For well over a century, climate change has been subject to heated debate... yet, despite concrete science and undisputed evidence, Big Oil has remained in firm denial of the facts — but this past May, that all changed!
Six of Europe's largest oil and gas companies wrote a letter to the leaders of the upcoming climate talks in Paris, formally requesting an international carbon tax programme (kind of like a big, international version of the one we imposed on ourselves here at Ben & Jerry's). The goal? To reduce carbon emissions, and make companies and governments pay for the carbon they emit into the atmosphere. It's a surprising turn of events and essentially weakens all arguments from people denying the impact of humans on the environment.
It doesn't take a climate scientist to recognise the significance of this shift in thinking; reducing emissions and dependency on fossil fuels is the bigger goal. However, this new development is proof that the petroleum industry recognises that climate policy is moving forward with or without its input!
It's therefore in its best interest to take part in discussions and influence new policies to its liking. Either way, it's a positive development, and a nudge towards action for negotiators at the Paris conference.
In the short term, this carbon tax would likely benefit these companies too, by driving electricity producers from coal to gas. Looking at the bigger picture, Europe's oil giants are recognising that the world is inevitably shifting to a lower carbon operating system... and it's in their best interests to hedge their bets, and get on board to establish predictability in both the market and policy as they shift towards cleaner energy!
... and whilst here in Europe the oil giants signed the letter, the three largest oil companies over in the US (ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips) sadly didn't. That said, signs of a change in how they plan on doing business have been emerging in recent years. Even ExxonMobil, who for years has poured millions into funding science that denies climate change, recently released a report that shows support for a carbon tax!
Regardless of how this all pans out, it's encouraging to see positive participation from some of the world's biggest contributors of carbon emissions. The time for change is now, and the window to act is shrinking. However, as support grows and cooperation expands, it will only push our world leaders to enact real and positive change.