Bankers and Oil Barons Schmooze EBRD President Lemierre at Davos
27 January 2006
This week a rogue’s gallery of oil barons and bankers associated with one of the world’s most controversial oil and gas projects, Sakhalin II, will be speaking, schmoozing and boozing at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Some of those coming to the WEF who are complicit in supporting the Sakhalin II project are President of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Jean Lemierre, Royal Dutch Shell’s Chief Executive Jeroen Van der Veen, Credit Suisse’s Chairman of the Board Walter Kielholz and CEO Oswald Grübel, and the Chairman of the Managing Board for ABN Amro Bank Rijkman Groenik.
“The theme of this conference is ‘creative imperative,’ yet there is an imperative for these men to quit creating such a mess on Sakhalin Island,” said Dmitry Lisitsyn, Chairman of Sakhalin Environment Watch.
The largest integrated oil and gas project in world, Sakhalin II in Russia threatens the critically endangered Western Gray Whale with extinction while damaging hundreds of wild salmon runs and the island’s fishing economy. Also, in July 2005, Shell disclosed that Sakhalin II has USD 10 billion in cost overruns, angering the Russian government, whose share in the profits plummeted as a result.
At this week’s meeting in Davos, Shell, Credit Suisse and ABN Amro will no doubt try to curry favor with EBRD President Lemierre: the EBRD will be deciding this spring whether it will provide public financing to Sakhalin II. While some predict a green light, EBRD has publicly acknowledged that the project falls far short of meeting the bank’s environmental policies. The rise in debate over public funding for the already-embattled Sakhalin II project has been a major blow to the reputations of the private companies backing the project: Shell, Credit Suisse, and ABN Amro. The EBRD could also get dragged over this precipice if it violates its own policies and finances the project.
“Those desperate executives will be clamoring over Lemierre like used car salesmen,” said Doug Norlen, Responsible Finance Program Director for Pacific Environment. “But he’s already test-driven this wreck. Let’s hope he knows enough to keep his wallet in his pocket.”
At the Davos meeting President Lemierre will be presenting at a panel entitled “Multilateral Development Banks (Get Their) Act Together.” “In this next act, EBRD’s role should be as a public interest hero, not as a shield for dastardly private sector villains,” said Dr. Andreas Missbach, Private Finance Programme, Berne Declaration.