Shell, BP, Total and Statoil among 10 fossil fuel majors pledging to step up environmental action, but green groups remain sceptical
Chief executives of 10 oil and gas majors, including BP, Shell and Total, have today urged world leaders to sign an "effective" deal to tackle climate change at UN talks due to start in Paris next month.
However, with the companies accounting for nearly a fifth of the world's oil and gas production, green groups have questioned the credibility of their calls and said they now wanted to see concrete steps from the sector to prove it was offering more than just "warm words" on climate action.
The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), which also includes BG Group, Eni, Pemex and Repsol, published a declaration today stating they understood greenhouse gas emissions need to fall in order to limit global temperature rises to less than 2°C – the target agreed by the UN to prevent "dangerous" climate change.
"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 declaration was also signed by chief executives from Reliance Industries, Saudi Aramaco and Statoil.
The companies claimed they have collectively reduced their greenhouse gas emissions operations by about 20 per cent over the past 10 years. Today they promised to work together on new measures, including boosting the efficiency of their operations and increasing the use of natural gas, which leads to lower carbon emissions than oil and coal.
The declaration signals a shift in the companies' attitude towards climate change, and follows a call by Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden earlier this year for the sector to be "less aloof, more assertive" on environmental issues. "I'm well aware that the industry's credibility is an issue," he said at the time. "Stereotypes that fail to see the benefits our industry brings to the world are short-sighted. But we must also take a critical look at ourselves."
But green groups remained sceptical about the declaration, warning it may lack substance given the fossil fuel industry's lobbying efforts in the past to water down climate action.
Anthony Hobley, chief executive of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, said the declaration needed to be backed up with action. "To have credibility, any initiative such as this must come up with more than warm words; it must set out concrete and quantitative commitments to take action. Anything less should be seen as nothing more than a cynical attempt to deflect the momentum for action, transparency and focus on the industry," he said in a statement.
Greenpeace campaigner Charlie Kronick criticised the OGCI's call for carbon pricing to tackle climate change, warning it was a "a costly distraction from meaningful action on emissions".
"While it appears progressive, the devil is in the detail," he said. "The oil industry's support for climate action appears conditional on those actions having zero impact on its core business or its plans for unchecked expansion.
"By calling for carbon pricing, Shell is actually suggesting we wait around for 190 countries to agree on a co-ordinated approach before taking action, which would take more time than we have left to tackle climate change.
"Effective carbon pricing effectively buys the industry more time to continue business as usual."
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