EU Hydrogen Week 2023 was interrupted by activists from eleven different countries who criticised the greenwashing, neocolonialism and food security risks of the EU’s hydrogen strategy.
EU Hydrogen Week: making activists sick
During the conference at the Brussels Expo, which featured speakers such as EU Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen and lobbyists representing the interests of RWE, Shell, Total, and other fossil fuel giants, activists intervened continuously throughout the day on 21 November, demanding a just energy transition with no EU green hydrogen imports.
Firstly, the event was halted by a speaker declaring they were “SICK of the EU’s greenwashing of fossil-fuelled based hydrogen” before comically vomiting fake green sick into a bucket:
The activists were promptly removed by security.
When the commotion had died down, another group stood up and entered the stage, with a speech from a Chilean activist from the water justice group Modatima, who said that the water scarcity in her area was not drought, but colonial plunder.
Then more activists entered the stage, drawing connections between neocolonial energy grabs in Chile and the genocide currently happening in Gaza. Multiple groups entered the stage, shouting “No Climate Justice on Occupied Land”, wearing the colours of Palestine, before being removed by an entourage of private security.
Finally, as the first day of the conference closed with a drinks reception, the party was interrupted by food justice activists pretending to be commercial sellers of a Yara food product. The activists tricked attendees of the party with their bogus product before revealing themselves with the overall criticism: “Yara claims to feed the world, but in reality creates and profits from food insecurity”:
Yara, who uses nitrogen fertilisers made of hydrogen, is the gold sponsor of this year’s conference and has been wildly criticised for its role in pushing damaging fertilisers onto farmers in the Global South for export crops that deplete soil health whilst locking farmers into dependency cycles.
Hydrogen: a false solution to the climate crisis
The groups took this action because hydrogen at scale, including imported green hydrogen is a false solution to our global inequality and climate crises.
The EU’s so-called ‘clean’ energy transition must not come at the expense of worsening social and ecological injustices in the Global South. We recognise that hydrogen on a small scale, will be necessary for our energy transition but it is not feasible or ethical at the scale currently projected by the EU. We intervened to demand real, zero-emission solutions that are not created in dialogue with imperial energy giants responsible for grotesque emissions and human rights abuses.
Modatima campaigner from Chile commented on the action saying:
The green hydrogen projects in Chile are located in “sacrifice zones”, where all ecosystemic limits have already been exceeded, causing violations of the rights of local and indigenous communities, and an irreparable intervention in ecosystems. Today we ask: “Hydrogen for what and for whom? To sustain the energy demand of the Global North or to foster energy justice and autonomy for local communities?
The activists demand energy policy written in collusion with communities on the knife edge of climate breakdown and workers across industries. Not fossil fuel companies and imperial investors. There can be no climate justice without rewriting the international script that says some people and places are more valuable than others.
Featured image via We Smell Gas – screengrab