This Friday, the CEOs of the some of the biggest oil & gas companies in the world, including BP, Shell and Total, held a press conference asking for immediate action against climate change and urging world readers to reach an agreement in Paris, this December. The companies account for a fifth of the world’s oil and gas production, the leading fossil fuels that are flooding the atmosphere with excess carbon and warming the planet, causing irreversible climate change. As such, if you find the statement dubious – not to mention hilarious – you’re not alone.
“We recognize the rising environmental, social, economic, and security risks posed by climate change, and that delaying action will result in greater risks and costs,” according to the statement. “An effective response to climate change requires strong government leadership, and presents both enormous challenges and significant economic opportunities for the private sector.”
The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) says its members acknowledge the perils of global warming and the fact that immediate action is required if the world is to avoid warming by more than 2°C. That’s the target that the U.N. set forth for its Paris summit, November 30 to December 12, where the world’s governments will each vow to reduce their emissions by a given amount. Most of the world’s largest emitters, apart from Saudi Arabia, have published their pledges in advance. For instance, the U.S. pledge to cut its emissions by up to 28 percent between 2005 and 2025. China promised to peak its emissions in 2030. But like I wrote earlier this week, these goals are, first of all, only moderately ambitious and, secondly, can not be enforced since there will be no binding agreements. According to the European Commission, the pledges would cap global warming at 3 degrees Celsius by 2050, a far cry from the stated goal.
Clearly, it takes a lot more effort and determination to avert 2°C, and private enterprises have a major role to play, especially fossil fuel companies. Surprisingly, some of the biggest players agree.
“Sometimes in all these discussions you have the impression that all fossil fuels are the bad guys. But the bad guys are part of the solution,” Total’s CEO Patrick Pouyanne told a gas and electricity summit in Paris on Thursday.
“Whatever people think, we still need fossil fuels. We need to make advocacy for gas. We need to explain to our policy makers that gas has to be encouraged,” Pouyanne said.
“Policy makers are not convinced in many countries that gas is part of the solution for climate change, we in the industry need to speak up.”
“Our shared ambition is for a 2°C future,” the statement reads. “It is a challenge for the whole of society. We are committed to playing our part. Over the coming years we will collectively strengthen our actions and investments to contribute to reducing the GHG intensity of the global energy mix. Our companies will collaborate in a number of areas, with the aim of going beyond the sum of our individual efforts.”
The companies claim they’ve reduced their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in the past ten years. Now, the group promises even more: reduce gas flares and emissions across their operations. The World Bank estimates around 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted from gas flaring each year, equivalent to around 77 million cars.
What can we make of it? Personally, I think any positive step the oil industry does to address man-made climate change is much welcomed. That doesn’t repay in the least, however, the massive lobby protecting their interests, the millions of barrels of spilled oil and other myriad of mishaps. Moreover, just like the pledges from the U.N. states, these promises mean nothing without action to back it up. It almost sounds like they’re shifting all the responsibilities on the state.
Charlie Kronick of Greenpeace said: “Their latest intervention contains nothing meaningful that will significantly aid the decarbonization of the global economy.”