THE BIG PICTURE
For all the hype going into COP26 in Glasgow, many of us around the world feel badly let down as once again as many key voices were excluded and the decisions failed to adequately address the scale of the crisis, especially for those in the most vulnerable countries. Despite these frustrations, COP26 may perhaps be seen as something of a turning point for the movement seeking a just and equitable oil and gas phase-out. The final decision text included explicit language on fossil fuels for the first time. While the language was far too weak – badly watered down text on subsidies and only naming “unabated coal” not oil and gas – many campaigners nonetheless saw the first ever explicit mention of the problem as a momentous signal that the movement will be able to capitalise on.
Much more significant progress occurred outside the formal negotiations, with oil and gas central to additional government commitments. The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance formally launched with eleven countries signing up, putting oil and gas front and center of the debate. In addition, the UK-led statement to phase out oil and gas financing overseas exceeded expectations, with 39 countries signing up including the US and Canada and a majority of European countries. This fundamentally shifts the focus of the public finance campaign to those remaining laggards: China, Japan and South Korea. Overall, as we head towards the next COP in Egypt, many are hopeful of maintaining the growing momentum to use these spaces to push for the phase-out of oil and gas production.
–The OilWire Team
November saw the launch of a major new research project, the Global Oil and Gas Exit List. It provides detailed information on 887 companies operating in the upstream and/or midstream sectors of the oil & gas industry. It covers 94% of the upstream oil and gas sector.
- Over 95% of the upstream oil and gas companies listed on GOGEL are still exploring or preparing to develop new oil and gas reserves.
- 506 upstream oil and gas producers are planning to add 190 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BBOE) to their production portfolios within the next one to seven years. 15 companies are responsible for over half this production.
- Over the past 3 years, oil and gas companies spent $168 billion on exploration for new oil and gas resources. Over half of this amount was spent by 16 companies.
Source, GOGEL Media Briefing, accessed from this link
The Global Oil & Gas Exit List(GOGEL) is Urgewald’s latest data project. GOGEL is published each fall and is supported by a network of partner organizations.
WHAT WE’RE TRACKING
Trends in the Right Direction
Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance formally launches during COP26
The Beyond Oil and gas Alliance (BOGA), was formally launched during COP by 11 national and subnational governments. Joining Costa Rica and Denmark, which had previously announced the initiative in September, : France, Greenland, Ireland, Quebec, Sweden and Wales as core members. California, New Zealand and Portugal joined as associate members, and Italy as a friend of BOGA. The alliance will seek a managed phase-out of oil and gas production in line with Paris Agreement goals. Core members will require committing to ending new licensing, concessions or leasing rounds and setting an Paris-aligned date for ending oil and gas production. While the coalition does not include the world’s largest producing nations, participants state that the initiative sets an agenda and helps to apply diplomatic pressure. BOGA will also provide technical support on oil and gas phase out to developing nations.
Countries commit to phase out public finance for fossil fuels
In a major victory for campaigners and diplomats, 39 countries including the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and a number of public finance institutions including the European Investment Bank, unveiled a commitment to “end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022” at COP26. The commitment would end an estimated $24 billion in direct government-backed support for the sector, as well as billions of dollars of indirect private capital enabled by public finance. Civil society groups are now working to ensure these commitments are followed through with minimal loopholes. The commitments build pressure on major laggards; China, Japan and South Korea.
Global South Parliamentarians call for a fossil free future
Also at COP, elected officials from 27 countries in the Global South shared an urgent call to political decision makers worldwide to take decisive action in transitioning the world away from coal, oil and gas including: ending fossil fuel expansion, phasing out existing coal, oil, and gas in a just and equitable way, committing to 100% access to renewable energy, and pursuing fiscal policies that will support these actions.
Zurich Insurance scraps cover for new oil exploration projects
Zurich Insurance Group, Europe’s fifth-largest insurer, will no longer underwrite new greenfield oil exploration projects. Campaign group Insure our Future described the announcement as a first baby step but pointed out that in order to fully align its oil and gas underwriting with climate science, Zurich needs to immediately stop insuring all new oil and gas projects, not just new oil exploration projects in companies that lack ‘meaningful transition plans’.
Caribbean civil society calls for an oil free Caribbean Sea
Over 30 networks and organisations from nine Caribbean countries have signed a declaration calling for an end to exploration and extraction in the Caribbean Sea. The declaration urges Caribbean countries and multilateral organisations to leave oil and gas in the ground, and to prioritise establishing moratoria on new infrastructure and repairing social and environmental damage. While Belize and Costa Rica have both implemented limits on fossil fuel production, Colombia, The Bahamas and the Dominican Republic are all aiming to explore for oil and gas. Guyana is advancing large scale exploitation. The declaration is also supported by 18 international organisations.
Over 100 creators and advocates call for Edelman to drop fossil fuel clients
Creators, experts and advocates are calling on the world’s largest PR firm, Edelman, to end its relationships with the fossil fuel sector. Despite a public commitment to align with the Paris Agreement, Edelman does more work for fossil fuel interests than any other PR agency, including extensive work with ExxonMobil and Shell. After a number of private conversations which yielded limited results, creators and influencers are publicly demanding that Edelman cease advertising and PR activities for fossil fuel companies.
Young people criticize fossil fuel industry presence at COP26 and call for fossil fuel phase-out
Youth climate activists took to the stage at COP26, delivering a powerful rebuke to delegates for their continued closeness with the extractive industries and a lack of ambition on fossil fuel phase-out. More than 500 fossil fuel lobbyists were present at the conference, a greater number than any single country delegation, and around double the event’s official indigenous constituency. The activists called for greater ambition on phasing out fossil fuels, including signing up to the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, which the youth and the leaders of the Fridays for Future group have already joined.
Scottish first minister condemns controversial Cambo project
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has stated that the Cambo oil field “could not and should not pass any rigorous climate assessment”. If approved, the controversial project, proposed off the coast of Shetland, could yield hundreds of millions of barrels of oil over a period of 25 years. This represents a seismic shift for Sturgeon who has previously championed North Sea oil exploration in campaigns for Scottish independence. While the power to make decisions on oil and gas extraction remains with the UK Government, the position of the Scottish Government is very influential on the issue. In the run up to COP26, hosted in Glasgow, the Scottish government also dropped their policy of supporting the policy of “maximising economic recovery” (extracting every last drop) of remaining oil and gas reserves. The Cambo project has attracted heavy criticism and community resistance; commentators have accused the UK Government of
hypocrisy in approving new fossil fuel supply while it hosts an international climate conference.
Civil Society statement demands real climate solutions
Over 700 civil society groups from 100 countries have signed a joint statement calling on governments to commit to “real zero”. The statement cites concerns that the ambition of “net zero” pledges are too often compromised by an over reliance on unproven negative emissions technologies, or carbon accounting tricks including offsetting. The statement argued these pledges are masking climate inaction. It instead calls for curbing emissions at the source, investing in transformation, restoring ecosystems, and supporting indigenous and community-led solutions.
Resistance grows to Woodside’s offshore Scarborough gas project
Australian company Woodside Petroleum is planning to proceed with its controversial Scarborough gas project, a joint venture with BHP, attracting opposition from communities and organisers. If it proceeds, in addition to its devastating climate harm and damage to ecologically important marine environments in Western Australia, it would threaten 40,000 year old Aboriginal rock art adjacent to the LNG processing facilities. Opposition to Scarborough has been scaling up. The new ‘Say NO to Scarborough gas’ coalition that includes Greenpeace, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, 350.org, the Conservation Council of Western Australia and Market Forces, has launched a coalition website.
Verde Island in the Philippines threatened by gas expansion plans
Verde Island Passage (VIP) in the Philippines is one of the most biodiverse marine habitats on earth, as well as providing livelihoods to millions of Filipinos. Yet the integrity of VIP is threatened by fossil gas and liquefied natural gas expansion plans, in particular from SMC Global Power and Linseed Field Power Corporations. Stakeholders have launched an online petition calling for a rejection of gas projects in the VIP, citing risks of chemical and waste water leaks to human and nonhuman life. Organisers have also sent letters to banks including: China Banking Corp., China Bank Capital, Development Bank of the Philippines, Credit Suisse (Hong Kong) Ltd., and Standard Chartered Bank asking them to withdraw their support for the proposed projects.
Can Egypt, host of next year’s COP27, break its gas addiction?
In this essay on Egyptian energy, the author discusses the situation facing the next COP hosts. On the one hand, President el-Sisi has driven a rapid growth in production that has led Egypt to become the second biggest gas producer in Africa. On the other hand, there is an enormous opportunity for renewables; Egypt has among the largest solar potential in the world and is building substantial wind capacity. How the country can be supported to follow a fossil free future may need to be a central question going into COP27.
Will Russia ever leave fossil fuels behind?
A long read essay on the dilemma facing Russia as the world moves beyond oil and gas. The piece discusses the dominance of oil and gas for the economy, the possible role of carbon removal in Russia, and what alternative sectors may emerge. Overall in Russia in 2019, oil and gas provided 39% of the federal revenue. The authors indicate that increased focus on agriculture and sustainable forestry could provide alternatives.
Financial institutions in the G20 have $22 trillion of exposure to carbon-intensive industries
Bloomberg Green reports on a study by Moody’s Investors Service that finds financial institutions in the Group of 20 leading industrial and developing nations have $22 trillion of exposure to carbon-intensive industries. That’s equal to about 20% of their total loans and investments. The credit rating agency’s report recommends firms make a swift shift to climate-friendly financing or risk reporting losses. Moody’s provide a breakdown of exposure by sector and found banks are exposed to the value of $13.8 trillion (19% of on-balance sheet loans), insurers have $1.8 trillion of exposure (13% of cash and invested assets) and asset managers have $6.6 trillion (28% of equity holdings).
European Central Bank finds no bank is close to meeting their expectations of climate risk management
The ECB’s report evaluated the state of climate-related and environmental (C&E) risk management among the 112 banks that it supervises, which have Euro 24 trillion in assets. It found the majority of banks have no plans for concrete actions to adjust their business strategy and only a handful of them mention actively planning to steer their portfolios on a Paris-compatible trajectory. A small but insufficient positive signal was that half of the banks are contemplating setting exclusion targets for some segments of the market. As the Vice-Chair of the Supervisory Board of the ECB, Frank Elderson suggested, legally binding requirements are needed to correct the market failure.
Exxon CEO accused of lying to congress under oath about climate science
In a US congressional hearing into the fossil fuel industry’s role in spreading climate misinformation, Darren Woods, ExxonMobil chief executive, stated that the company did not cover up research on the contribution of fossil fuels to the climate crisis. The chair of the oversight committee challenged this testimony, pointing out a “clear conflict” between what Exxon told the public and what Exxon scientists were warning privately. BP, Chevron, and Shell also denied charges of misrepresenting climate science or deceiving the public.
Climate litigation increasing; banks and boards may be the next targets
Climate lawsuits are on the rise, with 1000 live cases in 28 countries and seven international jurisdictions. As climate damages worsen and attribution science improves, countries and companies could increasingly be held liable. Chevron recently acknowledged that climate litigation could even render the business model of major producers “economically infeasible”. Though the targets of lawsuits have traditionally been governments and fossil fuel companies, this may broaden in future. Roger Cox, a lawyer for Milieudefensie, recently stated that the next wave of climate litigation will expand to target banks and boards. Sixty of the world’s largest banks are responsible for providing $3.8 trillion in finance to fossil fuel companies since the Paris Agreement was signed.
Swedish oil and gas company charged with complicity in Sudan war crimes
In a Landmark case, Swedish prosecutors have brought charges against the Chairman of Lundin Energy for complicity in Sudan war crimes between 1999-2003. Lundin Energy, a Swedish oil and gas company, is alleged to have asked the Sudanese government to secure an oilfield by force. This is the first time since Nuremberg that a listed company will have to account for war crimes in court.
Loopholes in Asian Development Bank’s new energy policy
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has released a new energy policy that includes an exit from new finance for coal mining, and oil and gas exploration, drilling and extraction. While the announcement has been cautiously welcomed, commentators say the bank must close some key loopholes in order to make a meaningful commitment to climate action. The new policy does not limit coal investment activities through intermediaries, and its coal buy out scheme risks unintentionally extending the life of existing plants.
Despite climate pledges, Biden opens Gulf of Mexico for exploration
Despite campaign pledges to end new oil and gas leases on public land, the Biden administration will open 80 million acres of land in the Gulf of Mexico to auction for exploration, in a move commentators say is at odds with Biden’s promise to halve emissions by 2030. The area could yield up to more than a billion barrels of oil and over 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Environmental groups led by Earthjustice have filed a lawsuit challenging the sale.
Half of fossil fuel assets could be worthless by 2036
New academic research finds that half of global fossil fuel assets will be worthless by 2036 in a net zero transition, rendering a total of $11-14 trillion in stranded assets. This asset crash could trigger a financial crisis of a magnitude similar to that of 2008. Economies that decarbonise faster will benefit financially, especially net importers of fossil fuels. The study also recommends that oil exporters should diversify their economies as quickly as possible to avoid a disorderly transition and financial and political instability.
University pension scheme members seek to sue directors for holding fossil fuels
Members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) have filed a request with the UK High Court to sue the pension funds’ directors for breaching their duties in four ways. One of the stated breaches is continuing to hold fossil fuels, which members allege has caused and will continue to cause financial detriment to the beneficiaries. The High Court will make a decision on whether to proceed with a trial within a month.
EU drafts new methane legislation
The EU has unveiled new draft legislation aimed at reducing methane emissions in the oil and gas sector. The new rules would require companies to report and mitigate methane leaks within twelve months of the rules coming into force. The legislation is due to be presented in December and will then be negotiated by the European Parliament, which can take up to two years. Methane has a much higher heat-trapping potential than CO2, in the short term.
Influence of fossil fuel sector weakening G20 commitments on climate
While the Glasgow Climate Pact, the document outlining what governments agreed at COP26, mentioned an ambition to reduce reliance on coal, in a landmark first for the COP agreements, references to oil and gas were conspicuously absent . With the exception of France, none of the G20 countries signed up to the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, yet the G20 provided vast sums in fossil fuel subsidies in 2020. The influence of the fossil fuel sector at COP resulted in the weakening of language on coal phase out and fossil fuel subsidies. Confronting the G20’s ties to oil and gas will be critical in enabling a successful outcome at COP27 in Egypt.
Resolution in the Philippines on 50% renewable energy by 2030
A new resolution filed in the Philippines calls on the House Committee on Energy to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation to assess the country’s renewable energy targets to achieve the Philippines’ transition to 50% renewable energy sources by 2030. This is a crucial development, since the country is heavily dependent on coal in its energy mix, and planning major expansion in its fossil gas capacity.itching sectors, and an emphasis on high quality jobs.
Tullow Oil pursues plans to sell off energy deposits in East Africa and Latin America
After losing more than half of its stock value during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tullow Oil is considering selling materially significant stakes in energy deposits across East Africa and Latin America. This includes a $3.4 billion project in Kenya that would transport 120,000 barrels of oil per day to the coast for export. Tullow is exploring alternative sources of capital as increasing numbers of Western banks and OECD institutions commit to decarbonisation.
Tanzania government looks to revive gas extraction
President Samia Suluhu Hassan is looking to accelerate development of reserves by restarting discussions with Equinor and Shell that had stalled for several years. Tanzania has an estimated 60 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.
Chevron looks to purchase carbon credits after failed carbon capture project
Chevron is facing penalties from the Western Australian government after it failed to meet a five year target for carbon capture and storage (CCS). The Gorgon CCS project is the world’s largest commercial CCS project and was designed to inject up to 4 million tonnes of CO2 per year. The project faced well-publicised technical issues that resulted in a three year delay. It has injected just 5.5 million tonnes of CO2 since August 2019, less than half of what was planned. Chevron and project partners have been mandated to purchase $180 million in carbon credits to compensate for the failure to meet its targets.
Namibia will grant exploration license to ReconAfrica
Canadian oil company ReconAfrica is exploring for oil near the Okavango Delta in Namibia, a region rich in biodiversity. If it finds oil, ReconAfrica will be granted a 25-year production license, according to the Namibian Energy minister. This comes despite warnings from UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee against granting exploration licenses in these environmentally sensitive areas. Drilling in the Kavango Basin, just 260km away, is facing high levels of opposition.
Activist investors call for breakup of Shell
Activist hedge fund Third Point has called for the break up of Shell, after lower than expected profits were reported in its latest quarterly earnings call. Third Point is advocating breaking up the oil major into several companies that can satisfy competing shareholder interests, including one focused on legacy oil and gas extraction and another on renewables and liquified natural gas. This comes in the wake of the legal ruling in Dutch courts that mandates the company to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030, compared to 2019. Shell is appealing the decision. The oil giant is continuing to invest in fossil fuel expansion, including stakes in the controversial Cambo project, off the Shetland Islands, and offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Pemex faces financial losses despite government support
Mexican oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) faces financial challenges despite an increase in production. Higher tax payments and foreign exchange losses meant that the company lost MXN 77.2 billion compared to a profit of MXN 1.4 billion in the same period last year. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has provided billions of dollars of financial support to the company in an effort to revive it.
Oil majors increase investment in plastic at a record rate
Oil majors are planning major expansion into plastics as an important future market as the world moves to decarbonise its fuel sources. Total investment in the chemical industry more than doubled between 2007-2019. Though there has been increasing interest in bioplastics, fossil-based plastics still dominate, making up more than 99% of the market. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that plastics will make up 50% of the growth in oil demand by 2050. Fossil fuel companies are relying on growth in demand for virgin fossil-based plastics to justify continued production growth. However, to avoid fossil fuel lock-in, and to meet our climate and environmental targets, we must move rapidly away from plastics towards more sustainable and circular practices.
Oil well rupture in Nigeria spills pollutes land and waterways
An oil and gas well in Nigeria has ruptured and spilled an unknown quantity of crude oil into the surrounding mangrove forests, land, and waterways where it is located. While there are no current estimates for the spill size, local operator Aiteo has stated that it is “of an extremely high order”. The well was emitting oil continuously for two weeks before efforts were made to plug the leak. Aiteo purchased the license in 2015 from a consortium headed by Shell.
Report from the Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program: Undermining Climate Action The Australian Way
This report reveals that planned new gas and coal projects in Australia would result in almost 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2e emissions annually – equivalent to building over 200 new coal power stations. This would be four times the amount of new coal power stations planned by China and almost double the carbon footprint of global aviation.
Research from Geoengineering Monitor: Fossil Fuel Industry and Investments in CCS and CCUS
Geoengineering Monitor investigates the number of CCS projects that directly involve the fossil fuel industry as either a sponsor or project partner. The data shows that the fossil fuel industry is involved with about 85% of known CCS projects.
Reclaim Finance report: Spreading the Fossil Fuel Pandemic: How the ECB’s Covid quantitative easing is supporting oil and gas expansion
A new report from Reclaim Finance investigates the ECB’s COVID-related asset purchases supporting fossil fuel companies. It finds that the central bank bought EUR 80 billion of bonds from carbon-intensive companies – including EUR 15.3 billion of fossil fuel bonds – with its COVID-related asset purchases. The ECB bought 15 bonds from Shell, TotalEnergies, Repsol, Eni and OMV from April 2020 to September 2021, increasing the number of bonds of these companies it holds by 16.2%.
Friends of the Earth US and Oil Change International: Past Last Call: G20 public finance institutions are still bankrolling fossil fuels
This report looks at G20 country and MDB public finance for fossil fuels from 2018-2020 and finds they are still backing at least $63 billion per year in oil, gas, and coal projects. This was 2.5 times greater than the $26 billion in support for renewable energy, which has largely stagnated since 2014.
Badvertising and Rapid Transition Alliance: Polluting the Process: How marketing and public relations by high-carbon industries distorts climate conferences and policy
This report exposes the extent of influence peddling undertaken by major polluters. The report claims this type of corporate co-option and greenwash is nothing new at international climate negotiations, suggesting that previous COPs such as in Katowice (2018), Paris (2015), Warsaw (2013) and Lima (2014) have been similarly at the mercy of big polluters who intrude on the climate negotiation process while portraying themselves as climate saviours.
IISD and NRGI Briefing: National Oil Companies and Climate Change: Insights for advocates
This briefing is for climate and development advocates who seek to reduce fossil fuel supply and promote sustainable economies by engaging with state-owned/national oil companies (NOCs), many of which are based in countries with high levels of poverty. The briefing makes five observations on influencing NOCs.
Coalition Report: Fossil Fuelled 5
The Fossil Fuelled 5 report examines five wealthy nations – the US, Canada, Norway, Australia and the UK – that have a widening gap between their rhetoric on climate action and their plans to expand the production of fossil fuels. The paper gives a snapshot of how each is undermining global efforts to address the climate crisis. The paper was produced by the University of Sussex and conducted in cooperation with the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative and key regional partners in each of the 5 countries – Uplift (UK), Oil Change International (USA), Greenpeace (Norway), The Australia Institute (Australia) and Stand.earth (Canada).
Environmental Defence Report: Canada’s Big Oil Reality Check
Oil and gas production is Canada’s largest emitting sector as well as its fastest growing source of emissions. The federal government has repeatedly told the public that Canada can be a climate leader while continuing to have a thriving oil and gas sector. In reality, Canadian oil and gas companies have released a range of complex, misleading climate change pledges that must not be taken at face value. This report provides a critical assessment of the climate plans of eight Canadian producers of oil, gas, or both: Cenovus, Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNRL), Tourmaline Oil, ExxonMobil and its Canadian affiliate Imperial Oil (owned by ExxonMobil), ARC Resources, Shell Canada, and Ovintiv.
Insure our Future: The 2021 Scorecard on Insurance, Fossil Fuels & Climate Change
This is the fifth annual Scorecard on Insurance, Fossil Fuels and Climate Change published by the Insure Our Future campaign. The Scorecard analyses the evolving role of the global insurance industry in the fossil fuel sector and in avoiding catastrophic climate collapse. It focuses on 30 leading primary insurers and reinsurers, assessing and scoring their policies on insuring and investing in coal, oil, gas, and other aspects of climate (in)action. The report highlights progress and loopholes, calls out leaders and laggards, and identifies challenges and opportunities for the year ahead.
Climate Analytics Report: Why gas is the new coal
This report provides quantitative evidence on the role of fossil gas in increasing emissions, and the imperative for gas phase-out in a world that implements the Paris Agreement and limits warming to 1.5°C.