Climate Weekly: Shareholders ratchet pressure on big oil

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Oil rig, late evening (Pic: Deposit Photo)


Shareholder activists strike again. BP has agreed to set out a business strategy in line with the Paris Agreement temperature goals.

A recap for those at the back: oil majors are collectively promising investors they’ll sell far more oil than can be burned within safe climate limits. In the last few years, climate-conscious shareholders have started questioning those assumptions.

Phase one was to make companies disclose their exposure to transition risk – the idea that some ventures will not pay off as clean tech and regulations bite. For long-term investors like pension funds, this is as much about protecting future returns as saving the planet.

The next phase is for the majors to put their money where their mouth is. That means scrapping expensive or carbon-intensive projects like tar sands or Arctic drilling, as a first step.

The Climate Action 100+ group of more than 300 major investors has tabled a climate resolution for BP’s AGM in May and the company is backing it, making it almost certain to pass.

It doesn’t mean BP will pivot to 100% renewables overnight, but it does show green investors have momentum.


Chile has named Carolina Schmidt as president-designate of this year’s UN climate summit, Cop25. She will be the first woman to play the role since South Africa’s Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

The environment minister’s first battle was to convince her government to host the talks after Brazil pulled out, national paper La Tercera reported. Schmidt’s own experts and the foreign ministry said it was too much work, but the president backed her.

There are tougher negotiations to come, particularly around carbon markets, the one section of the Paris Agreement rulebook not settled at Cop24. Schmidt has a strong grounding in the debate, as one of the ministers appointed to lead talks on the issue in Katowice.

Tropical turmoil

Political uncertainty hangs over the world’s three biggest tropical forest countries, Sara Stefanini writes, raising the risk of more destruction.

Leadership changes in Brazil and the DRC are to be followed by Indonesian elections in April.

Globally, an area of tropical forest the size of Vietnam was lost over 2016 and 2017, according to Global Forest Watch.

Coal deadline

Germany’s coal commission has finally settled on an end date for coal power generation: 2038.

It is much later than climate advocates would like, and with more generous compensation to utilities they say should have stopped investing in coal long ago. Carbon Brief estimates it will result in 1.3 gigatonnes more CO2 emissions than a pathway consistent with holding global warming below 2C.

On the other hand, the exhaustive consultation process gives the package political resilience. The government has agreed to put the recommendations into law, Clean Energy Wire reports.

Climate conversations

WTO chief is in denial over climate impact of trade – Perrine Fournier, Fern

Germany can end coal power much earlier than 2038 – Nigel Topping, We Mean Business

Butterfly effect

Members of the UN security council are calling for a “clearing house” for data and information on the links between climate change and conflict.

France and the UK led the charge for action to identify areas where climate stress contributes to instability. Only Russia was vocally opposed.

Poland’s Michał Kurtyka, current president of UN climate talks, added his voice, describing how a “butterfly effect” of local climate impacts could “create inflammatory ground on which a conflict can breed”.

Brexit watch

A no-deal Brexit would leave the UK with no green watchdog until 2021, the Institute for Government has warned – creating a two-year gap in oversight of environmental issues like air pollution limits.

The scenario looks increasingly plausible, with two months to the exit date and no legislation lined up to replace EU regulation.

Meanwhile a lawsuit seeking to force the British government to tighten its climate target reached the “end of the road” as an appeals court threw it out.

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