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City Council’s relationship with BP Oil Company comes under spotlight

BP's partnership with Aberdeen City Council for a "climate positive city" has not gone without criticism

By: Elena-Sofia Cesario

"Oil Rig Supply Ship arriving in Aberdeen Harbour."by Rab . is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Aberdeen, the Oil and Gas Capital of Europe, has strengthened its ties with the BP Oil Company by recently agreeing to a partnership for a “Net Zero Vision”.

BP, formerly known as British Petroleum, is one of the largest players in the Oil and Gas industry, with a revenue of 280 billion U.S. dollars in 2019.

The project’s main goal is to reduce carbon emissions in the city and cooperate to develop green energy solutions. In recent years, BP has made major investments in Aberdeen, including £1m funding for the Aberdeen Art Gallery’s renovation in 2019.

“Their business is in oil, not in renewable energy, therefore this is not a real commitment to zero emissions." - ASCN

However, there has also been scepticism regarding the agreement. Environmental group, Greenpeace, has argued that BP’s Net Zero Vision plan will not have the outcome expected in the long run. Concerns have also been raised by the Scottish Greens environment spokesperson, Mark Ruskell MSP, who said: “It’s concerning that a corporation that has made such a massive contribution to causing the climate emergency should be put in charge of tackling it.”

Others, including Friends of the Earth Scotland, have accused the corporation of the so-called practice of “greenwashing”.

The Aberdeen Student Climate Network (ASCN) also accused BP of “greenwashing”, while adding: “Their business is in oil, not in renewable energy, therefore this is not a real commitment to zero emissions. If BP is to be put in charge of this project, we need more than a mere commitment, we need a full reinvestment into renewable energy on their part.”

ASCN organised Climate strike in Aberdeen - Photograph: Anttoni James Numminen

The project is part of BP’s bigger agenda since Aberdeen comes as the second city in the World, just after Houston, to have signed the same agreement.

The official reason behind this partnership is that ‘Net Zero Vision’ supports Aberdeen’s energy transition infrastructure plan and it will give the city a leading role in the UK for ‘developing and deploying renewable technologies to tackle climate change and global warming, a fundamental step forward for the city’, according to BP.

Photograph courtesy of Fossil Free Aberdeen

A spokesperson for Fossil Free Aberdeen, Bruce Donald, told the Gaudie that while he welcomed the initiatives brought forward by ACC and BP, more action was required from ‘big oil’ before they could be taken seriously.

“BP has so far only invested a minimal sum in green energy (BP to invest $5 billion in renewables by 2030. BP Current Net Worth: $100 billion; NS energy, 2019). So, in order to really contribute to net-zero; they must reinvest, quickly, into this area. Not just in civic projects to boost their public profile. The projects the city is embarking on are crucial for tackling climate change but will not be enough on their own if we do not overhaul our fuel and energy supply away from fossil fuels.”

Donald also called on the University to divest from fossil fuels within a decade, saying: “The Universities are at the forefront of knowledge and research, and as such should be among the first institutions to fully divest. They must be a voice for change and continue these positive steps being taken by BP and the City Council.”

Jenny Laing Aberdeen City Council co-leader stated that the local authority is "delighted" to have stipulated this partnership on “the next phase, of Aberdeen’s drive to support local, national and international climate change targets” and furthermore, that "The council and BP have the same goals in reducing our carbon footprint and working with BP provides a major opportunity for Aberdeen to progress our plans".

In 2018 when the Oil and Gas Authority gave the corporation permission to drill in the North Sea Vorlich field, Greenpeace activists protested for 12 days on an oil rig, resulting in a fine of £80,000 for breaching a court interdict.