Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson has joined activists outside the headquarters of Shell to celebrate news that the oil giant is pulling out of drilling in the Arctic.
Greenpeace has been protesting against the company’s attempts to explore for fossil fuels off the coast of Alaska, including parking a double-decker bus-sized polar bear puppet outside the company’s London HQ for the last month.
The company said it would cease exploration in the region for the foreseeable future after failing to find sufficient signs of oil and gas to make further exploration worthwhile, blaming high costs and a “challenging and unpredictable regulatory environment”.
Environmentalists claimed Shell had also suffered huge reputational damage as a result of its activity in the Arctic, with protests in the US and around the world, including activists scaling the Shard in London.
Greenpeace said more than seven million people signed up to the Save The Arctic campaign worldwide, while celebrities such as actors John Hurt and Peter Capaldi and Monty Python star Terry Gilliam have spoken out against drilling in the region.
Now the company has abandoned drilling in the Arctic, the campaigners will take the polar bear, named Aurora, to Paris where countries will meet for UN climate change talks later in the year to try to agree a new global deal to halt rising temperatures.
Thompson said: “This polar bear has been outside Shell’s HQ for a month, representing the seven million people who mobilised to fight its Arctic drilling plans.
“We said we’d keep her here as long as Shell was drilling. Now we’ve won, we kicked Shell out of the Arctic, so today this bear and this movement is declaring victory and starting out on a new journey.
“Now she’s going to Paris, where the nations of the world will soon gather to negotiate a deal on climate change.
“Shell’s defeat shows which way the wind is blowing. This bear goes to Paris as proof that we can win big victories on climate change.”
She said campaigners were going to take the “people power”, energy and optimism from the victory to challenge other countries and companies looking for new reserves of fossil fuels.
“I’m asking everyone now to come with us to Paris. I’ll be there too,” she added.
Green campaigners oppose Arctic offshore drilling because of fears over the difficulty of clearing up a spill in the remote region, and the impact it would have on wildlife and the environment.
They also point to research showing that all the fossil fuels already discovered cannot be burned if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, and oil and gas exploration in the Arctic is not compatible with cutting emissions to curb rising global temperatures.