Calls for fossil fuel companies to be cut out of climate negotiations

Intro

In a desperate bid to remain relevant in a world on the clean energy transition, the world’s largest polluters are peddling misleading fossil fuel demand scenarios, according to a new report from Carbon Tracker. Fossil companies have put on a dog and pony show recently about being part of the solution to climate change recently, but a report from InfluenceMap shows they have no real intention to walk the talk towards one. Such firms are no doubt happy to have their brands associated with climate action through COP21 sponsorship, but there is a growing awareness that corporate influence is undermining climate policy progress, and Corporate Accountability International is calling for fossils to be kicked out of the UNFCCC negotiations. Fortunes are fading as divestment shines light on stranded assets to be, more coal plants are being cancelled than built, and a perfect storm of market volatility, decline, and concerns about climate change, the environment and health is preparing to break. Coal companies are staring into the abyss of bankruptcy, with environmentalists ready to acquire and shut down their businesses. Governments are following suit, with the US, France and the UK leading the G7 charge away from coal. As the gap between the firms’ branding, behaviour, and the damage they cause ever clearer, their logos may be on the COP21 pavilions, but the writing is certainly on the wall for fossils.

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Key Points

  • Credibility on climate action cannot be bought with petrodollars. Since fossil fuel firms’ business relies on selling a product that wrecks the global climate, there is no reason to believe they would be interested in protecting that climate instead. Sponsoring UNFCCC meetings and declaring support for the already dangerously high 2DegC guardrail of average global warming is little more than greenwashing rhetoric. Big polluters are the problem, and should not be at the table when leaders agree the way forward towards a solution this December.
  • Fossil fuel firms are scrambling to pretend they are relevant as the world tries to recover from the mess their products have created. Big oil, gas and coal companies are so far in denial about shrinking demand they are betting trillions on nothing changing, when rapid advances in technology, increasingly cheap renewable energy, slower economic growth and lower than expected population rise – not to mention the decarbonisation pledges made by 150 countries – could all dampen fossil fuel demand significantly.

Background

The world’s largest polluters are facing a hit to their political clout in line with their rapidly fading fortunes, with the upcoming UN climate meeting in Paris this December looking to be an historic turning point for a fossil-free future.

While big fossil companies have put on a dog and pony show about being part of the solution to climate change recently, Carbon Tracker has found they are in denial about their declining relevance in a world powered by clean energy, while a report from InfluenceMap supports the notion that they have no real intention to walk the talk towards one.

They are no doubt happy to have their brands associated with climate action through COP21 sponsorship, but with Exxon showing the industry’s true colours this supports a growing awareness that corporate influence is undermining climate policy progress.

As such, Corporate Accountability International is calling for fossils to be kicked out of the UNFCCC climate policy process, just like the tobacco industry was kicked out of an international treaty on health issues.

A Paris agreement this December will mean governments must rapidly move their economies away from using and selling dirty fuel, and to reach the agreed risky goal of staying below 2DegC of average global warming, more ambition is needed than is currently on the table. This means a move towards a 100% clean energy system, as fast as possible.

The International Energy Agency says that if all countries are to meet the goals outlined in their submitted pledges, US$13.5 trillion in energy efficiency and low-carbon technology investment will be needed from 2015 to 2030 – US$840 billion annually. Interestingly, a 100 per cent renewable goal would be a US$1 trillion a year investment according to Greenpeace, and would will be more than covered by US$1.07 trillion in savings on fuel costs in the same period.

Good news for budget-conscious Governments, but bad news for fossils hoping to keep their business as usual progressing.

Fossil fortunes are fading because the world is changing faster than anyone imagined. The as divestment is shining light on stranded assets to be, more coal plants are being cancelled than built, and a perfect storm of market volatility, decline, and concerns about climate change, the environment and health is circling.

Coal companies are increasingly staring into the abyss of bankruptcy, and as they do environmental hawks circle to acquire their dirty businesses and shut them down in the interest of climate protection.

Governments are also following suit, with the US, France and the UK leading the G7 charge away from coal. Their logos are on the COP21 pavilions, but the writing is on the wall for fossils, and they are desperate to remain relevant in an increasingly renewable world.

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Key Quotes

  • “We have seen in recent weeks how the fossil fuel sector has misled consumers and investors about emissions — the Volkswagen scandal being a case in point — and deliberately acted against climate science for decades, judging from the recent Exxon expose. Why should investors accept their claims about future coal and oil demand when they clearly don’t stack up with technology and policy developments?” – Carbon Tracker’s head of research, James Leaton
  • “The energy industry needs a strong and clear signal from the Paris climate summit. Failing to send this signal will push energy investments in the wrong direction, locking in unsustainable energy infrastructure for decades.” – Executive director of the IEA, Fatih Birol
  • “Around the globe people are calling for action now. We don’t have time to waste; governments must act now. There are too many lives at risk today to leave tomorrow up to the climate offenders that are driving the problem.” – Corporate Accountability International’s Jesse Bragg
  • “We are prepared to take responsibility for climate protection, human health and future jobs in the region if Vattenfall and the Swedish government are not willing to do so. We see a great opportunity in turning these lignite operations, that don’t have a future, into a shining example to the world of how the transition towards renewable energy and sustainability can be made.” – Program manager of Greenpeace Sweden, Annika Jacobson
  • “Burning coal is the largest single contributor to climate change and we must phase it out if we want to achieve any of the goals currently under discussion. Public money from developed countries should not go to coal, either as export credits or so-called climate finance.” – Leader of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative, Samantha Smith
  • “Japan finds itself isolated in clinging to coal, while its G7 peers are all moving towards a phase out. There is a clear structural shift away from coal underway across the G7, with the dominant trend being the cancellation of proposed projects and the retirement of existing coal power plants. The UK, Canada and Italy all have a great opportunity to accelerate the closure of existing coal capacity over the coming years […] these G7 countries can drive political momentum for the broader transition away from coal.” – Programme Leader at E3G, Chris Littlecott

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