Woodside Petroleum is under fire for the dastardly act of funding a community surf life-saving programme for children in Western Australia.

The Climate Council of WA (CCWA) has accused the fossil-fuel giant of greenwashing through its “brazen appropriation” of the little Nippers initiative, a junior surf awareness and beach safety course for children aged five to 12 years old.

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The Nippers programme has been a staple of Australian childhood summers since it was established in 1963 by the Surf Life Saving association.

Woodside first became involved in the programme in its home state of Western Australia in 2012 as a safety partner, expanding its financial support seven years later, which saw it takeover naming rights of the WA branch, which is now dubbed the Woodside Nippers, under a deal running until at least 2024.

With little nippers now attired in red and white rashies and hats emblazoned with the Woodside logo, while also using Woodside-branded life-saving boards, the CCWA is none too pleased.

“One of the state’s biggest polluters encourages families to enrol so that they can watch their children ‘grow a lifetime connection to the surf’ — an aspiration which sits diametrically in opposition to Woodside’s appalling track record of endangering and damaging vulnerable marine environments,” the CCWA states.

The environmental group claims the energy giant’s support of the Nippers programme is just one example of Woodside’s attempts to “greenwash its social image” in recent years through the funding of youth and community programmes.

The CCWA claims that if Woodside is truly supportive of West Australian families growing “a lifetime connection to the surf” it will scrap its plans for any new oil and gas developments.

Woodside is set to take a final investment decision on its Scarborough gas development by the end of the year, which will also underpin an expansion of its Pluto LNG facility.

The CCWA claims the project will release 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon emissions into the environment, making it one of Australia’s largest gas polluters.