“Your days of profiting off our lives are numbered” – climate activist Mikaela Loach at Shell’s AGM

“Your days of profiting off our lives are numbered” – climate activist Mikaela Loach at Shell’s AGM

Written by NADJA editors

Photo Jethro Carullo / creative license

Climate activist Mikaela Loach was removed from Shell’s annual general meeting (AGM) this week after giving an impassioned speech where she criticised the oil giant’s activities in the Niger Delta. 

Addressing the CEO Wael Sawan, chairman Sir Andrew Mackenzie, company secretary Caroline Omloo and shareholders at the InterContinental hotel at London’s O2 venue, Loach was scathing of Shell’s production of fossil fuels in the region. “On account of your fossil fuel production in the Niger Delta in Nigeria, the life expectancy there is currently only between 41 and 46 years of age. That’s younger than most of the people in this room today,” she said. “How can you be comfortable profiting from limiting the lives of millions of people? The money that lines your pockets and allows you to comfortably grow old prevents that same dignity for people in the Niger Delta.” 

Jamaican-born Loach is a 26-year-old former medical student and the author of ‘It’s Not That Radical: Climate Action to Transform Our World’. In 2021 she was one of three claimants who took the UK government to court over the huge public payments it gives to fossil fuel companies each year.

She continued, “In the 70 years where you made stupendous profits for your shareholders, you transformed the Niger Delta into the most polluted place on earth, and its people among the poorest and most poisoned. In that period, your company has been complicit in flaring gas nonstop at 178 flare points all over the Niger Delta, emitting millions of tonnes of CO2 yearly and poisoning over 40 million people with cancer and other respiratory illnesses.”

Loach went on to cite scientific studies, including one by the United Nations Environment Programme, that found that methane, carbon dioxide and other chemicals from flare gas lead to cancer, respiratory diseases, birth defects and other major health risks. 

Before the meeting, protestors gathered outside the hotel holding signs reading: “Shell profits kill” and “Your greed is killing humanity”. A group of them interrupted Mackenzie as he began his opening remarks, standing up to perform a rendition of Jolene by Dolly Parton, replacing the title lyric with “Shell kills”. 

This is not the first time Shell’s board of directors has come face-to-face with climate protesters. At last year’s AGM, former consultant for Shell Caroline Dennett quoted the findings from her own survey of Shell employees, which documented a catalogue of safety risks and failures to prevent oil and gas leaks. 

Loach became emotional as she shared details of the deaths of several people which she attributed to a contaminated water source. “Our friend’s only water source, a hand dug well, has produced nothing but crude oil for three years. In one year alone, our friend unexpectedly lost his sister, his father and his baby niece. 

“Up until now, Shell has refused to accept that its ruptured pipe is the source of the pollution that has contaminated the drinking water of the entire community.”

Mackenzie then interrupted Loach by asking whether she had a question, to which she responded, “Who will fix the health of millions of people you have poisoned?” 

Loach also made reference to the legal action against Shell brought by the Bille and Ogale communities in Nigeria, which began in 2015. In March this year, the UK’s high court ordered Shell Plc and its Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) to disclose documents the court says could relate to the company’s liability for oil spills between 2011 to 2013 that devastated the communities’ land. “It’s convenient that this case coincides with the selling of your onshore oil assets to shadow consortiums that were conveniently only set up recently,” Loach said. “Now that the case can be heard in the UK courts, we know that you’re rushing to sell off your assets to avoid accountability.” 

At last year’s AGM, Sawan explained Shell’s intention to withdraw from onshore oil operations in the Niger Delta, saying that the risk-reward to operate here “is no longer tolerable when it comes to onshore oil.” 

As Loach was led out of the venue by security staff, she said, “I just want you to know that your days of profiting off our lives are numbered. We will end your profits, we will end your company. You do not deserve to continue profiting from us.” 


Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

One thought on ““Your days of profiting off our lives are numbered” – climate activist Mikaela Loach at Shell’s AGM

Tell us what you think

Discover more from NADJA

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading