Greenpeace activists scale tallest building in Wellington for 'Climb It Emergency'

Two Greenpeace activists are climbing Wellington’s tallest building to “deliver a message” to Austrian oil company OMV.

Activists Abigail Smith and Nick Hanafin began their 20-storey climb at dawn on Tuesday and expect it will take all day. The building is 116 metres tall, or 29 storeys.

“It’s time to take drastic action is really what it boils down to, we need to transition to clean renewable energy,” climber Abigail Smith told Newshub.

This “drastic action” is trespassing, according to police. The maximum penalty for trespassing is a $1000 fine, or a three-month prison sentence.

Police remain on site, although no cordons have been put in place because “both climbers have the appropriate safety gear”, according to a spokesperson.

Smith told Newshub she expects to be arrested when she reaches the offices.

“I would not be surprised if [police] did, they’ve already told us we can expect to be arrested.”

The pair are using climbing devices which are specifically designed for climbing in cracks. There will be no damage to the building, Greenpeace climate campaigner Amanda Larsson says.

The pair are unfurling banners as they climb the building
The pair are unfurling banners as they climb the building Photo credit: Newshub.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government has taken “significant” action to transition away from fossil fuels by ending future permits for offshore oil and gas exploration.

However, this did not extend to exploration permits for new oil and gas which were issued before the ban which means OMV can expand into previously untouched ocean.

“We intend to honour our permit commitments to continue to supply the energy the country needs,” said OMV in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

It says it plans to drill exploratory wells off the Taranaki Coast and in the Great Coast Basin this summer.

“Safety and protecting the environment are OMV’s top priorities. The exploration programme follows more than a decade of survey work, scientific study and environmental research.”

OMV is on the list of 100 companies which have caused more than 70 percent of the world’s climate emissions. It is currently drilling for oil in the Arctic.

Ardern has said while she doesn’t endorse the protest due to its dangerous nature, she does understand it.

“I completely understand why people from all walks of life have concerns about climate change,” she said on Tuesday.

This concern is mirrored by Greenpeace.

“We’re living through a climate emergency,” Larsson said.

“If we don’t halve global carbon emissions in just a decade we will be locked into extreme weather and heating that will threaten all life on earth including our own.”