A little Oil with your Ecology, anyone?
Over 500 delegates from the fossil fuel industry representing more than 100 companies attended COP26 (1). Industry delegates are only “observers” at the UN Climate Conferences, but they can be remarkably influential. A Shell Oil executive has boasted that Shell takes at least partial credit for writing Article 6 into the Paris agreement (2). Article 6 outlines a market mechanism for carbon emissions, allowing major polluters to purchase credits for emissions reductions elsewhere, but not necessarily reducing total emissions (3).
In the USA, oil and gaz companies hand out money to members of Congress who vote against legislation to protect the environment (4, 5). They influenced the Biden administration to resume the sale of new drilling leases on federal public lands (6).
Powerful oil companies have a long history of misleading the public about climate change (7) and about their own role in dealing with climate (8, 9). Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP and other oil firms funded a multimillion-dollar disinformation campaign to ensure that “climate change becomes a non-issue”. Exxon alone has funded more than 40 groups to deny climate science (10).
Most of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground for a chance of global temperature rise staying under 1.5℃. But COP26 left lots of loopholes for the fossil fuel industry to exploit. One of the most glaring failures of COP26 is the disconnect between emission cuts and production cuts. Norway, for example, has a domestic reduction target of 55% by 2030 yet pursues fossil fuel production through oil and gas exploration. Australia continues to approve new gas and coal developments (11). Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said, “There isn’t a country in the world that would find billions of barrels of oil and leave it in the ground while there is a market for it.” Total world oil production in 2020 averaged 76,124,800 barrels per day. The top producers were the USA (11,307,560 barrels), Russia (9,865,495) and Saudi Arabia (9,264,921) (16).
Fossil fuels receive hundreds of billions in subsidies every year (12,13).
Some good news: Led by Costa Rica and Denmark, some 11 national and subnational governments launched the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance (BOGA). They are determined to set an end date for their oil and gas exploration and extraction and curtail new licensing. It is hoped that BOGA will encourage other countries to phase out their oil and gas production (14, 15).