Open letter to Wael Sawan, CEO of Shell plc


We are writing to express our alarm at your decision to launch a multimillion dollar lawsuit against Greenpeace for peacefully protesting on a Shell oil drilling platform in early 2023. The suit is one of the biggest attacks on Greenpeace’s right to protest in the organisation’s 53 year history.

The protest in question was an exercise of the right to free expression and assembly, which is protected by both domestic and international law. The Greenpeace activists were demanding that Shell stop drilling for new oil and gas and use its vast resources to support communities least able to respond to the impacts of climate change. These are entirely legitimate demands and your transparent attempt to intimidate them is outrageous and frankly dangerous.

It is particularly unsettling that one of the defendants in your suit, Yeb Sano, was spurred to take action by the destruction of his hometown, Tacloban in the Philippines, by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Given abundant evidence suggesting that fossil fuel-driven climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of storms, the decision to sue Mr Sano for his protest can only be viewed as an attempt to silence his legitimate demands for climate justice.

Despite abundant advertising proclaiming Shell’s alleged green credentials, since beginning your tenure as Chief Executive you have slashed investment and jobs from your renewables division, abandoned plans to cut production and pledged to continue exploring for new oil and gas – while climate chaos rages around the world.

The world’s leading experts, including the International Energy Agency, are clear: exploration for  and extraction of new fossil fuels must end immediately if we are to meet globally agreed  climate goals and to avoid the very worst impacts of the climate crisis. Your decision to pivot in the name of profit back towards increasing oil and gas production will not only tie households to expensive energy bills for longer, but endanger the future of everyone on earth – with those who have done the least to contribute to the crisis hit first and worst.

You may believe that this lawsuit will dissuade all those justifiably alarmed by the impact your industry is having on the planet and the people who live on it from expressing their dissent through protest. On the contrary, it makes your company look callous and vindictive and will serve only to increase support for organisations like Greenpeace who seek to hold you to account.

In light of the above, we call on you to respect people’s right to protest against climate change; cease the development of new oil and gas; and use your immense wealth to help those countries and communities most impacted by the climate crisis that you have played no small part in creating.

Kind regards,

  1. Aisling Bea, comedian and actress
  2. Ali Rocha, founder, Brazil Matters
  3. Alison Goldfrapp, musician and producer
  4. Dr Amir Khan- NHS Doctor and Author
  5. Bella Ramsey, actress
  6. Benedict Cumberbatch, actor
  7. Bill McKibben, Founder of and Third Act
  8. Chris Packham, TV presenter and conservationist
  9. Elisabeth Bast, Executive Director, Oil Change International
  10. Emma Thompson, actress and screenwriter
  11. Extinction Rebellion
  12. Florence Garabedian, Interim CEO, Friends of the Earth Scotland
  13. George Monbiot, author, journalist and environmental activist
  14. Greta Thunberg, climate justice activist
  15. Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, chef and TV personality
  16. Hugo Tagholm, Executive Director and Vice President of Oceana
  17. Imelda Staunton, actress
  18. Jim Carter, actor
  19. Johan Frijns, Executive Director, Banktrack
  20. Louise Hazan, Co-Director of Tipping Point UK
  21. Mikaela Loach, climate justice organiser and author of “It’s Not That Radical”
  22. Mike Davis, CEO of Global Witness
  23. Miriam Turner and Hugh Knowles, co Executive Directors of Friends of the Earth
  24. Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now
  25. Ocean Rebellion
  26. Paapa Essiedu, actor
  27. Paloma Faith, singer-songwriter and actress
  28. Sacha Deshmukh, Chief Executive of Amnesty International UK
  29. Simon Pegg, actor and comedian
  30. Sophie Hunter, theatre director and playwright
  31. Stephen Fry, actor and broadcaster
  32. Tessa Khan, Executive Director and Founder of Uplift
  33. Will Poulter, actor
  34. David Lindo, broadcaster, writer and naturalist
  35. Cel Spellman, actor and presenter
  36. Dr Mya-Rose Craig, Founder and President of Black2Nature
  37. Seán Burke, comedian

This letter has also been signed by over 110,000 members of the public.

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