The Big Picture
Shell CEO Ben van Beurden told Reuters last week that, “Despite what a lot of activists say, it is entirely legitimate to invest in oil and gas because the world demands it […] We have no choice.”
Inadvertently, van Beurden’s remarks make the case for what a lot of activists – and more than 550 organisations signed on to the Lofoten Declaration – are demanding: that governments have no choice but to stop these companies’ fossil fuel expansion plans. Shell and other oil companies – in van Beurden’s own words – are not going to choose to manage their own decline (though they do have that choice.) And that decline needs to start now, according to climate science.
In fact, The Guardian published new data this month that shows just how far in the wrong direction Shell and other oil companies plan to go over the next decade. The top 50 oil and gas companies are set to increase their production by 8 percent between 2018 and 2030; their soaring output would alone exhaust almost 40 percent of the remaining 1.5°C carbon budget.
As Lorne Stockman of Oil Change International told The Guardian, such findings leave us and political leaders with a rather simple choice when it comes to oil companies: “Shut them down or face extreme climate disruption.”
–The OilWire Team
P.S. Organisations can continue to sign on to the Lofoten Declaration and build the call for global leadership to put an end to new fossil fuel development. Read the full declaration and sign on or share at: http://www.lofotendeclaration.org.
The figure below, from “The Polluters” series published by The Guardian, shows the oil and gas companies planning the largest increases in production over the next decade. Shell leads international oil majors with a projected 38 percent increase in production to 2030. As noted in the article, the oil industry is targeting the Permian Basin, spanning the U.S. states of Texas and New Mexico, as its largest site for expansion through 2030.
Source: Jonathan Watts, Jillian Ambrose and Adam Vaughan, “Oil firms to pour extra 7m barrels per day into markets, data shows,” The Guardian, 10 October 2019.
What We’re Tracking
Trends in the Right Direction
Swedish activists stop major fossil gas import terminal
The Swedish government rejected the final permit for the largest planned fossil gas import terminal in the country, finding it incompatible with climate action. Local grassroots activists had fought the proposed terminal in Gothenburg for over two years, with hundreds of people blockading the harbour and terminal last month. “[W]e have shifted the conversation entirely and the project has now been rejected for what it is: a climate-wrecking disaster,” said Olivia Linander of Fossilgasfällan (“Fossil gas trap”), which led the resistance. The victory in Sweden adds to the list of fossil gas projects across Europe stopped by grassroots opposition.
In Ecuador, massive Indigenous-led protests halt plan to increase austerity and extraction
Indigenous peoples from the Amazon to the Andes mobilized for 11 days this month to “reverse the Ecuadorian government’s closed-door agreement with the International Monetary Fund and protect our territories from the social, economic and environmental fallout of the accelerated extractive agenda that will follow.” They won a major victory when President Lenín Moreno agreed in mid-October to repeal economic austerity measures and undertake further negotiations.
Before the government conceded to negotiations, at least seven people died, 1,340 were wounded, and more than 1,152 people were detained in a brutal police crackdown. Indigenous peoples continue to push for a new development model that respects their land and lays the groundwork for a just economic transition away from oil and other forms of extraction. You can support Indigenous groups in Ecuador by donating towards urgently needed humanitarian and legal aid.
AXIS Capital becomes first U.S. insurer to restrict tar sands along with coal
The Insure Our Future campaign gained momentum last week when AXIS Capital released a new policy that makes it the first U.S.-based insurer to set exclusions for both the coal and oil sectors. AXIS’s new restrictions cover tar sands extraction and pipeline projects, thermal coal projects, and their dedicated infrastructure as well as companies that do the bulk of their business in those sectors. “The ball is now in Liberty Mutual and AIG’s court to take responsibility for their role in the climate crisis,” said Elana Sulakshana, energy finance campaigner at Rainforest Action Network.
ExxonMobil goes on trial in New York
ExxonMobil heads to court tomorrow to face charges that the company defrauded investors by failing to disclose climate risks. People of the State of New York v. ExxonMobil is the first climate case against an oil company to reach the trial stage. As InsideClimateNews reports, “If the company is found guilty of defrauding stockholders, the penalties it faces could be substantial. […] What happens in the New York courtroom will reverberate in the climate cases yet to come.” Community activists will rally outside the New York Supreme Court building to show their support for New York Attorney General Letitia James. Pre-trial documents, including exhibits and excerpts from depositions, are now available online (use index number 452044-2018).
Watch: Indigenous Mapuche battle fracking in Argentina – ‘We’re not fighting for just ourselves’
The Guardian reports on the “discrimination, dispossession and health problems” that Indigenous Mapuche communities are fighting in Argentina as a result of the spread of fracking in Patagonia. The operations of oil companies like YPF and Chevron are based on the unjust denial of Mapuche land rights, linked to birth defects, cancer, respiratory problems, water contamination, and other health problems – and threaten to unlock one of the largest shale deposits in the world. Watch the video explainer: How fracking is taking its toll on Indigenous people in Argentina.
Oil and gas lobby is Canada’s ‘single biggest barrier’ to climate action
New research commissioned by Environmental Defence finds that the election wish list of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers would increase Canada’s carbon emissions by 116 million tonnes per year by 2030. Under this vision of oil and gas expansion, the industry would consume 60 percent of Canada’s entire domestic emissions budget under the Paris Agreement by 2030. That is before accounting for emissions from fuel that is exported and burned.
Germany, European Commission lobby to weaken fossil-free EIB policy
Germany and the European Commission are lobbying to squeeze major loopholes for fossil gas into the European Investment Bank’s (EIB) new energy lending policy, delaying an expected vote on the policy to the bank’s 14 November board meeting. As originally drafted, the policy would set a global precedent, seeing one of the world’s largest public lenders cease all fossil fuel finance after 2020. But Germany is reportedly pushing to “sabotage” the fossil-free policy with exemptions for “efficient” fossil gas plants and infrastructure linked to “energy security,” a waiver for projects already on the Commission’s projects of common interest list, and potential extension of the 2020 deadline.
Indigenous federations launch call to protect the Amazon Sacred Headwaters
On the heels of widespread protests in Ecuador, Indigenous federations released a joint declaration that calls on the governments of Ecuador and Peru, corporations, and financial institutions “to respect indigenous rights and territories and stop the expansion of new oil, gas, mining, industrial agriculture, cattle ranching, mega-infrastructure projects and roads in the Sacred Headwaters.” In its initial phase, the Amazon Sacred Headwaters initiative seeks to permanently protect 74 million acres (30 million hectares) of tropical rainforests by keeping unsustainable forms of development like oil extraction off limits. Groups can sign the global solidarity pledge at: https://sacredheadwaters.org/declaration.
UK approves largest-ever fossil gas plant, overruling regulator’s advice
Earlier this year, the UK Planning Inspectorate said Drax should not be allowed to convert its power station to fossil gas because it would “have a significantly adverse negative effect on climate change.” Despite this recommendation, and opposition to the plant from 92,000 petitioners and 92 environmental organisations, the Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy approved the project this month, greenlighting the UK’s largest fossil fuel power plant. Biofuelwatch continues to fight new government subsidies for the plant, which it will need to move forward.
New setbacks for controversial U.S. fossil gas pipelines
- This month the U.S. state of New Jersey rejected permit applications for the PennEast fracked gas pipeline, putting its future in further doubt after years of resistance from local communities. The permit denial followed a court decision that upheld state sovereignty in blocking the company’s attempts at eminent domain.
- The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), under construction from the fracking fields of West Virginia to North Carolina, is also facing new hurdles. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered construction to halt along the entire route after a court stayed two crucial permits related to endangered species. MVP also faces a multi-million dollar fine and closer scrutiny in Virginia after more than 300 water protection violations.
Leading IPCC scientist: New gas infrastructure is incompatible with 1.5°C
A lead coordinating author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 1.5°C Special Report is calling for a halt to new fossil gas development in his U.S. state. Drew Shindell, a climatologist at Duke University, wrote a letter to the governor of North Carolina confirming that “there is no way new natural gas is compatible with the IPCC analysis,” given current hurdles to carbon sequestration technology. He called on Governor Roy Cooper to put a permanent moratorium on new gas development.
UN human rights expert calls on Norway to cease oil exploration
After a 12-day visit to Norway last month, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David Boyd, concluded Norway is failing to adequately address the climate crisis. “To provide international leadership on climate change […] Norway should stop exploring for additional oil and gas reserves, stop expanding fossil fuel infrastructure, and harness Norwegian wealth and ingenuity to plan a just transition to a fossil-fuel free economy,” Boyd wrote.
The letter comes ahead of a November court hearing on the lawsuit brought by Greenpeace and Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth) in Norway that challenges the government’s approval of continued oil exploration as unconstitutional.
Mozambique elections could affect fragile peace deal, LNG investments
After one of the most violent election campaigns in the country’s history, Mozambique voters went to the polls last week. While final results have yet to be announced, the main opposition party is already contesting them, calling for a new election and charging that the ruling Frelimo party violated a recently signed peace deal. Long-time President Filipe Nyusi has been a major proponent of mega-LNG export projects backed by ExxonMobil and Anadarko (now part of Occidental Petroleum). At USD 60 billion, they are the largest fossil gas projects proposed in Africa. A change in leadership, and post-election unrest, could affect their timeline and viability.
Banks warned to steer clear of Saudi Aramco IPO
Ten climate and environmental organisations sent a letter to major banks last week urging them to cut off their involvement in Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering of stock (IPO). The IPO, valued at USD 2 trillion, would likely be the “biggest single infusion of capital into the fossil fuel industry” since the Paris Agreement, supporting the world’s largest historical corporate emitter of carbon pollution. The banks reportedly coordinating the IPO are: Bank of America, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley.
Meet the 20 fossil fuel firms behind one-third of global carbon emissions
The Guardian published updated research from Richard Heede of the Climate Accountability Institute revealing that just 20 fossil fuel firms are behind 35 percent of global carbon emissions from 1965 to present. 1965 was chosen as the starting point based on recent research showing that industry leaders knew by then about the impact of fossil fuels on the climate. Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell top the list of investor-owned companies. Read responses from eight of the companies, all of which dodge their historical responsibility.
Industry makes record USD 50 billion investment in LNG in 2019
The oil and gas industry has made a record volume of final investment decisions on LNG projects in 2019. Globally, firms approved USD 50 billion in new LNG projects, with the United States and Canada topping the list of fossil gas expanders. These projects are largely betting on the growth of exports to China.
Burning Problems, Inspiring Solutions: Sharing lessons on action against tobacco and fossil fuels
This new report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development and NDC Alliance examines lessons from the experience with tobacco control that can be applied to drive action to restrict the production and use of fossil fuels.
State Capture: A case study on fossil gas exploitation in Romania
A new report from Bankwatch Romania documents questionable regulatory shifts, legal bypasses, and public finance driving fossil gas development in Romania at the expense of environmental protections and land rights.
The Facts About Canadian Oil
This new website compiled by Environmental Defence shares the environmental, economic, and social facts about oil and gas extraction in Canada to inform the conversation on what happens next.