US climate envoy demands ‘public responsibility’ from fossil fuel firms


ABU DHABI — Fossil fuel companies must face up to their responsibilities to cut the CO2 emissions fueling climate change, the U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry said on Tuesday, as countries prepared to debate the future of fossil fuels at this year’s U.N. COP28 climate summit.

The oil and gas industry is expected to be in focus at the COP28 summit from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 in the United Arab Emirates, a major oil producer. Dozens of countries plan to push for the world’s first deal to phase out CO2-emitting coal, oil and gas.

Kerry, U.S. special envoy on climate change, said the onus was on fossil fuel companies to prove they can be part of global efforts to cut CO2 emissions.

“My message to the oil and gas companies is very simple. There’s only one reason that we’re in this crisis and it is principally the way we provide our energy,” Kerry told Reuters.

“We are demanding public responsibility. And we are looking at those companies and feeling that they could do so much to help us win this battle.”

The United Arab Emirates’ incoming COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber – who is also the head of the country’s state oil firm ADNOC – has defended the inclusion of industry in the event, and is asking oil and gas firms to make CO2-cutting pledges there.

Major oil and gas companies have touted investments in carbon removal and carbon capture and storage technologies as part of their net-zero emissions plans, as well as some renewable energy and hydrogen. Yet some like Shell and BP have rolled back their commitments in recent months even as they reported record earnings.

Daniel Westlén, Sweden’s state secretary for climate, told Reuters that while U.N. climate negotiations are strictly between governments, fossil fuel companies must also be involved.

“Replacing 80% of the primary energy in the world with something else – it’s like replacing the blood veins and vessels when the patient is up and running. It’s going to be hard to do it without them,” he said.

“You need a plan, to plan ahead. And most probably that plan has to involve the fossil fuel companies somehow – but the end goal is phasing out the fossil fuels,” he added.

Kerry said oil and gas’ company investments in nascent technologies like direct air capture and carbon capture in storage is welcome but it is too early to say whether it will have any impact on global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Their investment is crucial, but we don’t know yet whether it’s a fig leaf or not. There are a lot of questions about whether or not they can ever produce at scale. That’s yet to be tested,” he said.

Jennifer Morgan, Germany’s special envoy for climate action, said credible oil company plans must address greenhouse gas emissions from operations as well as their use by consumers. Morgan said the companies also must eliminate methane emissions and ramp up spending on renewable energy.

“They need to be shifting their investments because … it’s something around 5% right now that’s going into renewables … and it needs to be more around 50%,” she told Reuters. — Reuters

Neil Banzuelo

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