Tag Archives: Carbon pricing systems

Why You Should Be Skeptical Of Big Oil Companies Asking For A Price On Carbon

Repost from ClimateProgress

Why You Should Be Skeptical Of Big Oil Companies Asking For A Price On Carbon

By Emily Atkin, June 3, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Shell, Statoil, Total, and BP were four of six companies to request a price on carbon be included in international policy frameworks. Six large European oil and gas companies are asking governments across the world to charge them for the carbon dioxide they emit.

In a letter released Monday, Shell, BP, Total, Statoil, Eni, and the BG Group told the chief of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that a price on carbon “should be a key element” of an international agreement to address global climate change. The letter came while U.N. negotiators met in Bonn, Germany to work towards that agreement.

For those who want to fight climate change, this is good news. But it’s not totally unprecedented. Other high-emitting companies, including Shell, have expressed support for a carbon price before. And big oil companies have been expecting some sort of carbon price for a long time — the biggest ones have already incorporated it into their business plans. Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP, Shell; they’re all financially prepared for a carbon price if and when it comes their way.

That more and more oil companies are now actively calling for a carbon price, though, is good for the climate fight. Total, BP, Statoil, and Royal Dutch Shell are all among the 90 companies causing the vast majority of global warming via their exorbitant carbon emissions. Now, they’re acknowledging they want to at least pay for some of those emissions, and that seems like a positive development.

At the same time, it’s not like any of those six companies are halting their plans to drill. They haven’t recognized the science that says two-thirds of all proven fossil fuel reserves will have to be left in the ground to avoid catastrophic warming. Shell is still planning to explore for oil in the Arctic; BP just recently expanded its operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

More importantly, though — at least in terms of getting a carbon price in the final U.N. climate deal — the European companies that signed the letter wield little power within the U.S. Congress compared to other big oil companies. This matters because the terms of that deal will almost certainly have to be approved by Congress if it is to include an enforceable price on carbon. Under U.S. law, any international agreement that binds or prohibits the United States from actions not otherwise mandated by law must be ratified by Congress.

BP, Statoil, and Total might be actively calling for a carbon tax, but the three biggest U.S. oil companies — ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips — aren’t. (ExxonMobil says they would prefer a carbon tax to a cap-and-trade system, but they don’t outright support it). And those U.S. companies are spending much more to influence Congress than the letter-writing companies on campaign donations and lobbying.

Contributions include donations from company employees, PACs, and soft money contributions.
Contributions include donations from company employees, PACs, and soft money contributions. CREDIT: Patrick Smith

To be fair, European companies have more restrictions on how much they can give than U.S.-based companies do. But not only are the biggest U.S. companies spending far more to influence U.S. politics, their money is going to politicians who are actively fighting efforts to price carbon in the United States.

During the 2014 election, for example, the biggest receiver of funds from ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips was former Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Landrieu marketed herself, among other things, as the “key vote” that made sure a carbon pricing system wasn’t implemented by Congress in 2010. Other candidates supported by those three companies were John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Mark Begich, John Cornyn — all have said they oppose a price on carbon.

In fact, the Republican party as a whole in the United States is opposed to policies that price carbon. Though it says nothing about a carbon tax, the last official Republican party platform touts opposition to “any and all cap-and-trade legislation.” Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of all oil company campaign contributions is going to Republicans.

oillobby (1)
Oil Lobby CREDIT: Patrick Smith

There are other reasons to be skeptical of any big oil company fighting for a price on carbon. For one, some companies have said they would support a carbon tax, but only if they can avoid other climate-related regulations. As David Roberts pointed out for Grist back in 2012, “the fossil fuel lobby would never give a carbon tax their OK unless EPA regulations on carbon (and possibly other pollution regs) were scrapped.” It’s also reasonable to assume that oil companies see profits increasing in the markets for low-carbon natural gas while the high-emitting coal industry tanks, and realize that coal would be hurt far worse by the policy.

In other words, it is great that some of the world’s biggest contributors to climate change want to be charged for the carbon they emit. But we still have a long way to go before big oil actually joins the fight.

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    Are We Past the Point of No Return on Climate Change?

    Repost from  EarthTalk.org

    Are We Past the Point of No Return on Climate Change?

    Greens give us five years to cut back emissions
    By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss, 04/11/2015

    Dear EarthTalk: What is the best way to measure how close we are to the dreaded “point of no return” with climate change? In other words, when do we think we will have gone too far?  — David Johnston, via EarthTalk.org

    While we may not yet have reached the “point of no return” — when no amount of cutbacks on greenhouse gas emissions will save us from potentially catastrophic global warming — climate scientists warn we may be getting awfully close. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution a century ago, the average global temperature has risen some 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Most climatologists agree that, while the warming to date is already causing environmental problems, another 0.4 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature, representing a global average atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) of 450 parts per million (ppm), could set in motion unprecedented changes in global climate and a significant increase in the severity of natural disasters—and as such could represent the dreaded point of no return.

    Polar bear
    If we don’t get our carbon emissions in check soon, it could be too late for the polar bear and many other species impacted by global warming. Credit: Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith, FlickrCC

    Currently the atmospheric concentration of CO2 (the leading greenhouse gas) is approximately 398.55 parts per million (ppm). According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal scientific agency tasked with monitoring the health of our oceans and atmosphere, the current average annual rate of increase of 1.92 ppm means we could reach the point of no return by 2042.

    Environmental leaders point out that this doesn’t give us much time to turn the tide. Greenpeace, a leading environmental advocacy group, says we have until around 2020 to significantly cut back on greenhouse gas output around the world—to the tune of a five percent annual reduction in emissions overall—if we are to avoid so-called “runaway” climate change. “The world is fast approaching a ‘point of no return’ beyond which extremely dangerous climate change impacts can become unavoidable,” reports the group. “Within this time period, we will have to radically change our approach to energy production and consumption.”

    In a recent lecture at Georgetown University, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim reported that whether we are able to cut emissions enough to prevent catastrophe likely depends on the policies of the world’s largest economies and the widespread adoption of so-called carbon pricing systems (such as emissions trading plans and carbon taxes). International negotiators meeting in Paris next December are already working to hammer out an agreement mandating that governments adopt these types of systems to facilitate emissions reductions. “A price on carbon is the single most important thing we have to get out of a Paris agreement,” Kim stated. “It will unleash market forces.”

    While carbon pricing will be key to mitigating global warming, Greenpeace adds that stemming the tide of deforestation in the world’s tropical rainforests and beyond and adapting our food systems to changing climatic conditions and increasingly limited resources will also be crucial to the health of the planet.

    “Without additional mitigation, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally,” reports the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international group of leading climate experts convened by the United Nations to review and assess the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information on global warming. Indeed, there’s no time like the present to start changing our ways.

     

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