Major oil companies call for carbon pricing

Six of the largest oil and gas companies in Europe have called for the UN to let them help devise a global carbon pricing system. Responding to rising pressure ahead of the Paris climate talks at the end of this year, the chief executives of Royal Dutch Shell, BP and BG Group from the UK, France’s Total, Norway’s Statoil and Italy’s Eni have sought direct talks with governments.

The six companies, most of which have invested in the harvesting or distribution of ultra high-carbon oil sources such as tar sands, wrote in a letter to the Financial Times: ‘We owe it to future generations to seek realistic, workable solutions to the challenge of providing more energy while tackling climate change.’

The six companies make the case for getting out of coal and moving to natural gas, which is a lucrative part of their business model. While they say renewable energy has ‘an increasing role to play’, they think natural gas will help meet energy needs and that governments must ‘pursue all options to lower carbon while providing the energy the world needs to meet demand from a growing population seeking better living standards’.

Laura Buffet, clean fuels policy officer at Transport & Environment, said: ‘It’s about time that the major European oil and gas companies recognised the need to tackle climate change at international level and impose carbon pricing globally. But it would be even better if they dealt with their cognitive dissonance and ditched investments in tar sands and other ultra-high carbon oil sources that simply would be inviable if their so-desired carbon price would indeed materialise.’

No US firm signed the letter. ExxonMobil and Chevron, America’s two largest oil companies, recently ruled out joining any corporate alliance on climate.