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October 21, 2015
Skepticism Greets Oil Industry Statement on Climate Change
    by Robert Kropp

Even before member companies of the Oil and Gas Climate initiative issued a statement supporting a climate deal in Paris in December, the Union of Concerned Scientists question the extent of the industry's commitment.


If by their statement in support of a meaningful climate treaty, member companies of the Oil and Gas Climate initiative (OGCI) were hoping for widespread trust in the veracity of fossil fuel industries, they might have chosen another week to release it. Just days before, the US Justice Department was urged by members of Congress to launch an investigation into ExxonMobil; the oil giant had conducted research confirming the effects of fossil fuels on climate change as far back as the 1970s, yet spent the next several decades funding climate denial.

Neither Exxon nor Chevron are members of the mostly European initiative, which was joined by the national oil companies of Saudi Arabia and Mexico in stating its “collective support for an effective global climate change agreement.”

“Governments set the conditions within which we produce and use energy and have a critical role to play in creating clear stable policy frameworks that are consistent with a 2°C future,” the statement continued. “We will support the implementation of these frameworks because they will help our companies to take informed decisions and make effective and sustainable contributions to addressing climate change.”

Striking in its absence from the statement, however, was a commitment on the part of the initiative to a price on carbon. The absence is especially mystifying because in June, the CEOs of several of the member companies
stated in a letter to the Financial Times that their “request to policy makers...is rather to ensure that the outcome of these talks leads to widespread carbon pricing in all countries.”

One day before the statement was published, the
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) stated that any statement from the initiative “should be greeted with a healthy dose of skepticism.” But even UCS expected the member companies “to call for a global carbon pricing system.”

Also in the UCS statement were questions regarding industry support for: science-based limits on emissions and voluntary reductions of emissions, “on a trajectory and timeline consistent with these limits”; the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, which were estimated by Oil Change International (OCI) last year to be $88 billion by the G20 nations alone; and severing “financial ties to advocacy groups and trade associations that spread disinformation on climate science and politicians who oppose climate policies.” None of the issues raised by UCS were specifically addressed in the OGCI statement.

Rejecting the opportunity to join his European counterparts, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson
told reporters, “We’re not going to be disingenuous about it. We’re not going to fake it.” Instead, Tillerson took the opportunity to once again question the accuracy of current climate models, stating that they “just aren’t that good.”

Tillerson's remarks came after Exxon's annual general meeting in May, where shareowners such as Sister Pat Daly of the
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) challenged the company on its inaction.

“Investors have shifted,” Sister Daly said. “We need to walk away from the Paris climate negotiations in December with a treaty that will lead us in a sustainable direction.”

 

 
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