Lee Raymond, former ExxonMobil CEO, will resign from the JPMorgan board of directors at the end of the year.
Raymond was elected earlier this year to continue serving as the board's independent director through May 2021, a role he has held for the past seven years on a board on which he sat for one-third of a century. His early departure comes as JPMorgan faces increasing pressure from climate groups, shareholders, and the BankFwd campaign over the bank's financing of fossil fuel projects.
Raymond was the target of a major vote-out campaign by environmental groups earlier this year. At ExxonMobil, Raymond aggressively rejected the scientific reality of climate change and Exxon funneled millions of dollars to groups undermining climate science and denying climate change. JPMorgan remains the world's largest financier of fossil fuels.
For a deeper dive:
By Andrea Germanos
ExxonMobil's Monday announcement of new targets for addressing greenhouse gas emissions was met with derision by climate advocates who called the plan "too little, too late."
The targets cover the next five years, include "input from shareholders," and — according to the fossil fuel company — are in line with the goals of the Paris climate accord.
While some aspects of the plan, like a reduction in "flaring" of natural gas, were welcomed, others, like Exxon's goal of reducing emissions intensity — not absolute emissions — came in for sharp scrutiny.
According to Reuters,
Exxon said it would start reporting so-called Scope 3 emissions in 2021, a large category of greenhouse gases emitted from fuels and products it sells to customers, such as jet fuel and gasoline.
By 2025, Exxon would reduce the intensity of its oilfield greenhouse gas emissions by 15% to 20% from 2016 levels. It did not set an overall emissions target, however, and reducing intensity means that emissions still could rise if oil and gas output grows.
The reduction would be supported by a 40%-50% decrease in methane intensity and a 35%-45% decrease in flaring intensity across Exxon's global operations, with routine natural gas flaring eliminated within a decade, the company said.
Youth-led climate group Sunrise Movement declared the targets "grossly insufficient" and took the company to task for not announcing an end to "exploration or extraction" or "lobbying against climate action."
Oil company executives (this you, @exxonmobil?) say they want to be a part of the solution. Just not if doing so r… https://t.co/TqmUUtH4ZM— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)1607973746.0
"ExxonMobil's newly announced five-year plan is too little, too late," said Kathy Mulvey, accountability director in the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Rejecting Exxon's description, Mulvey said the pledges "fall far short of what is needed to meet the principal goal of the Paris agreement." She further accused the company dodging "its responsibility for heat-trapping emissions resulting from the burning of its oil and gas products."
"ExxonMobil now says it will disclose these emissions, which make up the lion's share — roughly 80 to 90 percent — of company emissions," she continued. "However, in the same breath ExxonMobil attempts to shift their responsibility to the consumers using its products exactly as the company intends them to be used."
Mulvey further pointed to Exxon being "the fourth leading contributor of global carbon dioxide and methane emissions from fossil fuel and cement industries over the last 50 years, during which time the company undeniably knew about its products' harmful climate impacts. This bait-and-switch, along with ExxonMobil's decades-long record of lying to consumers about the climate risks of its products, are reminiscent of the tobacco industry's tactics."
"Any company that fails to keep pace with what science demands," Mulvey continued, "threatens its future while endangering the rest of us with escalating climate impacts and systemic risks to the global economy."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
ExxonMobil plans to increase its annual carbon-dioxide pollution by more than 20 million tons per year over the next five years, Bloomberg reports.
The increases, which come from the company's own analysis of its direct emissions, are equivalent to 17% of its current carbon pollution — about the yearly emissions of the country of Greece — but account for only about one-fifth of the total greenhouse gas pollution caused by burning Exxon's fossil fuel products. Unlike many European oil majors, Exxon has refused to make efforts to curb its greenhouse gas pollution. Earlier this year, Exxon was removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average and it is currently facing lawsuits from about a dozen jurisdictions alleging it knew, withheld, and denied important information about the impact of fossil fuel consumption on climate change.
As reported by E&E News:
The Bloomberg report shines a spotlight on Exxon at a time when its large European rivals are announcing plans to boost investments in renewables and slash carbon emissions. The gulf has been building slowly for years.
BP and Shell are now among a host of European oil giants committing to net-zero emissions by midcentury. BP has gone further still, pledging to cut oil production 40% over the next decade. Shell is reportedly mulling a similar move.
For a deeper dive:
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- 415 PPM: We Are All Part of Exxon's Unchartered Climate ... ›
- Why Is ExxonMobil Still Funding Climate Science Denier Groups ... ›
- ExxonMobil on Trial Over Climate 'Lies' - EcoWatch ›
- ExxonMobil Lambasted Over 'Grossly Insufficient' Emissions Reduction Plan - EcoWatch ›
- Citigroup and Exxon Make Important Climate Moves ›
The city sued 24 oil and pipeline companies, including major players like ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, The Post and Courier reported. The lawsuit contends that the companies knew that their products were heating the global climate but denied the fact in public. It further seeks to charge them for the costs of protecting Charleston from increased flooding and extreme weather events.
"As this lawsuit shows, these companies have known for more than 50 years that their products were going to cause the worst flooding the world has seen since Noah built the Ark," Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said during a press conference announcing the suit, as Live 5 News reported. "And instead of warning us, they covered up the truth and turned our flooding problems into their profits. That was wrong, and this lawsuit is all about holding them accountable for that multi-decade campaign of deception."
Charleston, a low-lying city built on a peninsula between three rivers, is especially vulnerable to sea level rise, according to The Associated Press. In the last 50 years, the city has gone from seeing around four flood days a year to almost 89, the suit contends. In addition, the city will feel the impacts of extreme weather events like heat waves and hurricanes. The suit was filed days before the third anniversary of Hurricane Irma, which inundated Charleston with a nearly 10-foot storm surge, the third highest in the city's history.
Tecklenburg made his announcement in front of The Battery, where construction crews were working to lengthen an existing sea wall, The Post and Courier reported. The sea wall extension is the city's first project to adapt to rising sea levels. Others include building more than 8,000 feet of new flood drainage tunnels and installing check valves to prevent tidal water from entering the city's storm drain system, according to Live 5 News.
The city expects sea levels to rise two to three feet in the next 50 years and it predicts that adapting to these changes will cost $2 billion, according to The Post and Courier. However, the lawsuit is not asking for a particular amount from the companies, instead hoping a jury will decide what is fair.
Many of the companies named in the suit did not reply to requests for comments. Those that did said that lawsuits were not the right way to address the climate crisis.
"Legal proceedings like this waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money and do nothing to advance meaningful actions that reduce the risks of climate change," ExxonMobil spokesperson Casey Norton told The Associated Press.
Charleston is now the 21st U.S. community to disagree and file a lawsuit against big oil.
"With today's filing, Big Oil is facing climate lawsuits on both coasts, in the Northeast, the Midwest, the South, the Rocky Mountains, and even Hawaii," Center for Climate Integrity Executive Director Richard Wiles told The Post and Courier by email. "The public is ready to hold this corrupt industry accountable for causing and lying about climate change, and officials across the country are stepping up to take action."
Charleston's suit comes about a week after a similar lawsuit was filed by the city of Hoboken, New Jersey.
It was also followed one day later by another climate liability lawsuit from the state of Delaware Thursday.
🚨BREAKING: It's gonna be one of those weeks. Delaware is the latest state to announce another climate lawsuit again… https://t.co/0ljwUNZLqS— Jennifer Hijazi (@Jennifer Hijazi)1599753021.0
- 'Fossil Fuel Companies Knew': Honolulu Files Lawsuit Over Climate ... ›
- City of Hoboken Files Climate Suit Against Big Oil - EcoWatch ›
- Climate Litigation Against Big Oil Heats Up - EcoWatch ›
- Big Oil Splutters — How Will It Survive the Energy Transition? - EcoWatch ›
- Annapolis Sues 26 Oil and Gas Companies Over Climate Change - EcoWatch ›
Norway’s Largest Private Asset Manager Divests in Chevron, Exxon for Lobbying Against Climate Action
A Norwegian hedge fund worth more than $90 billion has become the first major financial institution to divest from companies that lobby against action on the climate crisis, The Guardian reported Monday.
Storebrand, as the fund is called, is the largest private asset manager in Norway, according to Reuters. As part of its new policy, it dumped its shares in major U.S. oil companies ExxonMobil and Chevron, as well as in mining giant Rio Tinto and German chemical company BASF.
"The Exxons and Chevrons of the world are holding us back," Storebrand chief executive Jan Erik Saugestad told The Guardian.
Storebrand announced the divestments as part of a wider set of new climate policies Monday.
– We are not only vulnerable to the systemic disruptions that #climatechange will unleash on ecosystems, societies… https://t.co/PgDrZl1hAb— Storebrand (@Storebrand)1598523456.0
In addition to divesting from companies that lobby against the Paris climate agreement and climate change regulations, the fund will also:
- Make investment decisions in line with scientific consensus and the goals of the Paris agreement
- Divest from companies that make more than 5 percent of their revenues from coal or oil sands
- Make decisions that maintain nature's ability to store carbon dioxide, with a special focus on stopping deforestation
- Increase investments in low-carbon companies
- Connect with energy companies with a view towards encouraging them to transition towards renewable sources
- Provide regular progress reports
- Inform clients about low-carbon, sustainable investment funds
"We aim to maintain our position as a leading provider of sustainable solutions," Saugestad said in a statement. "With this policy we will excel and improve our work on climate and greening the financial system. We will use all the tools at our disposal, including divestment, investing more in solutions and engaging with companies in order to achieve substantial change."
The divestment, completed this year, represented a small share of the fund's assets, Bloomberg News reported. The fund divested a total of $47 million, almost half of it from Exxon and Chevron.
In response, both oil companies said they supported the goals of the Paris agreement and are investing in low-emission technologies.
"[Exxon] is focused on the dual challenge of meeting the growing demand for energy and minimizing environmental impacts and the risks of climate change," spokesman Casey Norton told Bloomberg News in an email.
Chevron, meanwhile, said it was considering a shareholder vote that would encourage transparency around climate lobbying.
UK nonprofit InfluenceMap has reported that Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP and Total spend around $200 million a year working to delay or block climate policies, according to The Guardian. While the fund did not divest from major European oil companies like BP or Norway's own Equinor, they are not off the hook.
"This initial move does not mean that BP, Shell, Equinor and other oil and gas majors can rest easy and continue with business as usual, even though they are performing relatively better than US oil majors," Saugestad told The Guardian.
- Goldman Sachs Is First U.S. Big Bank to Divest From Arctic Oil and ... ›
- British Medical Journal Praised for New Fossil Fuel Divestment ... ›
- Georgetown Announces Fossil Fuel Divestment, Students Across ... ›
- $20 Billion Fund in Denmark Divests From 10 Major Oil Companies ... ›
- Empire State Building Shines Green After NYC's Decision to Take ... ›
The attorney general for Washington, DC filed a lawsuit on Thursday against four of the largest energy companies, claiming that the companies have spent millions upon millions of dollars to deceive customers in about the calamitous effect fossil fuel extraction and emissions is having on the climate crisis, according to The Washington Post.
The suit names ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Chevron as the defendants, and argues that the companies "systematically and intentionally misled consumers in Washington, DC ... about the central role their products play in causing climate change," according to The Hill.
Karl A. Racine, the DC attorney general, said in a news conference on Thursday that the four companies painted a false picture of what effect their products had and therefore violated consumer protection laws.
"For decades, these oil and gas companies spent millions to mislead consumers and discredit climate science in pursuit of profits," Racine said in a statement, as The Washington Post reported. "OAG filed this suit to end these disinformation campaigns and to hold these companies accountable for their deceptive practices."
New York and Massachusetts have both sued ExxonMobil for fraud related to the climate crisis, though New York lost its case against the energy giant. California and Baltimore have filed similar suits. On Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a complaint in state court accusing ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Flint Hills Resources and the American Petroleum Institute of consumer fraud, failure to warn, deceptive trade practices, and fraud and false advertising, as Courthouse News reported.
Ellison's complaint said that Minnesota was already feeling the effects from the climate crisis as droughts, flooding and crop failures have damaged the state's economy. That has all happened while the companies named in the suit invested in public relations campaigns that denied the climate crisis and even promoted increased CO2 as a solution to world hunger, according to Courthouse News.
"Impacts from climate change hurt our low-income residents and communities of color first and worst. The impacts on farmers in our agricultural state are widespread as well," Ellison said in a statement. "Holding these companies accountable for the climate deception they've spread and continue to spread is essential to helping families to afford their lives and live with dignity and respect."
The two suits drew praise from environmental activists and the science community.
In a statement Thursday, Greenpeace USA climate campaign director Janet Redman said, "Climate denial is not a victimless crime. Now, one by one states and local governments are stepping up to hold the perpetrators accountable," as Common Dreams reported. "Just yesterday it was Minnesota Attorney General Ellison standing up to big oil, today it's D.C. Attorney General Racine."
The Union of Concerned Scientists also issued a statement noting that the fossil fuel industry long knew about the devastating impacts of burning fossil fuels, but followed the Big Tobacco playbook and waged a disinformation campaign.
"When scientists, including some employed by ExxonMobil, warned that burning fossil fuels could catastrophically alter the climate, ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell funded decades-long disinformation campaigns designed to undermine climate science, while simultaneously unleashing an army of lobbyists to block state and federal policies that sought to limit global warming emissions to protect communities across the country," said Rachel Licker, senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in a statement.
"As a result, the nation's capital and communities across the country and world now have to battle worsening floods, heat waves, wildfires and many other avoidable climate impacts," she added.
In the DC suit, Racine specifically mentioned the fossil fuel companies' strategy lifted from Big Tobacco. "The companies not only employed the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition — a fake grassroots citizen group created by Big Tobacco as part of the industry's misinformation campaign — they also funded and promoted some of the same scientists hired by tobacco companies," he said in a statement.
The lawsuit also alleges that the companies have recently exaggerated their investments and commitments to renewable energy.
"Defendants have shifted their advertising strategies to mislead DC consumers into believing that buying Defendants' products supports companies committed to reducing and reversing the effects of climate change," the lawsuit asserts, as The Washington Post reported. "In fact, the opposite is true."
- 'Fossil Fuel Companies Knew': Honolulu Files Lawsuit Over Climate ... ›
- Climate Crisis Lawsuits Expanding Worldwide: 'A Global ... ›
By Julia Conley
The Canadian digital watchdog group Citizen Lab reported Tuesday that a hack-for-hire group targeted thousands of organizations around the world, including climate advocacy groups involved in the #ExxonKnew campaign.
Groups that have asserted ExxonMobil knew about and hid data linking fossil fuel extraction to the climate crisis for years were among those that faced phishing attempts by a group dubbed "Dark Basin" by Citizen Lab. According to the research, numerous progressive groups—including Public Citizen, Greenpeace, 350.org, and Oil Change International—were among those targeted.
After an extensive multi-year investigation, Citizen Lab reported that it has linked Dark Basin "with high confidence" to BellTroX InfoTech Services, a technology company based in India which has publicly stated its hacking capabilities.
In 2017 when Citizen Lab began its investigation, the group believed Dark Basin could be state-sponsored, but soon determined it was likely a hack-for-hire operation. Its targets—which also included journalists, elected officials, and digital rights groups that have lobbied for net neutrality—"were often on only one side of a contested legal proceeding, advocacy issue, or business deal."
The watchdog has not been able to definitively link Dark Basin's phishing efforts to particular entities which would have an interest in threatening the #ExxonKnew campaign and net neutrality advocates.
"That said, the extensive targeting of American nonprofits exercising their First Amendment rights is exceptionally troubling," wrote Citizen Lab in its report.
A global hack-for-hire scheme, Citizen Lab wrote, "is a serious problem for all sectors of society, from politics, advocacy, and government to global commerce," particularly because the targets have little recourse without a robust investigation by law enforcement.
"Many of Dark Basin's targets have a strong but unconfirmed sense that the targeting is linked to a dispute or conflict with a particular party whom they know," the report reads. "However, absent a systematic investigation, it is difficult for most individuals to determine with certainty who undertakes these phishing campaigns and/or who may be contracting for such services, especially given that Dark Basin's employees or executives are unlikely to be within the jurisdiction of their local law enforcement."
350.org responded to the report, noting that Citizen Lab's ongoing investigation could eventually uncover the fossil fuel industry's involvement. While acknowledging the evidence does not exist to directly implicate Exxon or any specific corporate actor behind the effort, the group said it would be deeply troubled to find out the company would behave in such a manner.
"If the investigation demonstrates that Exxon is behind these attacks, it only shows how far the fossil fuel industry will go to silence critics and avoid accountability for fueling climate change," said 350.org.
Net neutrality advocates are accustomed to seeing "an uptick in breach attempts whenever we're engaged in heated and high-profile public policy debates," Tim Karr of Free Press told CBC Tuesday. Free Press was targeted by Dark Basin in 2017 as President Donald Trump's FCC was working to repeal net neutrality rules.
"When corporations and politicians can hire digital mercenaries to target civil society advocates, it undermines our democratic process," Evan Greer, deputy director of digital rights group Fight for the Future, told CBC.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
By Andrea Germanos
Author and climate activist Bill McKibben welcomed Friday evening what he called "a milestone moment in the history of climate action" after JPMorgan Chase announced it was ousting former Exxon Mobil CEO Lee Raymond from his longtime leadership position on the bank's board of directors.
"A truly huge win today," McKibben said in an earlier tweet. "Power is starting to shift."
BREAKING! #LeeRaymond DEMOTED but not DUMPED - take action now to get him OFF #JPMorgan #Chase's board:… https://t.co/pssU0dISJ0— Stop the Money Pipeline (@Stop the Money Pipeline)1588433194.0
The change was revealed in new SEC filing documents in which JPMorgan touts its "focus on refreshment" that includes having a new lead independent director by the end of this summer.
Raymond, who's earned the monikers "the Darth Vader of global warming wars" and "America's #1 climate denier," was a target of the Stop the Money Pipeline climate coalition, which urged the bank's biggest shareholders to vote Raymond off the board entirely when they meet later this month.
Their demand was buoyed by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.
"On Earth Day last week, we launched a campaign urging JPMorgan Chase & Co shareholders to vote against the re-election of Lee Raymond to the board, based on his role as lead 'independent' director, long tenure on the board, and ties to fossil fuels," Stringer said in a statement Friday.
Raymond's removal as independent leader of the board marks "a tremendous victory for shareholders and for the planet," Stringer said, adding that it stands to "ensure improved oversight of the board and the company's long-term strategy when it comes to transitioning to a low carbon economy."
"But our work does not stop here," he continued. "JPMorgan has been the largest global lender and underwriter to the fossil fuel sector, providing $269 billion in financing to fossil fuel expansion from 2016 to 2019. The company needs to move away from financing the dirty fossil fuels of the past and toward the big, strategic clean energy investments of the future. There must be no place for a climate change denier and former Exxon CEO on JPMorgan's board."
Send an email directly to #BlackRock, #StateStreet & #Vanguard -- tell them to vote #LeeRaymond off #JPMorgan… https://t.co/JsCqTTIZHC— Stop the Money Pipeline (@Stop the Money Pipeline)1588433424.0
Eli Kasargod-Staub, executive director of shareholder advocacy organization Majority Action, concurred.
"Shareholders have demanded that JPMorgan Chase be held accountable for its failure to address the systemic risks presented by climate change, and the announcement to remove Raymond from the lead independent director position is a clear victory for long-term shareholder value and the mitigation of climate risk," said Kasargod-Staub.
But, he stressed, "JPMorgan Chase shareholders will be best served when Raymond is removed from the board entirely."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
Two years after internal documents surfaced showing that Royal Dutch Shell, like ExxonMobil, knew about climate dangers decades ago, the oil giant released its latest annual report outlining its business strategy and approach to addressing climate change. Despite clear warnings from scientists, global health experts and even central banks of impending climate-driven crises, Shell's report largely sends a message that everything is fine and the company's "business strategy is sound."
That is not to say that Shell is ignoring the challenges facing it and other oil majors. But overall Shell appears to be toeing the line between saying it is responding to the climate challenge and inevitable energy transition on the one hand, and maintaining its core oil and gas business model on the other.
Shell's 2019 Annual Report is filled with statements that reveal the company's perspective on the Paris agreement, the energy transition, and climate litigation and regulatory risk to its business. A few of these statements seem contradictory, and it is important to keep in mind the context of #ShellKnew when the company says now, in 2020, that it is committed to being part of the solution.
According to the report, there are three parts to Shell's overall strategy going forward: to thrive in the energy transition, to provide a world-class investment case, and to sustain a strong societal license to operate. That may sound good on paper, but in reality significant challenges are mounting for each of these pillars.
In terms of the energy transition, Shell appears to be paying lip service to it more than actually revamping its portfolio or overhauling its business model. Its core business remains oil and gas. Period.
The company may be ahead of some other oil giants like Exxon and Chevron in terms of adding alternative energies to its energy mix, but overall its commitment to clean energy is minimal.
Shell notes in its report that it spends "$1-2 billion a year until 2020 in different services and products from a range of cleaner sources," and "investments in power could grow to $2-3 billion a year on average" from 2021 to 2025. The vast majority of the company's capital expenditure ($24bn to $29bn in 2020) goes into oil and gas, and failure to replace proved reserves could have a "material adverse effect." Instead of aligning with the energy transition, Shell's business model is based on continual hydrocarbon exploitation.
In terms of a "world-class investment," the oil and gas sector is particularly vulnerable at the moment to financial pressure and investors are increasingly turning away from fossil fuels. Jim Cramer infamously dubbed fossil fuels "in the death knell phase." Shell acknowledges this risk. It notes in its report that fossil fuel divestment "could have a material adverse effect on the price of our securities and our ability to access capital markets."
Shell also recognizes its vulnerability to an eroding social license as the public and particularly younger generations start to scorn Big Oil.
"In 2019, many protested about climate change, sometimes directly targeting Shell," Shell CEO Ben Van Beurden wrote in the report. The company includes challenges to its reputation as a risk factor, noting, "There is increasing focus on the role of oil and gas in the context of climate change and energy transition. This could negatively affect our brand, reputation and licence to operate."
Shell did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the risk to its social license.
Shell Claims to Support Paris Agreement, Plans for Gradual Energy Transition
In its report, Shell says it fully supports the Paris agreement goal to limit warming well below 2 degrees C, and supports "the vision of a transition towards a net-zero emissions energy system." But, in contrast to fellow European oil major BP, Shell is not committing its own business to net zero emissions.
Shell says it has "no immediate plans to move to a net-zero emissions portfolio over our investment horizon of 10-20 years." Instead, Shell's Net Carbon Footprint "ambition" is to reduce emissions (including its customers' and suppliers' emissions) of its energy production and products by 20 percent by 2035 and by 50 percent by 2050. This is not aligned with climate science guidelines that say complete decarbonization or "net zero" is necessary by 2050 at the latest.
Shell's own business is therefore not aligned with the goal of the Paris agreement, and the company is facing a lawsuit over this in its home country of the Netherlands. Current emissions reduction plans or "Nationally Determined Contributions" (NDCs) submitted by countries under the Paris agreement are also inadequate. As Shell notes in its report, current NDCs amount to about 3 degrees C of warming. "In coming decades, we expect countries to tighten these NDCs to meet the goals of the Paris agreement," the report states. Shell's view appears to be that the world has decades to get its act together.
In that view, Shell says it is fully on board with the energy transition and plans to transform its own business "over time." The report includes statements like "Shell aims to become an integrated power player and grow, over time, a material new business", and, "for us, protecting the environment also means working to transform our product mix over time, for example, by expanding the choice of lower-carbon products we offer customers."
Yet, in a seeming contradiction to these statements, Shell says it "agrees with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5°C special report," which clearly warned that limiting warming to 1.5°C would require, as Shell notes, "an even more rapid escalation in the scale and pace of change."
While Shell claims to fully support the Paris agreement, in another seeming contradiction, the company states in its report that the government action necessary to meet Paris targets could harm its business: "Policies and regulations designed to limit the increase in global temperatures to well below 2°C could have a material adverse effect on Shell – through higher operating costs and reduced demand for some of our products."
Shell also says it is wary of governments actually taking climate action: "we believe measures taken by governments to control national energy transitions may also have unintended consequences."
Yet, at the same time, Shell says it expects to be subject to increasing regulation. "We also expect that GHG regulation, as well as emission reduction actions by customers, will continue to result in suppression of demand for fossil fuels, either through taxes, fees and/or incentives to promote the sale of lower-carbon electric vehicles or even through the future prohibition of sales of new diesel or gasoline vehicles, such as the prohibition in the United Kingdom (UK) beginning in 2035. This could result in lower revenue and, in the long term, potential impairment of certain assets," the report states.
Climate Litigation Risk
Shell, like other fossil fuel companies, has long been concerned about governments imposing climate policies or regulations that would affect its business. Shell and its industry peers are already facing climate lawsuits, and Shell is explicitly identifying climate litigation as part of a broader risk factor associated with "rising climate change concern."
In its report, Shell acknowledged the lawsuits could negatively impact its financial condition: "In some countries, governments, regulators, organisations and individuals have filed lawsuits seeking to hold fossil fuel companies liable for costs associated with climate change. While we believe these lawsuits to be without merit, losing any of these lawsuits could have a material adverse effect on our earnings, cash flows and financial condition."
Shell actually foresaw climate-related lawsuits as a possibility more than 20 years ago. One of the internal documents that a Dutch news organization first uncovered (and published on the site Climate Files) is a 1998 document of Shell planning scenarios where the company hypothetically envisions a series of violent storms battering the eastern U.S., which then spur environmental NGOs to bring "a class-action suit against the US government and fossil-fuel companies on the grounds of neglecting what scientists (including their own) have been saying for years: that something must be done."
One statement from Shell's annual report rings particularly true: "Shell has long recognised that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the use of fossil fuels are contributing to the warming of the climate system."
Indeed, Shell has long known that fossil fuels are warming the planet and that the consequences would be of a huge magnitude.
One internal Shell document from 1988 called "The Greenhouse Effect" warned that GHG emissions would lead to warming over the next century, likely ranging from 1.5 C to 3.5 C. According to that document, "The changes may be the greatest in recorded history." Some parts of the planet may become uninhabitable, and there may be "significant changes in sea level, ocean currents, precipitation patterns, regional temperature and weather," it says. Impacts could be severe and "could have major social, economic, and political consequences."
What did Shell do with that knowledge? It started introducing doubt and giving weight to a 'significant minority' of 'alternative viewpoints' as the full implications for the company's business model became clear.
Shell was a member of the Global Climate Coalition, a fossil fuel industry-funded group that worked to undermine climate science and block climate policy internationally. The group formed in 1988 and Shell was a member throughout much of the 1990s.
During that time Shell was not exactly upfront with its own shareholders about potential risks climate change posed to its business. The first time Shell even mentioned climate change was in a 1991 annual report. But it wasn't until 2004 that Shell made a clear warning in its annual report about financial risk associated with fossil fuel investment.
Critics have for many years accused Shell's of greenwashing — acknowledging the climate threat and touting its "commitment" to being part of the solution, despite continuing to spend heavily on oil and gas with only minimal investment in alternative energy. Shell's latest annual report suggests the company isn't deviating far from that strategy.
Reposted with permission from DeSmog.
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And while the oil giant has been responsible for massive methane releases, Exxon has now proposed a new regulatory framework for cutting emissions of this powerful greenhouse gas that it hopes regulators and industry will adopt. As Exxon put it, the goal is to achieve "cost-effective and reasonable methane-emission regulations."
So, why is Exxon asking to be regulated?
The answer may be simply that Exxon is very good at public relations. As industry publication Natural Gas Intelligence reported, this announcement "comes as energy operators face increasing pressure from lenders and shareholders to engage in decarbonization by following environmental, social, and governance standards."
ExxonMobil is proposing new rules to cut methane emissions. We think it makes sense for industries to work together… https://t.co/NnLNZ2yO5O— ExxonMobil (@ExxonMobil)1583281279.0
Exxon's proposed regulations have three main objectives: finding and detecting leaks, minimizing the direct venting of methane as part of oil and gas operations, and record keeping and reporting.
Casey Norton, Exxon's Corporate Media Relations Manager, explained to DeSmog that Exxon's proposal was not expected to be adopted as-is by regulatory agencies. "This is a starting point for conversations with policy makers and other regulators," he said. "For example, New Mexico, Argentina, the EU, who are all considering new regulations for methane emissions."
Under President Trump, the federal government last year rolled back Obama-era rules for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions and for restricting these emissions during drilling on public lands.
This isn't Exxon's first foray into voluntary regulations of methane. The corporation's natural gas subsidiary XTO started a voluntary methane emissions program in 2017. In June 2018, XTO noted that the voluntary program, which was mostly about replacing leaking valves, had reduced methane emissions by 7,200 metric tons since 2016.
However, leaking valves are not the biggest source of methane emissions. In February 2018, four months before XTO was touting the success of its methane reduction program, the company experienced the second largest methane leak in U.S. history. A gas well it operated in Ohio suffered a blowout, releasing huge amounts of the heat-trapping gas.
Did XTO's voluntary program accurately report this? As The New York Times reported, "XTO Energy said it could not immediately determine how much gas had leaked."
But a group of scientists using satellite data eventually did pin down the amount released — 120 metric tons an hour for 20 days. That adds up to roughly 50,000 metric tons more released than the 7,200 metric tons in reductions XTO was claiming months later. That one leak was estimated to be more than the methane emissions of the total oil and gas industry of countries like Norway.
As DeSmog reported, XTO is also flaring the most natural gas of any company in the Permian oil field (natural gas is almost 90 percent methane). While flaring isn't as bad for the climate as directly venting the methane into the atmosphere, it is increasing the levels of carbon dioxide and toxic air pollutants and is another problem the industry is saying it will address even as the practice continues on a large scale.
And now the same company is recommending that the rest of the industry and regulators adopt their approach to regulating methane emissions.
"It is not target-based, it is not volume-based," Exxon's Norton said. "Again, it's starting a conversation, saying these are things that you can look at."
Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist at Cornell University whose work focuses on methane emmissions in the oil and gas industry, drew attention to areas of Exxon's framework he thought were lacking. For starters, he pointed out that the proposed framework does not mention emissions from "imperfect well casings and from abandoned wells," which Howarth says "can be significant." He also noted that the proposal does not describe "a methodology for characterizing any of these emissions; there are techniques for doing so, but there is not much demonstrated use of these techniques by industry."
Finally — and this is the real danger with any sort of industry self-regulation — Howarth said there must be some type of independent oversight to assess actual emissions instead of relying on the industry to self-report. XTO's well blowout in Ohio is an excellent example of why this third-party verification is critical. Without oversight, the "system is ripe for abuse," according to Howarth.
Sharon Wilson of environmental advocacy group Earthworks documents the oil and gas industry's current widespread practices of flaring and venting methane. Sharing her concerns about Exxon's methane emissions proposal, she told DeSmog,"Exxon's recent announcement is too little too late when it comes to the climate crisis they've help cause and are still making worse. Reducing methane emissions by any percentage is not enough when Exxon continues to expand sources of the same climate pollution."
Wilson called for the company to support federal and state rules to cut methane.
Trump Administration Reversed Existing Methane Regulations
Methane emissions have become a much bigger issue in the last decade since the U.S. boom in shale oil and gas produced by fracking. Despite overseeing a huge rise in oil and gas production, the Obama administration acknowledged the methane problem and proposed and adopted new methane emissions regulations, which the Trump administration has since repealed.
The Trump administration has staffed regulatory agencies with former industry executives and lobbyists who have been quite successful at rolling back environmental, health, and safety rules.
"EPA's proposal delivers on President Trump's executive order and removes unnecessary and duplicative regulatory burdens from the oil and gas industry," Wheeler said. "The Trump administration recognizes that methane is valuable, and the industry has an incentive to minimize leaks and maximize its use."
The problem with this free-market assumption is that Wheeler is wrong about the industry's financial incentive to limit methane emissions.
The unreal natural gas prices in the #Permian get even more unreal: Nat gas at the Waha hub (near El Paso) have ho… https://t.co/Zfj0XfXIJh— Javier Blas (@Javier Blas)1554326358.0
There is too much natural gas, aka methane, flooding world energy markets right now. Current prices to buy it are lower than the costs to produce it. The methane currently produced in Texas' Permian Basin spent a good portion of last year at negative prices. There is no financial incentive for producers in the Permian to voluntarily cut methane emissions in the current market environment.
That is why Permian producers are flaring (openly burning) it at record levels as well as directly releasing (venting) methane into the rapidly warming atmosphere. So much for letting the free market address the issue.
Even the Remaining Regulations Are Controlled by Industry
While the Trump administration has rolled back many regulations for the oil and gas industry, the regulatory system in the U.S. was already designed to protect industry profits — not the public or environment. When the federal government creates regulations, the process can be heavily influenced by industry lobbyists, and if they don't agree with the regulations, there are many ways they can get them revised to favor their companies.
While Exxon did publicly say in 2018 that it didn't support repealing the existing methane regulations, the company also wrote to the EPA voicing support for certain aspects of the American Petroleum Institute's (API) comments on the issue, and the API approved removing the regulations. In that letter Exxon used the same language it is now using with its propsed regulations, saying any rules need to be "cost-effective" and "reasonable." But if the regulations are cost-effective, will they actually be effective in reducing methane emissions in a meaningful way?
Excerpt from Exxon letter to EPA about methane regulations. ExxonMobil
The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted the influence that the oil and gas industry and its major U.S. trade group the American Petroleum Institute can have over regulations. After the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the federal government put into place new safeguards known as the "well control rule" in order to prevent another disaster during deepwater offshore drilling.
In 2019, the Trump administration revised the rule, weakening it, even though, as the Journal reported, federal regulatory staff did not agree "that an industry-crafted protocol for managing well pressure was sufficient in all situations, the records show." The staff was ignored. (And the move is undergoing a legal challenge.)
Industry crafted protocol. Just the thing Exxon is now proposing.
This type of industry control over the regulatory process was also brought to light after two Boeing 737 MAX planes crashed and killed 346 people. Boeing had fought to make sure that pilots weren't required to undergo expensive and lengthy training to navigate the new plane.
Reuters reported on internal communications at Boeing which revealed the airplane maker simply would not let simulator training be required by regulators:
"I want to stress the importance of holding firm that there will not be any type of simulator training required to transition from NG to MAX," Boeing's 737 chief technical pilot said in a March 2017 email.
"Boeing will not allow that to happen. We'll go face to face with any regulator who tries to make that a requirement."
Boeing got its way. And 346 people died.
Nearly a year after a second crash of a Boeing 737 MAX that led to its grounding, the full extent of the company’s… https://t.co/uUHyItbBrD— The Daily Beast (@The Daily Beast)1583592004.0
For the past six years, I have reported on the failed regulatory process governing the moving of dangerous crude oil by rail (and even wrote a book about it). The only meaningful safety regulation that resulted from a multi-year process was requiring oil trains to have modern electronically controlled pneumatic brakes.
As I reported, shortly after this regulation was enacted, Matthew Rose, CEO of the largest oil-by-rail company BNSF, told an industry conference that "the only thing we don't like about [the new regulation] is the electronic braking" and "this rule will have to be changed in the future." As per the wishes of Matthew Rose, that rule was repealed despite the substantial evidence clearly showing this modern braking system greatly increases train safety.
A recent op-ed from an editor at the trade publication Railway Age referred to these oil trains as a "clear and present danger." Nevertheless, these trains hauling volatile oil through North American communities are still operating with braking systems engineered in the late 1800s.
Exxon Touts 'Sound Science' Despite Its History
Exxon's methane proposal states that any regulations should be based on "sound science." This statement is coming from a company whose scientists accurately predicted the impacts of burning fossil fuels on the climate decades ago and yet has spent the time since then misleading the public about that science.
The current regulatory system in America does not protect the public interest. Letting Exxon take the lead in the place of regulators doesn't seem like it's going to help.
Megan Milliken Biven is a former federal analyst for the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the federal agency that regulates the oil industry's offshore activity. Milliken Biven explained to DeSmog what she saw as the root cause of the regulatory process's failure.
"Regulatory capture isn't really the problem," Milliken Biven said. "The system was designed to work for industry so regulatory capture isn't even required."
Reposted with permission from DeSmog.
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The European commission's effort to transition the 27-country economic bloc from a high-carbon to a low-carbon emitter in a few decades received input from the fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil in the weeks prior to its passage, according to a watchdog that monitors lobbying activity, as The Guardian reported.
As Common Dreams reported, a report released last week by InfluenceMap revealed that Exxon lobbyists met with commission officials in November to request an extension of the Green Deal's carbon pricing policy, known as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), to tailpipe emissions.
The report revealed that just ahead of the December announcement of the Green Deal, Exxon lobbyists met with Frans Timmermans, a member of the commission's cabinet, after the company avoided penalties for failing to attend a hearing on climate denial, as the EU Observer reported.
"In the meeting, the lobbyist for ExxonMobil tried to stall an overhaul of the transportation sector. ExxonMobil representatives pushed for the EU Commission to change its approach to climate regulation in the transport sector, including removing the EU's strict CO2 vehicle tailpipe standards, in what appears to have been an effort to stall a push towards electric vehicles. A direct extract from the meeting notes indicate the un-named ExxonMobil officials argued that the EU should: 'Give serious consideration to extending ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme) beyond stationary sources. Tail pipe emission legislation should be substituted with power plant to wheel emission regulation.'"
According to The Guardian, the maneuver aimed to tamp down knowledge about the carbon footprint of driving a combustion engine running on fossil fuels. And the lobbying effort seems to have worked, since the European Commission did not include plans to phase out combustion engines. It also did not include cars running on fossil fuels in its carbon-pricing plan.
Furthermore, the move aims to create unrest that would be politically unfeasible. The only way for a carbon-pricing plan for tailpipe emissions to be influential is for it to make greenhouse gas emissions very expensive. Yet, that type of action that transfers costs to consumers has been the bedrock of protests like the Yellow Vests protests in France, which stemmed from a proposed tax on diesel and gasoline, as the EU Observer reported.
Edward Collins, a director at InfluenceMap, said the document "represents yet another evidence piece" of ExxonMobil's efforts to protect its profits by thwarting meaningful regulatory action and shifting the focus to long-term technical solutions, as The Guardian reported.
The lack of decisive and meaningful regulatory actions that would change the transportation sector and the energy infrastructure of Europe in the immediate future drew the ire of climate activists, as EcoWatch reported. The Green Deal requires that European countries reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which many scientists say is too late to stop the climate crisis.
"Net zero emissions by 2050' for the EU equals surrender. It means giving up," Greta Thunberg and 33 other youth climate activists wrote in an open letter published Tuesday and reported by Reuters. "We don't just need goals for just 2030 or 2050. We, above all, need them for 2020 and every following month and year to come."
As Common Dreams pointed out:
"Exxon's attempt to further weaken the European Green Deal represents 'a shift from the propagation of climate science denial towards a range of more subtle tactics and narratives to distract policymakers and the public away from an urgent and robust policy intervention on climate on the scale recommended by the IPCC's 2018 special report on 1.5 [degrees Celsius] warming,' said InfluenceMap."
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British-based oil and gas giant BP set the most ambitious climate goal of any company in its industry yesterday when it announced that it will eliminate or offset all of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to The New York Times. Its ambitious plans included offsetting the burning of oil and gas it takes out of the ground.
The company's chief executive Bernard Looney, who stepped into the top job this month, said the 111-year-old company must "reinvent" itself, a strategy that will eventually include more investment in alternative energy, according to the BBC.
"The world's carbon budget is finite and running out fast," CEO Bernard Looney said in a statement, as CNN reported. "We need a rapid transition to net zero. We all want energy that is reliable and affordable, but that is no longer enough."
The pledge is a tacit acknowledgement of the pressure that fossil fuel producers face from the public and from investors who are either divesting or demanding action to stop the global climate crisis. While the move is significant, Looney did not detail a plan for how BP would hit its ambitious target, as The New York Times reported.
"We are aiming to earn back the trust of society," Looney said at a news conference in London, as The New York Times reported. "We have got to change, and change profoundly."
While the details are scant, Looney did acknowledge that much of BP's business model and its priorities will have to change in response to the climate crisis and to the changing demands of the market economy, which is looking for affordable renewable energy.
"This will certainly be a challenge, but also a tremendous opportunity. It is clear to me, and to our stakeholders, that for BP to play our part and serve our purpose, we have to change. And we want to change - this is the right thing for the world and for BP," Looney said as the BBC reported.
"Providing the world with clean, reliable affordable energy will require nothing less than reimagining energy, and today that becomes BP's new purpose," he added. "Reimagining energy for people and our planet. We'll still be an energy company, but a very different kind of energy company: leaner, faster moving, lower carbon, and more valuable."
Looney said that details would be revealed at a presentation in September. As CNN noted, the commitment is the most ambitious of any oil company. Shell set targets to rein in emissions while Chevron and ExxonMobil are still far behind.
"They really are setting a new standard for what leadership looks like in the industry," Andrew Logan, senior director of oil and gas at Ceres, a nonprofit that lobbies for companies to take action on climate change, said as CNN reported.
Logan noted how important it was that BP acknowledged that it needs to offset the oil and the gas that consumers use, as MarketWatch reported. "There is no reason that Exxon and Chevron can't follow suit," he said.
The carbon footprint of the oil and gas that BP and other companies sell is massive. In its own reporting, BP said that the company emits about 55 million tons of greenhouse gases each year directly from its extraction operations and refineries. However, an additional 360 million tons each year is released when their extracted oil and gas is burned in vehicles or to heat homes, as The New York Times reported.
The plans drew a tepid response from environmental groups and even criticism from some who see fossil fuel extraction as something that needs to stop immediately.
"Unless BP commits clearly to stop searching for more oil and gas, and to keep their existing reserves in the ground, we shouldn't take a word of their P.R. spin seriously," Ellen Gibson, a campaigner for fossil-fuel divestment with the environmental group 350.org in Britain, said as The New York Times reported.
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