UCS Skeptical of Oil and Gas Industry's Prescription for Addressing Climate Change

Top Oil Companies to Announce Climate Plans Tomorrow in Paris

Published Oct 15, 2015

Washington (October 15, 2015) — When executives from at least nine of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies hold a press conference tomorrow in Paris to announce their prescription for combating climate change, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) says it should be greeted with a healthy dose of skepticism.

“We would certainly welcome serious climate policy proposals from the companies,” said Alden Meyer, UCS’s director of strategy and policy. “But we should be skeptical. Given their track record, the onus is on them to prove to both their shareholders and the public that they are truly serious.”

The companies, which include BG Group, BP, Eni, Pemex, Repsol, Royal Dutch Shell, Saudi Aramco, Statoil and Total, are expected to call for a global carbon pricing system and announce cooperative efforts to develop carbon capture and storage technology and curb methane gas flaring. Six of the companies—BG Group, BP, Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil and Total—sent a joint letter in June to the United Nations calling for carbon pricing.

The test of the oil executives’ sincerity, says Meyer, is how they would answer the following questions:

  • Are they prepared to support science-based limits on emissions that will keep temperatures from rising to dangerous levels?
  • Are they prepared to voluntarily reduce their emissions on a trajectory and timeline consistent with these limits?
  • Are they willing to vigorously advocate for the elimination of the hundreds of billions of dollars in annual government subsidies for consumption and production of fossil fuels?
  • Are they prepared to press for a carbon price in the United States and other nations at levels that will drive reductions and promote investments in clean energy?
  • Are they willing to cut their financial ties to advocacy groups and trade associations that spread disinformation on climate science and politicians who oppose climate policies?

U.S. oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron have refused to participate with their European counterparts. ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson went so far to suggest that the European oil companies are not really serious about doing anything. “We’re not going to be disingenuous about it,” he said. “We’re not going to fake it. We’re going to express a view that we have been very thoughtful about. We’re going to express solutions and policy ideas that we think have merit.”

ExxonMobil has called for a U.S. carbon tax, but it is still spending millions of dollars annually on climate science denier groups.

“It’s clear that these companies are feeling pressure to respond to mounting public concern about the impacts of their activities on the health of the planet,” said Meyer. “Now they need to show they have not only felt the heat, but have seen the light, and are ready to take serious action.”