The oil and gas sector is quick to flag up its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, but its strategy for building a low-carbon future lacks scale and urgency
The hydrocarbon sector is keen to show that it is engaged on issues of climate change. Let’s make no mistake: that is in itself a notable advance. Ten years ago, many oil and gas companies were casting aspersions at climate science. Today, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP and the sector’s other big players offer a deluge of material on the subject. But what lies behind the rhetoric?
The headlines offer little insight. Only recently, Anglo-Dutch energy firm Shell and Denmark’s Dong Energy were calling on the European Commission to bolster Europe’s flagging emissions trading scheme. Almost simultaneously, Greenpeace revealed US tax records that indicate widespread support from the hydrocarbon sector for climate-sceptic lobby groups.
If the plan is to obfuscate and delay, then it’s working. A new study by Chatham House finds that mixed messages on climate change are causing the public to tune out. Parking the prospect of rising temperatures to one side obviously serves the immediate interests of the supermajors. It allows them to continuing doing what they do: that is, digging fossil fuels out of the ground to provide us with heat, power and mobility. The status quo serves our purposes, and their profits.