costs or actions anyway. “Today is about a vision, a direction of travel,” said Looney, who also expressed an ambition to become a more well-rounded person by 2030.
BP has a well-established record of rebranding in response to bad press. In 2000, it spent $200 million changing its name from British Petroleum to BP (“Beyond Petroleum”), since when it has emitted approximately 1 billion tons in greenhouse gases almost exclusively from oil and gas. In a more fitting part of the same exercise, it also changed its logo from its traditional emblem to a green-flecked apocalyptic fireball.
Last week’s initiative seems to have been similarly effective. Soon after BP’s announcement, influential organisations led by older and richer people who won’t be affected by climate breakdown welcomed the PR move.
Green investor and shareholder pressure groups that worked with BP to come up with the rebrand also applauded the rebrand they’d worked with BP to come up with. These organisations appear to have played a small but crucial role in crafting the oil major’s announcement. According to leaked documents seen exclusively by From The Wit-Hole Countries, BP’s original draft spoke of the company’s ambition to become net zero “by 2050 or whatever”. Following consultation, this was changed to “2050 or sooner”.
By contrast, virtually all other environmental groups and experts have condemned BP’s announcement, calling it “spin”, “cynical” and “simply not credible”. Global Witness, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Greenpeace, WWF, 350.org and many others have all pointed to the complete lack of detail in the vague “ambition” and cited the scientists’ warnings that no credible plan to tackle the climate crisis can possibly involve new fossil fuels exploration. Like with BP’s sponsorship of arts and culture, many of these groups see BP’s announcement as a transparent attempt at greenwashing.
According to at least one BP executive, however, these criticisms – along with those of scientists, African civil society and young people globally – are missing the point. Speaking on the condition of anonymity from an animal sanctuary in West Africa, the senior manager told From The Wit-Hole Countries:
“Look, BP is already synonymous with causing environmental devastation like in South Africa, cosying up to authoritarian regimes like in Angola and Algeria, and grand corruption like in Senegal. And everyone knows we’re destroying the planet, starting with Africa and its people,” he said as we walked around the insectarium.
“No one with any power cares, of course, but at least this PR exercise gives them a new way to pretend. A way to say things like: ‘Hey sure BP’s a massive polluter, but they are one of the less bad ones,” he added before picking up an Atewa dotted border butterfly, one of West Africa’s less cute endangered species, and ripping off its head in one of the less brutal ways to kill a living creature.
…and just to reiterate again, this is satire. Read more of From The Wit-Hole Countries here.