The petrochemical company that runs Scotland’s Grangemouth oil refinery should not be given state support to help it weather the coronavirus pandemic, according to a coalition of environmental organisations.
Petroineos, a joint venture between the multinational chemicals giant Ineos and the Chinese state-owned oil and gas company PetroChina, is seeking an emergency government loan worth up to £500 million, as the petrochemicals complex struggles with a collapse in fuel demand.
Speaking to The Times earlier in May, Ineos, which is owned by the UK’s fifth wealthiest individual Jim Ratcliffe, said it was not surprising that the refinery was talking to the government “at a time when demand for fuel has fallen significantly during the period of lockdown”.
But green groups, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and numerous anti-fracking campaigns, have written to the hosts of the upcoming UN climate summit COP26, now set to take place in Glasgow next year, demanding that the government refuse support for what they call a “climate hostile business model”.
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“The COP26 hosts shouldn’t support a climate hostile business model that fuels the proliferation of fracking in Pennsylvania, a state that was already struggling with the impacts of oil, gas and petrochemicals industry pollution,” said Andy Gheorghiu, Policy Advisor for Food & Water Action Europe, which organised the letter.
In the letter to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the campaigners say Petroineos “contributes systemically through its business model to climate change and an increasing plastic pollution of our environment and oceans”.
It accuses Ineos of being the “main driving force” behind the import of gas extracted by US fracking companies to Europe for the purposes of plastic production.
The letter also argues that now is the right time for a “Just Transition” to clean jobs, “managed in deep partnership with trade unions, workers and communities”.
The fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who also signed the letter, said: “Every investment in or support for Ineos would directly fuel the climate and plastics crisis, locking in future instability at a time when investment should be prioritised towards creating a secure and sustainable industry”.
Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe has frequently drawn criticism from environmental campaigners, recently sparking accusations of “greenwashing” for his decision to take over the sponsorship of the UK cycling team, which has run a high-profile campaign against ocean plastic pollution.
Last year, Greenpeace’s investigative unit Unearthed revealed the company had threatened to close its Middlesborough manufacturing plant if it wasn’t exempted from EU clean air and water regulations.
Neither Petroineos nor the Scottish government responded to requests for comment. The UK Treasury said it could not comment on individual companies.
Photo credit: Geof Sheppard/Wikimedia/CC BY–SA