Oil and gas majors, beset by fading fortunes, increased competition from renewables, and the growing clean economic transition, are fighting for relevance ahead of the Paris climate talks. European fossil fuel companies including Shell, BP and Total, have made new pledges to combat climate change through “cleaner energy” while calling for a strong Paris deal and for global carbon pricing. US firms like Exxon and Chevron have so far refused to follow suit, possibly because their reputations on climate are already too far gone for greenwashing, but their European counterparts’ continued attempts to expand oil drilling and anti-climate lobbying activities don’t exactly help their credibility either. A new report by InfluenceMap analyses the huge gap between oil firms’ climate-friendly faces and the way they sabotage climate policy through their membership of obstructive trade associations. Campaigners say that only a transformation of their business models from fossil fuels to renewables – and giving up their membership of harmful lobby groups – would show they are serious.
— CCL Contra Costa (@CCLContraCosta) October 14, 2015
- Sign: BP has no right to risk the Bight (Australian Wilderness Society)
- Opinion: Exxon’s climate lie: ‘No corporation has ever done anything this big or bad’ (Bill McKibben / The Guardian)
- Hashtags: #carbonpricing, #CleanWordsDirtyLobby, #ClimateAction
- Fossil fuel companies are the problem. Entertaining their lip service calls for climate action is no solution. Big oil is one of the major reasons we are facing catastrophic climate change, and acting far later than we could have. Exxon and Chevron are uninterested in joining the group that includes Total, BP, Shell, Eni, the BG Group, Statoil and Repsol. While the jury may be out on the Europeans’ sincerity, the US firms have made it clear they will not “fake it” by claiming the interests of the planet over those of their shareholders. Their resistance puts them at odds with the US public and its President, and is likely to backfire, harming the bottom lines they are so keen to protect.
- As long as oil is pumped, the climate and communities will bear the brunt. Extracting and using oil pollutes the air, the water and the environment. Oil spills put people, their communities and livelihoods, local plants, fish and animals in danger. Oil companies’ rhetoric on tackling climate change will not be taken seriously until they plug the bore-holes and switch from brown energy to green.
- Renewable energy offers jobs, revenue, and the real answer to climate change. Investors are pulling trillions of dollars out of fossil fuels because they know the risk simply isn’t worth it. The renewable energy sector is booming, costs are plummeting, and jobs numbers are climbing. When companies listen to their investors and pull out of anti-climate lobby groups, and make a full switch from fossil fuels to renewables, they will not only be proving the integrity of their calls for climate action, they will be making a sound business decision. It has never made less sense to build fossil fuel plants, or less sense to dig up more fuel for them.
The oil and gas firm CEOs who will make climate commitments today – those of BP, BG Group, Total, Eni, Statoil and Repsol – are doing so under the umbrella of the industry grouping the The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI). So far, this group is mostly made up of European companies, while their US counterparts have refused to endorse any climate-friendly words or actions.
Many commentators from the climate sphere are cynical about big oil’s intentions. They argue that the oil firms want to polish up their climate credentials to remain at the table in the run-up to the crunch climate change conference in Paris this December, and know calling for a carbon price would be seen favourably while in actual fact it would take the responsibility for change off their shoulders and onto those of governments.
In the meantime, the companies that had called for action continue with business as usual, pumping oil and developing plans to drill despite widespread opposition and the potentially catastrophic impacts of a spill on jobs, local economies, communities and wildlife.
A new report on ‘oil hypocrisy’, entitled ‘Big Oil and the Obstruction of Climate Regulations’ from UK-based InfluenceMap analyses the disparity between the stated positions on climate policy of Shell, BP, Total, Exxon and Chevron and their continued support for highly obstructive trade bodies. It uses an evidence base to highlight the clear misalignment rating for each company. Investors are already demanding that big energy companies pull out of trade bodies which lobby against climate change policy.
Climate and indigenous groups are also calling for global reporting standards for extractive industries – the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) – to include transparency from fossil fuel companies about the future viability of their oil, coal and gas projects in a warming world. The EITI board includes representatives of Shell, BP, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Exxon, Chevron, Statoil and Total.
Calling for action on climate change may be “as trendy as it gets for corporations these days”, but if the group is serious, and existing oil reserves are unlikely to ever be fully exploited due to climate concerns – as BP’s chief economist says – then why is the company pushing ahead with risky new drilling projects? Especially when oil is being tipped to hit US$10-20 a barrel.
Campaigners say only by a radical change in their business models that reflects the demise of fossil fuels and supports the transition to 100 per cent renewables will oil companies prove their commitment to tackling climate change and ensure they remain viable in the low-carbon future. As long as these companies, from Europe, the US and elsewhere – continue to pump oil and block legislation which could hurt their bottom lines by healing the environment, their calls for climate action will ring hollow.
- Oil bosses fight for relevance before climate talks (Reuters)
- Double standards of oil-gas majors as CEOs unveil climate offer ahead of UN talks (Blue&Green Tomorrow)
- Oil and gas groups join forces to back cleaner energy (Financial Times)
- Oil unlikely to ever be fully exploited because of climate concerns – BP (The Guardian)
- Oil glut to persist in 2016 as global growth demand slows-IEA (Reuters)
- BP oil spill in Great Australian Bight would be catastrophic, modelling shows (The Guardian)
Tools and Resources
- Report: Big Oil and the Obstruction of Climate Regulations (InfluenceMap)
- Press release: Double standards of oil and gas majors revealed as CEOs unveil climate offer ahead of UN talks (InfluenceMap)
- Letter: Six Oil Majors Say: We Will Act Faster with Stronger Carbon Pricing (UNFCCC)
- Response: Christiana Figueres Urges Higher Ambition from Oil Industry (UNFCCC)
- Statement: In support of a Paris climate agreement (C2ES)
- Opinion: Exxon’s climate lie: ‘No corporation has ever done anything this big or bad’ (Bill McKibben)
- Opinion: Something is happening here (Tom Burke)
- Letter: Letter to Shell: Now stay away from the Great South Basin (Oil Free Otago)
- Press release: Civil Society Criticises EITI for Failing to Address Climate Change Risks (Oil Change International)
Images and Video
- Video: BP are at it again in the Australian Bight (Wilderness Society)
- Images: Big oil march (Steve Rhodes), The Australian Bight (Wilderness Society), Deepwater Horizon (EPI2oh)
- “It is not in investors’ interests to have companies funding and supporting business organizations delaying the implementation of effective climate legislation. We need greater regulatory certainty, and an effective carbon price signal to shift capital markets, support investment decisions, and reduce portfolio carbon risk.” – Arne Lööw, Head of Corporate Governance, Fourth Swedish National Pension Fund/ AP4
- “Companies like Shell appear to have shifted their direct opposition to climate legislation to certain key trade associations in the wake of increasing scrutiny. Investors and engagers need to be aware that these powerful energy and chemicals-sector trade bodies are financed by, and act on the instruction of, their key members and should thus be regarded as extensions of such corporate-member activity and positions.” – Dylan Tanner, InfluenceMap, Executive Director
- “If oil and gas companies calling for a price on carbon want to be taken seriously it is imperative that they commit both to calling on governments to implement such a policy and at the same time ensuring that all their lobbying is 100 percent consistent with this objective. This is a strong line to take that has to be held accountable by investors, shareholders, governments and the public. Any company not able to do this should not be taken seriously when calling for such action in relation to climate change and such a call should then be seen for what it is, a cynical attempt to manipulate public opinion and create the perception amongst shareholders that the company is taking the issue of climate change seriously.” – Anthony Hobley, CEO of Carbon Tracker
- “Oil is not likely to be exhausted. What has changed in recent years is the growing recognition [of] concerns about carbon emissions and climate change. Existing reserves of fossil fuels – i.e. oil, gas and coal – if used in their entirety would generate somewhere in excess of 2.8 trillion tonnes of CO2, well in excess of the 1 trillion tonnes or so the scientific community consider is consistent with limiting the rise in global mean temperatures to no more than 2DegC And this takes no account of the new discoveries which are being made all the time or of the vast resources of fossil fuels not yet booked as reserves.” – BP Chief Economist Spencer Dale
- “If BP is so enlightened about climate change it should drop its proposal to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight. Even BP chief economist Spencer Dale yesterday admitted that oil and gas reserves will have to be left in the ground so BP should start with leaving the oil alone under the Great Australian Bight.” – Australian Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders
- “[K]nowingly, [Exxon] helped organise the most consequential lie in human history, and kept that lie going past the point where we can protect the poles, prevent the acidification of the oceans, or slow sea level rise enough to save the most vulnerable regions and cultures. Businesses misbehave all the time, but VW is the flea to Exxon’s elephant. No corporation has ever done anything this big and this bad.” – 350.org founder Bill McKibben
Related Tree Alerts
- Investors urge companies to leave anti-climate lobbying groups
- Big oil’s big deception: Exxon hid truth of climate change from 1981
- Investors urge big oil to face up to climate risk
- Campaigners up pressure on investors to ditch fossil fuels
- Canadian lobbying efforts could impact Keystone XL vote turnout
- Say hands off to Canadian lobby deceiving UK officials in bid to control EU policy
- RT @gmcnevin: Oil bosses fight for relevance before climate talks http://t.co/kkiaWfbWDg #Climate #Greenwashing #COP21
- RT @_Oscar_Reyes: #Greenwash of the day: BP, Shell, BHP, Rio Tinto etc call for #climate action but continue to trash planet. #COP21