Press release (2 October 2023) 

The fossil fuel industry’s predatory delay in acting on climate change should be the prosecutions we see in court today, not those of peaceful protestors, Coal Action Network Aotearoa said today, in the wake of grandmother Rosemary Penwarden’s sentencing in a Dunedin Court.

In June, a jury found Penwarden guilty of fraud after she wrote a satirical letter ostensibly “cancelling” an Oil and Gas conference in Queenstown, in 2019, arguing the issue of climate change was too important. The impact of the letter was minimal, the court heard during the trial.

Penwarden was today convicted of forgery and sentenced to just 125 hours of community service.

Rosemary talks with media outside court (Otago Daily Times)

Coal Action Network Aotearoa spokesperson Cindy Baxter said she believed that the 2019 oil and gas conference organisers (then called PEPANZ) had pushed for Penwarden’s prosecution.

“I don’t believe the police would have touched this issue if the conference organisers hadn’t pushed their complaint, resulting in police raiding her house seven months later. The fossil fuel industry appears hellbent on punishing peaceful protestors instead of facing up to the carnage its product is causing.

“Her light sentence of 125 hours community service is testament to the fact Rosemary should never, ever have been in court in the first place.”

“If the oil and gas industry had acknowledged its role when its scientists knew about it, decades ago, then we wouldn’t be having the climate crisis we are experiencing today,” she said. “We should see this industry on trial here in Aotearoa, just as it’s now facing prosecution in California.”

The International Energy Agency’s latest net zero scenario sees no room for fossil fuels in the energy system after 2035.

“Here in Aotearoa the fossil fuel industry is spending its time pushing for peaceful protestors to be prosecuted, while pretending that ridiculous and expensive technologies will reduce its own emissions – or, worse, allow it to carry on polluting.”