For immediate release

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY ON THE DEFENSIVE AFTER MPs CALL FOR DIVESTMENT 

Trade association writes to MPs with disingenuous claims about the industry’s climate commitments 

[Westminster, UK] The leading trade association for the UK offshore oil and gas industry has launched an attempt to defend the sector’s tarnishing reputation following growing calls from MPs to divest from fossil fuel companies in order to tackle the climate crisis.

Writing to all 650 MPs on 29 October before Parliament was dissolved, the trade body Oil & Gas UK (OGUK) seeks to counter the mounting calls to divert investments away from fossil fuel companies. The letter comes as a direct response to the October announcement that over 300 MPs have signed the Divest Parliament Pledge, calling on the trustees of the MPs Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuel firms [1].

OGUK represents around 400 organisations involved in upstream oil and gas extraction in the UK [2], including the international oil majors BP, Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil, who alone are responsible for more than 10% of the world’s carbon emissions since 1965 [3]. OGUK’s stated aim is to “strengthen the long-term health” of the industry.

In the letter, OGUK refers to its ‘Roadmap 2035: a blueprint for net zero’ and attempts to position the oil and gas sector as part of the solution in the transition to a net zero economy [4]. But its claims of being “unequivocally” committed to reducing carbon emissions contrast with recent analysis that shows the industry’s average capital expenditure on clean energy was only 1.3% in 2018 [5].

OGUK’s roadmap proposes no viable concrete measures to decarbonise the sector, while openly boasting about increased drilling activity and new investments to maximise extraction.

Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org who initiated the global divestment campaign, said: 

The fossil fuel industry is clearly running scared – because we are winning and our movement is forcing political leaders to understand that bold action against fossil fuels is required. OGUK’s feeble attempt to defend the industry to MPs is a dangerous form of climate denialism and barely masks the industry’s recent billion pound investments in new climate wrecking oil and gas projects. Our political leaders must work together to keep fossil fuels in the ground and bring about a global Green New Deal that invests trillions into a clean energy future to enable planet and people to thrive.”   

Caroline Lucas, Green Party candidate for Brighton Pavilion, who has championed the Divest Parliament initiative, said: 

“The oil and gas industry is desperately trying to greenwash their dirty business model, but MPs must not buy their spin about decarbonising. To make a net zero future reality, we must shift our money out of industries that pollute and into industries that are clean. The public are calling for decisive action on the climate emergency, and that means voting for MPs who will stand up to an industry which is pushing us over the climate cliff edge. The Green Party has long championed the transformation of the UK economy and energy system by 2030 through a radical Green New Deal.”

Globally, oil and gas companies have approved $50 billion for new extraction projects since 2018 [6]. Divestment campaigners argue that funding these companies is morally wrong and fatally undermines progress in tackling the climate crisis. Investors have also been warned about major financial risks associated with overvalued carbon assets [7]. Celebrating successes around the world, the global divestment movement is now backed by more than 1000 funds worth over $11 trillion [8].

In a further sign of the industry’s struggle for survival, the UK government recently imposed a moratorium on fracking (extracting gas from shale rocks), following years of intense opposition by local communities and climate activists.

With high-profile divestment campaigns such as Divest Parliament, the youth climate strikes and growing public awareness of the climate emergency, political leaders are under increasing pressure to take tangible action on fossil fuels. Polling suggests that the climate will be a decisive issue for most voters at the general election in December [9].

Also commenting:

Carys Boughton, UK Organiser for the Divest Parliament campaign, said: 

“OGUK’s panicked letter to all 650 MPs only serves to further expose the unrelenting climate wrecking business model of fossil fuel companies. Under the banner of net zero, the industry is continuing business as usual. OGUK offer warm words about reducing emissions, but their actual plans don’t go beyond using wind energy to power more oil rigs. This is pure greenwash and the opposite of what we need to solve the climate crisis. At the general election, voters will want to support candidates ready to stand up to the industry to bring about its managed decline and enable a just transition for all its workers.

ENDS

For more information and interviews – please contact:

[email protected] – 07792 767 394 (Carys) or 07946 054 273 (Tytus)

Notes to Editors

[1] Divest Parliament pledge text available here and full list of supportive MPs available here. Coverage of the 300 MP announcement on 22nd Oct 2019 in Bloomberg, The Evening Standard and City AM.

[2] A list of OGUK member organisations is available here.

[3] Analysis by the Climate Accountability Institute, revealed in a report by The Guardian, October 2019.

[4] OGUK’s Roadmap 2035 is available here.

[5] An analysis by the Carbon Disclosure Project showed that in 2018 oil and gas companies allocated on average 1.3% of their total capital expenditure to low carbon projects. Coverage in the Financial Times.

[6] A study by the Carbon Tracker from September 2019 concludes that “no major oil company is investing to support its goals of keeping global warming ‘well below’ 2˚C and to ‘pursue efforts’ to limit it to a maximum of 1.5˚C.”

[7] The Governor of the Bank of England has warned investors that assets in fossil fuel companies could become stranded and worthless as the world decarbonises. Coverage in The Guardian.

[8] To date, over 1000 institutions across the globe – representing funds worth over $11 trillion – have made some form of divestment commitment. Full list of commitments available here.

[9] Poll of 2,000 UK adults conducted by Opinium in September 2019. Coverage in The Guardian.

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