Drilling in the Arctic – is our public money oiling the cogs?
Date: 26 August 2010
WDM condemns the link between public money and Cairn’s Arctic drilling. RBS underwrote loan to oil company one month before it acquired rig for arctic drilling.
A coalition of environmental and social justice organisations in the UK are condemning the use of public money through the 83% publicly-owned RBS to provide finance for Cairn energy that may have enabled them to start controversial offshore drilling in Arctic Greenland.
See coverage on Cairn’s Greenland drilling here – Quest for oil reaches Earth’s final frontier – Herald
The revelation was made during the weekend that Camp for Climate Action was taking place at the Edinburgh headquarters of RBS  and a few days before the Greenpeace boat, the Esperanza, was challenged by a Danish warship near the Cairn rig. 
Edinburgh-based oil company Cairn Energy have started drilling in the Davis Straits off the coast of Greenland, nicknamed ‘Iceberg Alley and close to where the recent Petermann glacier broke away. According to research that was revealed in the Sunday Herald,  RBS loaned $100 million to Cairn Energy on 11 December 2009, and then on 21 December 2009 it announced it was able to move forward its plans to drill in Greenland by one year.
Offshore drilling has become increasingly controversial in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, and questions are being raised over whether or not Cairn as a relatively small company with little previous experience of the region, has the in-house capacity to be operating in the uniquely treacherous conditions of the Arctic.
On Monday, climate activists spilled an oil-like substance from a two-metre long RBS piggy bank on the front steps of Cairn’s headquarters in Edinburgh. 
Liz Murray from the World Development Movement said: “It is a scandal that RBS is using public money to finance this oil exploration. It’s clearly a risky investment that threatens to make runaway climate change more likely. And RBS’s investment may also literally be a matter of life or death for the world’s poorest people, who are already suffering the impacts of climate change.
“The Treasury must impose social and environmental criteria on the types of projects and companies that RBS is allowed to finance through public money.”
Ben Amunwa from PLATFORM said: “Cairn is a small company that doesn’t have the financial resources of a larger company like BP. We need to ask who would be able to cover the costs of a spill or accident should something go wrong. Could this potentially leave the fledgling Greenland government footing the bill?”
“It’s no surprise that hundreds of climate activists from all over the country have taken part in the Camp for Climate Action in Edinburgh to target RBS when this is one of the many climate bad guys they are financing. It’s obscene that oil companies are looking to exploit climate change’s impact on the melting of glaciers in order to have better access to more of the stuff that has gotten us into this mess in the first place.”
Juliet Swann, Head of Projects and Campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “The ongoing funding for this project is intended to come from Cairn selling their Indian operations to Vedanta Resources, a company whose human rights record has been roundly criticised by governments across the world.”
“Cairn are showing a profound disrespect for the ecology of the Arctic, the human rights of the communities where they operate, and are failing to recognise the link between their activities and the environmental catastrophe that is demonstrated by the melting glaciers.”
“That the whole project appears to have been hastened by a loan from RBS simply adds insult to injury. Taxpayers money is essentially being used to destroy a pristine environment for private economic gain.”
Notes to Editors
For a video of the Cairn action, see http://www.youandifilms.com/2010/08/ribs-the-trojan-pig-makes-a-mess-at-cairn-energy/
Photos of the Cairn action are available at http://www.minimouse.me.uk/rbs/seven/index.html