Working together to block climate solutions

Oil companies' lobbying is having devastating consequences: houses destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Photo: Asian Development Bank

Like everyone else, big oil companies get by with a little help from their friends.

In 2014, oil companies joined forces to successfully lobby the EU to drop policies which favoured renewable energy.

The European Commission banned the majority of subsidies for clean energy from 2017, and put a stop to nationally-binding renewable energy targets after 2020. These decisions came as a direct result of lobbying by BP, Shell, Statoil and Total, as well as trade organisations representing a whole host of major oil and gas firms.

In October 2011, Shell first targeted  EU policies supporting renewables, such as wind and solar power, saying they should be replaced with a single greenhouse gas target. Instead of investing in clean energy, Shell wanted to substitute one fossil fuel for another through the EU’s Emissions Trading System, using gas to reduce coal emissions.

Just a month later, BP also asked the head of the European Commission to discuss a similar strategy with the president of its Eurogas trade association. Eurogas then encouraged the idea of a sole emissions target, in place of renewable policies, amongst oil and gas companies in lobbying meetings and letters over the next two years.

In reaction to BP and Shell having repeatedly lobbied the UK government to let them to extend oil and gas extraction projects all over the world, the UN’s climate chief, Christina Figueres, wrote to oil companies ahead of the Paris talks, calling on the oil firms to quit lobbying against a strong climate deal and clearly commit to a low carbon future.

Unsurprisingly, it’s not just Europe where these companies exert their influence.

Clubbing together, the total amount spent on lobbying last year by oil and gas companies in the US was $126 million, according to the Open Secrets website.

BP, Shell and Statoil are all members of trade groups in the US which lobby to keep fossil fuels profitable, including the powerful American Petroleum Institute.

BP, Shell, and Statoil also remain members of the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA).

Corporate Accountability International, a NGO campaigning to protect the Paris Agreement, said in a report that:

‘policies like those the IETA is advancing maintain the status quo:  trajectory of fossil fuel dependence, spiralling inequality, and warming that far exceeds 2 degrees Celsius’.

The IETA is particularly fond of as-yet-unproven carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as a ‘solution’ to climate change, instead of leaving fossil fuels in the ground, which would damage their members’ profits.