In "Epic Fight for Justice," Activists Descend on Chevron Meeting
Like ExxonMobil, Chevron rejected a host of resolutions aimed at addressing its role in climate change
- May 25, 2016
- Deirdre Fulton
- Common Dreams
Update, 4:30pm EDT:
Chevron CEO John Watson became "visibly flustered" at his company's annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday, after being confronted by an Indigenous leader whose community has been gravely affected by the oil company's pollution in the Amazon.
According to Amazon Watch's report from inside the meeting, Secoya Indigenous activist Humberto Piaguaje addressed the CEO directly, saying: "Mr. Watson, stop your racism against us. We are neither manipulated nor will we ever be manipulated by lawyers or anyone else, as you continually repeat. We are intelligent enough to think and act for ourselves and to seek justice."
Watson responded: "We are sorry that the Indigenous people of Ecuador have been manipulated by lawyers and by their own government."
After further probing about Amazon contamination, according to the Amazon Watch account, "Watson become visibly flustered and frustrated, shutting off the microphone and disallowing further questions on the Ecuador issue."
"I've been trying to answer questions on Ecuador for seven years," he said, "and I am not going to take any more questions."
As ExxonMobil did on Wednesday, Chevron rejected several resolutions backed by environmentalists that would have pushed the fossil fuel giant to take stronger stands in favor of limiting climate change.
Indeed, notes Amazon Watch, "Despite the clear climate science about the dangers of methane emissions, Watson said that the company would address climate issues primarily via the 'miracle of hydraulic fracturing.' Watson claimed Chevron 'does not disagree' with the Paris Climate Accord but accepts none of the policies intended to implement it."
Amazon Watch associate director Paul Paz y Miño placed the blame squarely at the CEO's feet.
"It's astonishing that John Watson still has a job," Paz y Miño said. "Under his leadership, or lack thereof, Chevron's liabilities have snowballed, its brand has taken a beating, and any lingering idea that Chevron had any dedication to environmental or social responsibility has been eviscerated. Poisoning local communities where you operate, belittling them afterwards, and in some cases suing them, is no way to conduct business."
As Chevron CEO John Watson doubles down on pro-fossil fuel rhetoric—going so far as to say climate change could help business—Indigenous and environmental activists are protesting the oil behemoth's polluting practices and "reckless pursuit of profits" at its annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday.
Like ExxonMobil, Chevron faces a shareholder resolution calling on the company to publish an annual assessment of how climate policies may affect its business in light of the globally agreed target to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
As the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, "Exxon is opposed to the proposal, and so is Mr. Watson: He questions its entire premise, arguing that climate change might even prove positive for Chevron, if it spurs more of the planet to shift from coal to natural gas."
Another shareholder proposal would require Chevron to adopt company-wide targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its products and operations—and report on its plans to achieve those targets.
And as the Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out in a blog post Tuesday, "Both Chevron and ExxonMobil shareholders put forth proposals calling for full disclosure of their direct and indirect lobbying. As part of the rationale for improved disclosure, the resolutions highlight the companies' lack of transparency regarding their memberships in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the American Petroleum Institute (API), and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA)."
Chevron was also held to account over its environmental and human rights abuses in the Amazon rainforest, as Secoya Indigenous leader Humberto Piaguaje, of Ecuador, entered the California meeting to confront Watson and Chevron's board.
"Our people are sick and dying, our territories are still contaminated," Piaguaje said, referring to decades of oil pollution that Chevron has refused to clean up. "There is no excuse why CEO John Watson won't do what the courts and basic morality oblige him to—give us the clean up and clean water we deserve."
According to an account on Twitter, Watson was dismissive—to say the least—of Piaguaje's concerns.
— Stephanie Tidwell (@TidwellSteph) May 25, 2016
Added Paul Paz y Miño, associate director at Amazon Watch: "Chevron has tried virtually every trick in the book to try to make its Ecuador disaster 'go away.' It has failed. This is an epic fight for justice and Chevron management is living in denial if it thinks we will ever go away until justice is served."
To that end, Seattle-based Newground Social Investment filed a shareholder resolution this year that sharply rebukes Watson for his mishandling of the Ecuador litigation.
According to Amazon Watch, "the Newground resolution calls for Chevron to make it easier to hold special meetings given that Watson's management team 'has mishandled a number of issues in ways that significantly increase both risks and costs to shareholders. The most pressing of these issues is the ongoing legal effort by communities in Ecuador to enforce a $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgment for oil pollution.'"
In the days leading up to the shareholders meeting, solidarity protests were held across Europe in Paris, Berlin, Munich, Rome, Brussels, Amsterdam, Oslo, Barcelona, and Madrid on what has become an international day of protest against Chevron.
"Chevron faces a truly global coalition of justice and environmental activists simply because its crimes are so massive and its efforts to evade justice are a serious threat to the very idea of justice and open society," Paz y Miño said Tuesday. "John Watson and Chevron leadership actually believe that might makes right and they falsely assume that corporate power trumps the power of the people. They have grossly underestimated their adversaries and they have deliberately misled their shareholders in the process."