JA!’s friends in Portugal contest the AGM of Galp Energia, part of the destructive gas industry in Cabo Delgado
Cabo Delgado, the northernmost province of Mozambique is being ripped apart by the gas industry. Companies like Galp, who are part of the industry are taking homes, land and livelihoods from people who have lived, farmed and fished there for generations. And now, the gas industry has brought the disastrous COVID-19 pandemic to Cabo Delgado province, in Mozambique, and it is the people, and surrounding communities who will suffer.
Last week, Portuguese company Galp Energia held its Annual General Meeting (AGM), and JA!’s friends in Portugal created a tremendous online direct action that brought over 400 people together. This is just the beginning of what will clearly be a fierce and powerful fight: Galp Must Fall!
JA! is part of the No to Gas campaign! in Mozambique campaign that is targeting Galp as one of the companies involved in the devastating liquid natural gas industry in Cabo Delgado in the north of Mozambique, where multinational fossil fuel giants like Eni, Exxon and Total are committing human rights and environmental violations, and irreversibly damaging the climate to extract gas. Galp owns 10% of Coral LNG, one of these projects.
The action was created by Climaximo, a Lisbon-based organisation working on climate justice, just transition and energy democracy; 2degrees artivism, a Lisbon-based artivist collective; and Greve Climática Estudantil, Portugal’s Fridays for Future hub. JA! Has been working closely with Climaximo leading up to this action.
As part of Galp Must Fall, three Climaximo activists took part in the AGM and asked questions directly to the board of executives. And while this was happening, more than 400 people were watching a live show with real-time concerts, talks and an online demonstration.
Sinan Eden, a Climaximo activist and one organiser of the action, said “Galp Must Fall is an action that had various elements. It was online and offline, inside and outside the AGM, in connection with national and international struggles, with activist and artivist elements.
We consider Galp’s AGM as a crime scene and the global fossil fuel industry as international organized crime against humanity. So our approach was to denounce the social and climate injustices of Galp in all spaces available.”
This year, like most AGM’s around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown meant that the AGM was virtual, and shareholders had to stream in. This meant that the CEO or Chairman could cut off a shareholder with a click of a button, so the activists had to ask very succinct questions. The three activists who attended had to submit questions in writing, which the board then screened before asking it to the CEO.
Sinan points out that, “In Portugal, the tactics of entering in AGMs was nonexistent so far in the social movements in general. Climáximo’s theory of change informs us that a dialogue with the industry would not produce real solutions, so our approach inside the AGM was more contesting and denouncing than debating.”
Activists inside the AGM:
The Climaximo activists asked questions (they should have been four, but Galp blocked the fourth at the last minute claiming some administrative issues). They submitted 15 questions, mostly about Mozambique, which JA! Had worked with them on. They received 5 responses from the board, which were very evasive and vague, repeating the usual rhetoric about Galp’s commitment to economic development in Mozambique, as they claim to do in every country in the global South where they have projects.
One of the activists who was part of the AGM, Manuel Araujo, described his experience at the AGM: “We asked about the ongoing climate crisis and their criminal business model of resource and social extractivism, which they answered by repeating their commitment to natural gas as a transition fuel, even though it is known to be a major source of GHG emissions. Predictably, they had no comment on the compatibility of their planned 50% increase in fossil fuel extraction over the next ten years with the emissions goals set in the Paris agreement.”
Manuel says the CEO, Carlos Gomes da Silva, made a particularly absurd argument, comparing the hypothetical emissions cuts obtained by replacing every car by an electric car (3.5%) with those obtained by replacing coal with gas in electricity generation (15%), as if these were the only two alternatives on the table.
They also asked what is usually the most uncomfortable question for executives – Why does the board and other top level executives earn absurdly high salaries and why do shareholders receive a ridiculous € 580 million, when this money could be better spent on a program of just transition for the company’s workers.
In 2019, da Silva received € 1.8 million in remuneration. The salaries to the board in total was € 6.6 million, half of which were bonuses.
Manuel says: “We got only evasive answers, but it was worth it to hear the President of the GM Board ask the Company Secretary what makes it legitimate for the CEO of Galp to earn 197 times the minimum wage.”
Ines Teles, who also asked a question, took this away from her experience: “During the AGM, the management of Galp revealed once again their profound disregard for questions related to climate and social justice. They are unable to see past the profits they reap from the sea of destruction they cause, proudly distributing their dividends amongst themselves.”
Galp Must Fall Live
While this was happening, “outside” the AGM, 400 people took part in the other component of the Galp Must Fall direct action, which included a twitter storm, live interviews with activists, including from JA!, an online demonstration, and the shareholder questions also streamed live.
Part of this action was Galp Must Fall Live – a live show, via instagram, convening emergent artists and long-standing activists from countries that Galp is co2lonizing: Mozambique, Brazil, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.
The organization of this live event was made possible by 2degrees artivism, and Greve Climática Estudantil.
Diogo Silva, one of the organisers of the action from 2degrees artivism, and believes that art is crucial for revolution says: “This event marked a lot of firsts in Portugal: the first time Portuguese activists stormed Galp shareholder meeting; the first direct action involving mostly online means; the first fully-online live artivist action; and the first online demonstration.”
From here on, our goal as an artivist community based in Portugal is to build stronger links, to empower each-other and to mobilize a new generation of artivism for climate justice. Another world is possible and it’s not our revolution if art is not involved”.
This action and this year’s AGM was the first that the No to Gas! Campaign and JA! Has confronted Galp and built awareness specifically about this company. The amount of attention and support that Galp Must Fall received was very inspiring, the social media following was great, this was is a strong beginning to what is clearly going to be a powerful collective campaign. Next year will be even stronger.
We will certainly be updating all of you, our friends on what comes next in the Galp Must Fall campaign.
Sinan says: “I’d like to be clear about one thing: We must dismantle Galp, because if it instead collapses, we all will be underneath its ruins. Galp must be dismantled by a democratic, planned and deliberate process. A rapid and just transition and climate justice based on global solidarity are only possible through a publicly owned, democratically controlled, 100% renewable energy sector.”
And lastly, some words from Daniel Ribeiro, of JA!:
“Galp is planning to make millions in Mozambique, at the cost of grabbing land from peasant communities and sea access of fisherfolk, loss of their livelihoods, human rights abuses and conflict. Galp’s investment is also serving as an amplifier of the country’s corruption, injustices and even assassinations of activists and journalists. Galp must stop, Galp must fall, if they do not want the blood of those crimes on their hands. They must start putting people before profits.”
For more info on the Galp Must Fall campaign: