Citing climate differences, Shell walks away from U.S. refining lobby

Last month. Reuters wrote an article entitled “Citing climate differences, Shell walks away from US refining lobby.” Here are the lead paragraphs.

“Royal Dutch Shell Plc on Tuesday became the first major oil and gas company to announce plans to leave a leading U.S. refining lobby due to disagreement on climate policies.

The review is part of Shell’s drive to increase transparency and show investors it is in line with the 2015 Paris climate agreement’s goals to limit global warming by reducing carbon emissions to a net zero by the end of the century.

It is also the latest sign of how investor pressure on oil companies, particularly in Europe, is leading to changes in their behavior around climate. Last year, Shell caved in to investor pressure over climate change, setting out plans to introduce industry-leading carbon emissions targets linked to executive pay.”

Shell is not the first oil company to cave to investor pressure. Exxon Mobil and Occidental Petroleum (along with utility PP&L) have to inform shareholders of their progress to addressing climate change after shareholder votes required them to do so. Exxon also has two lawsuits it is dealing with accusing them of misleading investors on the financial impact of climate change.

Climate change is real and is impacting us now. The greater number of sunny days coastal flooding, increased number of droughts, increased and more severe forest fires and the added flooding due to slow moving storns are traceable to the impact of climate change, so says climate scientists. I encourage you to ask politicians what they propose to do about this existential threat to our future. If they do not respond or fail to offer any tangible ideas, do not vote for them. We must move forward as we have squandered much of our window to act.

 

Twenty-three kids and a grandma show the way

As a 60 year-old man, I have grown weary of politicians acquiescing to industry funders who want them to permit industry to conduct environmental degradation with impunity.  So, when I see younger folks (or maybe an older one or two) making a difference for the environment, it gives me some hope. They see a future that must change.

Emily Stevenson is a 21 year-old UK woman who has been policing the shores of her country since she was a child gathering up washed up plastic items. Among her many collected items, a frequent item is used plastic chip bags, many made by Walker’s. She advocated successfully to get Walker’s to recycle these bags and look to more bio-degradable materials. One of her ideas to garner notoriety was to make a graduation dress out of Walker’s chip bags. She got Walker’s to partner with a company who recycles items (that previously went unrecycled) into reusable plastic pellets.

Maybe, she was influenced by a 70 year-old British grandmother who has combed 52 beaches in the UK for trash. Pat Smith may have a simple name and have a simple approach, but she is a dedicated exemplar of what we must do to keep our environment clean. Her persistence is refreshing.

Sixteen year-old Greta Thunberg has gotten notoriety for her climate change activism. The Swedish teen parked herself outside of the Stockholm Parliament building advocating more action on climate change. She spawned other teens to do the same around the world. Recently, she spoke eloquently to the UK Parliament. Were they listening? Let’s hope so, but the fact she was there speaks volumes.

Let me close with the twenty-one American kids who have a lawsuit that continues to move forward over all obstacles thrown their way by government and industry. They are suing the US Federal government for denying them due process by obfuscating the impact of climate change for years along with the fossil fuel industry. As reported on “60 Minutes” earlier this year, their case is pretty compelling. Why? It uses the government’s own data and reports against them. It should be noted a separate case against Exxon Mobil by three state AGs uses Exxon’s own data and reports against them. Their case is Exxon misled investors of the impact of climate change on its financials (note a similar case has been brought by Exxon shareholders).

Twenty-three kids and a grandmother are making a difference. We need to listen to what they are saying. As Stevenson noted companies need to pay attention or we simply won’t buy their products. The smarter companies are listening and acting.

Corporate shareholders are acting on climate change

While fossil-fuel funded politicians avoid addressing climate change and strip away governance enabling industry polluters, shareholders have been picking up the baton. Last week, Reuters published an article called “Chevron ties executive pay to methane and flaring reduction,” which defines specific gas emissions targets.

The article penned by Jennifer Hiller notes that it is not just executives with incentive plan targets to reduce emissions. 45,000 employees also have incentive plan emission targets. In other words, their pay is tied to combatting climate change. The intermediate goal is to reduce gas emissions by 25% by 2023.

While Chevron is the first to tie incentives to reducing gas emissions, in the month before the current US President announced our pullout of the Paris Climate Change Accord, three energy companies -ExxonMobil, PP&L and Occidental Petroleum – announced shareholder votes requiring management to report on efforts to address climate change. The Exxon-Mobil vote is telling in that they face a shareholder lawsuit and one by the New York Attorney General, Barbara Underwood, for misrepresenting the impact of climate change on their business to investors.

Per The Guardian, the NYAG lawsuit notes Exxon’s “longstanding fraudulent scheme” to downplay the impact of climate change including under-representing the “proxy costs” of fossil-fuel extraction. This lawsuit follows a three-year investigation and uses Exxon’s own research and scientists’ speeches against them. Before they took a “global warming is a hoax” public relations stance around the turn of the century. Exxon was active in climate change research. Even Shell produced a video in the 1990s that was made for educational purposes about the dangers of climate change.

But, it does not stop there. Well before fossil-fuel company shareholders made these impositions on management, more forward thinking companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, IKEA and Walmart have invested in renewable energy like wind and solar energy. IKEA and Walmart are using their expansive store rooftops to place solar panels, while the three technology companies have used all of the above renewable energy strategies to power their  data centers. In my state of NC, these companies have helped propel the state forward as a top four solar energy state.

Let me close with my favorite Super Bowl commercial of last week, Budweiser produced a commercial that noted their beer is now being produced by wind energy. Seeing the Clydesdales meander down a road surrounded by windmills was a beautiful sight. It showed this is not a future goal – it is here. And, just to show it is making a difference, over 1/3 of Iowa’s electricity is produced by wind energy and Germany just announced renewable energy now exceeds coal energy as the biggest electricity source and they plan to be 100% renewable energy powered by 2038, twenty years from now.