Greenpeace savages Big Oil's carbon tax calls

GREENPEACE has savaged European Big Oil’s calls for local and global carbon pricing systems to alienate coal from the low-emissions future, saying the world has missed that boat with decades of inaction if it wants to tackle climate change.

Haydn Black

BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Statoil, Eni and BG earlier this year called on the United Nations to help urge countries to implement connected carbon pricing systems, to present themselves as part of the low-emissions future ahead of the UN’s Conference of Parties (COP21) forum next month in Paris.

Greenpeace says Shell’s latter-day ‘road to Damascus’ conversion in pursuit of a greener image, setting Shell and its rivals as saintlike guides on “the path to prosperity” for the millions of people living in poverty, is hollow rhetoric.

It’s perhaps one of the few times Greenpeace and oil companies agree – albeit for different reasons– as ExxonMobil’s CEO Rex Tillerson also panned Europe Big Oil’s carbon pricing suggestion as something consumers would never back.

Greenpeace says Shell and others have tried to act as the voices of “realism” and “practicality” in the debate on how to avert catastrophic climate change, but that none of Big Oil’s positions withstands even the most cursory analysis of the actions of Shell or the industry.

The industry’s rhetoric is wholly contradicted by the core assumption underlying its business plans: global temperature increases of between 3.6-5.3 degrees centigrade; its lobbying against measures to mitigate climate change; and the inadequacy of its own proposals, Greenpeace said.

“It is staggering for an industry which actually fuels the climate crisis to depict itself as ‘the path to prosperity’ for those very people and nations worst affected by the climate impacts of its current business model.”

Former UK climate envoy John Ashton said earlier this year that “it is now widely understood, except by those who live inside such models, that a climate response based primarily on a carbon price will deliver only marginal change”

“Politically it serves as a brake on ambition not a stimulus... to hard caps on emissions,” Ashton said.

Greenpeace and other green groups say that big oil companies are overstating the benefits of a switch from coal to gas to pursue a ‘business as usual’ model

According to a seminal 2015 report on climate and health from The Lancet, the time for coal-to-gas switching has “almost certainly passed” if the world wants to avoid dangerous climate change.

The World Bank is unequivocal in saying that “the task of promoting human development, of ending poverty, increasing global prosperity, and reducing global inequality will be very challenging in a 2C world, but in a 4C world there is serious doubt whether this can be achieved at all.”

Greenpeace says the oil industry is betting on catastrophic climate change as Shell and its peers in the oil industry have made clear that they do not foresee even a 50% chance of limiting temperature increase to 2C.

Shell has said that its own scenarios and the International Energy Agency “do not limit emissions enough to be consistent with the back-calculated 450 parts per million 2C scenario."

BP’s world energy review also shows emissions remain well above the path recommended by scientists.

Greenpeace also raised doubts about the largely untested carbon capture and storage technology.

Van Beurden recently indicated that Shell itself has only invested in two CCS projects around the world, and is unlikely to invest more because of the low rates of return.

Shell wants taxpayer funds to be allocated to an unproven technology.