As reporting on Friday suggested that some of the world's largest fossil fuel companies are trying to shed their "bad guy image" ahead of upcoming UN climate talks, a number of environmental and climate campaigners are issuing a quick retort: Do not trust them for a Parisian minute.
"The first step towards getting a meaningful climate agreement is to kick oil companies and other corporate polluters out of the process."
—Ben Schreiber, Friends of the Earth
Though it contains no U.S. companies, an international group calling itself the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative—which includes BG Group Plc, BP, Eni SpA, Pemex, Reliance Industries Ltd., Repsol SA, Saudi Aramco, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Statoil AG and Total—held a press conference and issued a joint statement on Friday to declare its support for policies that would help world governments meet their agreed goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2°C this century.
"Our shared ambition is for a 2 degree C future," said the CEOs of the companies. "It is a challenge for the whole of society. We are committed to playing our part. Over the coming years we will collectively strengthen our actions and investments to contribute to reducing the GHG intensity of the global energy mix. Our companies will collaborate in a number of areas, with the aim of going beyond the sum of our individual efforts."
However, as critics were quick to note, the language of the industry coalition was short on details and, in the end, even lacked consensus on what kind of approach these companies are actually willing to endorse.
According to Ben Schreiber, director of the U.S. Climate and Energy Program at Friends of the Earth, people should put little stock into what the world's most polluting companies are pitching ahead of the COP21 climate talks in Paris that begin at the end November.
"An effective agreement to address our climate problem must be consistent with equity and climate justice, not oil company profits," Schreiber told Common Dreams via email on Friday. "The first step towards getting a meaningful climate agreement is to kick oil companies and other corporate polluters out of the process."
The Union of Concerned Scientists, meanwhile, says what the oil and gas giants have put on offer should be greeted with a very healthy dose of skepticism. "We would certainly welcome serious climate policy proposals from the companies," said Alden Meyer, UCS's director of strategy and policy. "But we should be skeptical. Given their track record, the onus is on them to prove to both their shareholders and the public that they are truly serious."
"The oil companies behind this announcement have spent years lobbying to undermine effective climate action, each and every one of them has a business plan that would lead to dangerous global temperature rises, yet suddenly they expect us all to see them as the solution, not the problem." —Charlie Kronick, Greenpeace
Charlie Kronick, representing Greenpeace, was even less forgiving. According to Kronick, the fossil fuel industry's declaration on Friday "contains nothing meaningful" when it comes to fighting the global warming which their industry has been the chief culprit in creating.
"The oil companies behind this announcement have spent years lobbying to undermine effective climate action, each and every one of them has a business plan that would lead to dangerous global temperature rises, yet suddenly they expect us all to see them as the solution, not the problem," he said. "The world should thank them for their offer of advice but politely turn it down. Arsonists don't make good firefighters."