Europe’s energy big six say gas must help in the fight against climate change

ENI Monza Rally Show, Milan. [Luca Mascaro/Flickr]

The bosses of Europe’s six largest energy companies, including BP and Shell, have said gas should play a vital role in plans to tackle global warming, in a rare public intervention aimed at influencing UN talks.

In a letter to the Financial Times, the energy companies also called for “widespread and effective” carbon pricing to be part of the solution that emerges from crucial climate talks in Paris taking place at the end of the year.

The letter is signed by Ben van Beurden, the chief executive of Shell, Bob Dudley, the chief executive of BP, as well as their counterparts at BG Group, Eni, Statoil and Total.

“As a group of business people, we are united in our concern about the challenge – and the threat – posed by climate change. We urge governments to take decisive action at December’s UN summit. We are also united in believing such action should recognise the vital roles of natural gas and carbon pricing in helping to meet the world’s demand for energy more sustainably.”

The six oil and gas companies press the case for getting out of coal and switching to natural gas – a lucrative part of their business model. Although they say renewable energy has “an increasing role to play”, they think natural gas will help meet energy needs, arguing 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”.

Noticeable by their absence are any US firms. ExxonMobil and Chevron, the US’s two largest oil companies, last week ruled out joining any corporate alliance on climate.

Rex Tillerson, the chief executive and chair of ExxonMobil, told shareholders in Dallas, Texas, that the company was not going to “fake it on climate change”.

“We’re not going to be disingenuous about it. 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.

Speaking out to be speaking out about it doesn’t seem particularly helpful to me,” he said.

The head of Chevron, John Watson, told investors: “We think we can make our own statements and our statements speak for themselves.”

The letter from the European energy companies is an unusual departure for the big energy firms, which usually prefer to work behind closed doors. The six energy bosses said they have written to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body that convenes the international talks between 196 nations.

Their letter echoes the views of Van Beurden, who recently told the Guardian that hydrocarbons would be needed for “years to come”. However, the Shell chief executive accepted that not all the world’s fossil fuel resources can be burned unless some way is found to capture their emissions.

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