The UK government’s climate policy is undergoing a slow sacrifice at the alter of commercial interests.
Today’s revelations that the UK government has been secretly doing the bidding of the “Big Six Energy Companies” by arguing against action on energy efficiency and renewable energy at the EU level is just the latest in a long string of evidence that our government is prepared to pander to the whims of business rather than protect our common future. [Update: on June 14 The Guardian reported that the UK government was successful in watering down EU energy efficiency targets].
The recent publication of the Draft Energy Bill appears to light a flame underneath the UK’s hard-fought for Climate Change Act by advocating pointlessly weak standards for the efficiency of new electricity generating plants. Even worse, the bill gives a get out clause for new coal plants as long as companies say they might capture and store some (unspecified amount) of their carbon emissions, somewhere, somehow at some unspecified point in the future.
The draft energy bill came days after the Independent on Sunday printed a frank assessment of the government’s environmental record. That article alone provided sufficient evidence that the “greenest government ever” aspiration had been dumped in the coalition’s post-election policy bin. Key points:
- Lack of leadership from Prime Minister on environmental issues
- Treasury blind to potential green shoots of growth
- Lack of urgency and ambition in relation to the Green Investment Bank
- A £3bn tax break in March to help oil firms drill new deep wells off the north of Scotland
- Weak, mixed signals to fledgling renewables industry and investors
- Attempt to privatise forests
- Possible reversal of commitment not to expand Heathrow airport
Today’s revelations start to fill in the wider picture of the UK’s influence on climate policy beyond the domestic arena, adding to what we already know, for example, about the UK’s indefensible support of the Canadian government in its promotion of oil from the tar sands in Europe.
“No doubt this is one innovation that the Tate feels it could do without.” Rebecca Armstrong, The Independent (19 April 2012)
“A tricky and thought-provoking topic, handled with imagination and a lightness of touch.” Rahul Verma, Metro (18 April 2012)
“Drilling the Dirt (a temporary difficulty) is the most devastating indictment of BP’s sponsorship. Of all the tours, it is the [one] that moves me the most, leaving me in no doubt that BP’s sponsorship needs to be challenged.” Sarah Cowan, Occupied Times (May 2012)
“This isn’t a lecture, or an ordinary audio tour. But it is a phenomenal way to spend a free weekend. The three artworks come alive through your participation only. Pressing play immerses you in a subversive world that six award-winning artists narrate. The listener enjoys a sensory experience beyond the curator’s wildest corporate-sponsored dreams, being led gradually through the galleries, spliced together with a cacophony of sounds, spoken word, rhythmic beats and poetry. The triumph is that this is a highly effective, unpreventable form of non-violent dissent – and also a sensual, personal work of art in its own right.” Tim Sowula, The Kentish Towner (6 April 2012)
“England and Welton’s Tate Modern piece is a note-perfect subversion of the standard form. What enables this process to be rerun without exhausting the listener is the wealth of information presented, the convincing way it cleaves to the artworks chosen and the use of the building’s own acoustic properties – the Turbine Hall’s echo and ambient gallery chatter – to create a seamless sense of place … Today direct action, text or speech – particularly if it relates to the UK – seems to be regarded as the unsophisticated sibling of criticality: that emasculated but institutionally acceptable state of political awareness where a certain bureaucratic aesthetic is de rigueur. Liberate Tate and Platform are encouraging us to look at things differently, and with Tate à Tate, a portable piece of cultural activism for the modern age, their message has the potential to reach, engage and politicise a much wider audience.” Morgan Quaintance, Art Monthly (April, 2012)
“Drilling the Dirt (A Temporary Difficulty) is a more playfully subversive guide, which employs selected artworks, as illustrations of, or metaphors for, aspects of BP’s operations. While touching on more sobering material, including BP’s history in Iran, Iraq and Azerbaijan and the human cost of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Drilling the Dirt (A Temporary Difficulty) is also a bit more fun, managing to inject humour into the format and actively enlisting the listener in an occasional self-conscious subversion of gallery norm. I’m not going to walk into either Tate Britain or Tate Modern again without remembering what I’ve heard there before and nor am I going to see BP’s logo without immediately associating it with corporate irresponsibility. Tate à Tate presents a thought-provoking experience that asks its listeners to question the ethics of Tate’s acceptance of BP’s sponsorship and to consider this in the wider context of escalating global climate change. It’s well worth taking the tours, wandering the galleries and listening in. Increase the burden of your awareness of these issues, and then choose what your next step will be.” Dr Andrew Filmer, Red Pepper (10 April, 2012)
“An interesting example and provoking of cultural hacking. What I find interesting is the potential to redefine events, experiences, spaces and environments (in the ecological meaning and current meaning). There are similar examples of things in Wales that deserve a similar kind of project.” Carl Morris, Y’Twll ar (8 May, 2012)
“I downloaded Drilling the Dirt (a temporary difficulty), the audio guide for Tate Modern – an insightful and thought-provoking introduction to BP’s history, its record of causing devastation around the world, and how it has used sponsorship and marketing to create a responsible corporate image for itself … All in all, an engaging and educating experience which encouraged me to become active in the debate around BP.” Alice Turner, Peace News (May 2012)
Special Report | #London2012: an Olympian exercise in corporate greenwashing
Amidst its lofty rhetoric about excellence and sustainability the London Olympics have chosen some of the world’s most unethical companies – including BP, Dow Chemical and Rio Tinto – as corporate sponsors. Phil England presents powerful first-hand testimonies from victims and campaigners dismayed and angry at this betrayal. Read the full report for Ceasefire magazine.
Omar Robert Hamilton writes about this film on his Cinerevolution Now blog:
I am privileged to be working with a new collective of young film-makers in Cairo. Each dedicated to making their camera count. We call ourselves Mosireen, or We Are Determined. We work fluidly and interchangeably and with increasing efficiency and remarkably little ego.
Four days ago we finished a film on the martyrs of the Egyptian revolution. The film ends with a scrolling list of all the names of the dead. It is the first time they have been gathered and listed together. Three columns of names run across the screen for over two minutes. It is heartbreaking. We screened it on a makeshift cinema that we erect in Tahrir whenever we can.
This is the second in a series of extra materials relating to our alternative audio tour for the Tate Modern exposing the impacts of BP’s day-to-day business. Due to time constraints, this interview didn’t make the final edit of our Drilling the Dirt (A Temporary Difficulty) audio tour. In it, Omar Robert Hamilton sits in the cafe outside the Tate Modern and speaks about Egypt under Mubarak, artistic repression in the country and why he thinks the Tate is wrong to take money from BP. Omar Robert Hamilton is an English-Egyptian film-maker and producer of the annual Palestine Festival of Literature.
BP’s cultural sponsorship seems to be spreading like a rash. They evidently feel they have a lot to do to win back the public’s confidence in their brand. In the latest twist they are sponsoring The World Shakespeare Festival. But fear ye not, as actors, directors and playwrights have piped up denouncing the fearful brand’s despoiling of the favoured Bard. And cheeky activists too, have taken the Bard’s lyrical language and exposed the dirty deeds of the ones that seek to profit from their association with such cultural treasures past. And lo’ did the audience think their performance and message was good… Follow their exploits here.
Even RSC writer-in-residence Mark Ravenhill’s new sonnet for Shakespeare’s birthday seems to be cursing the branding of the bard. See what you think…
In the first of a series of extra materials relating to our Tate à Tate audio tour “Drilling the Dirt (A Temporary Difficulty)” here is the full text of the statement that portrait artist Raoul Martinez wrote and read specifically for this project. A short extract from this reading features near the end of our tour. Martinez was selected for the BP sponsored National Portrait Award in 2011. His notable sitters have included Howard Zinn and the Dalai Lama. He is also working on a documentary series exploring the relationship between freedom and power in democratic societies. [continues…]
The new Damien Hirst retrospective which opens tomorrow 4th April at Tate Modern has forced a last minute revision of our BP themed alternative audio tour. The Hirst exhibition appropriated the floor space which contained Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds – one of the featured artworks in our Tate à Tate audio tour. This forced us into a last minute revision of the work before the launch – necessitating the selection of a new work, writing a new section of the guide, re-recording our trusty narrator Josephine Borradaile, creating new sound design, re-editng, remastering and re-uploading the work. Our unauthorised audio tour Drilling The Dirt (A Temporary Difficulty) was successfully installed in the Tate Modern on Friday 23rd March. It is part of a series of three works critical of Tate’s complicity in BP’s social and environmental crimes through its acceptance of BP sponsorship. We have archived the Ai Weiwei section here for your enjoyment and edification.
In 2008 Damien Hirst donated the proceeds from the sale of one of his artworks to Survival International. With his new show opening at the Tate Modern, Damien Hirst has a powerful opportunity to make a public statement against the treatment of the Canadian indigenous peoples who have been impacted by BP’s interests in the tar sands.
For more on BP and Shell’s meetings with the UK government in the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq see the minutes obtained under Freedom of Information by Greg Muttitt.