Noemie Huttner-Koros responds:
What occurred at Woodside’s AGM on 15th April was lawful, professional and respectful participation by concerned citizens – shareholders and their representatives – asking detailed questions across a range of issues including: Woodside’s business model and core product, its record on human rights, cultural rights, arts sponsorship, political donations, carbon capture and storage, carbon offsets, opportunities for investment in renewable energy and how Woodside will meet its obligations under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
Mr Goyder’s comments regarding changing the rules for AGMs in Australia is an attempt by Woodside and its leadership to prevent lawful scrutiny from both its shareholders and the general public. It is an attempt to stop everyday citizens from finding out about and engaging with the most pressing issues we face as a society and community. It is an attempt to repudiate and deny the role fossil fuel companies have played in the climate crisis and their responsibilities, as we face increasingly dangerous bushfires, flooding, droughts and sea level rise.
A company as large and influential as Woodside cannot be immune to questioning or criticism and it is dangerous to see Woodside attempt to stifle debate in this way. In a democratic society, it is the duty of citizens to hold companies and governments to account, to be involved and informed in a complex world. This is even more important as we face the effects of catastrophic climate change and collectively work together to create solutions that benefit those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, as well as long-term sustainable solutions that can create hundreds of thousands of jobs in a low-carbon economy.
In both Chairman Goyder and outgoing CEO Peter Coleman’s opening remarks, they noted the need to act on climate change and for Woodside to take steps towards net zero emissions. At the same time however, they reinstated their commitment to the Burrup Hub, a mega gas project in North-West WA, that will be the most polluting project in Australia, threatening endangered wildlife and ancient Aboriginal rock art that is estimated to be tens of thousands of years old.
How on earth can these two things: reducing emissions and acting on climate change, while at the same time opening up Australia’s most polluting fossil fuel project, be congruent?
How can Woodside say it supports the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rises to well below two degrees and have a goal for achieving net zero emissions by 2050, well beyond the 2031-2041 target recommended by the Australian Academy of Science?
If Woodside truly accepts the science, and truly accepts that they have a responsibility (not just a financial one in terms of stranded assets or to shareholders, but also a moral one, to half the world’s population who are under the age of thirty who will live with the worst impacts of climate change) then they must change their business model and the Scarborough and Browse gas basins build cannot go ahead.
They must take immediate and swift action and not try to silence legitimate concern about their company.
Furthermore, in his comments today Mr Goyder attempted to demonise our legitimate actions by painting us all as “a whole bunch of university students…corralled to come to the meeting”. This is an entirely inaccurate and patronising representation that demeans the participation of all people, but particularly young people, in public life and public processes.
As a young person, I have witnessed fossil fuel companies delay and obstruct action on climate change my entire life: from creating new mega fossil fuel projects, obfuscating the science and truth of climate change or donating huge amounts to political parties. I have witnessed decades of political, corporate and cultural failure to create any kind of meaningful action on climate change.
So yes Mr Goyder, I showed up to this AGM because I care about the future of the planet. I care about engaging with democratic processes. I care about current and future generations: the climate justice movement will not be silenced.