by Tom Wittig
Even as the Obama Administration backs away from making climate change an immediate priority in its second term, the world’s leading companies — some of them fossil fuel companies — are calling for more action.
Last week, Exxon reiterated its support for a carbon tax in order to “address rising emissions.” And this week, Royal Dutch Shell has come out in support of a global initiative to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The oil giant cosigned a letter with Statoil and 100 other companies asking politicians worldwide to put a predictable price on carbon.
The joint letter will be presented to Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner on Climate Change:
A clear, stable, ambitious and cost-effective policy framework is essential to underpin the investment needed to deliver substantial greenhouse gas emissions reductions by mid-century. As business leaders, we believe that the certainty created by this policy framework and the investment it will unlock offers the prospect of increased business success and job creation in key sectors including energy, transport and the built environment.
Released ahead of the UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar, the letter points out that “a convincing strategy to reduce emissions… continues to evade the global community,” but warns against considering carbon pricing a “silver bullet.” Instead, the companies advocate combining carbon pricing “with other locally appropriate policies.”
And just today, a group of 80 investors with more than $1 trillion in assets issued a similar letter to world governments calling on them to establish better policies to encourage swifter climate action:
Investors worldwide are currently taking actions to address climate risks and opportunities. These range from considering and addressing climate risks in their investments, directly investing in assets such as renewable energy, low-carbon energy infrastructure, and clean technology, encouraging companies to improve energy efficiency and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, measuring and disclosing the carbon performance of their own portfolios, to persuading regulators to require corporate disclosure of the business impacts of climate change. These efforts are not yet sufficient and must be scaled up dramatically. Governments will need to adopt stronger, more consistent policy frameworks which provide the right market signals to support increased investment.
These calls for action come one day after the World Bank released a new report summarizing the state of climate science. The study concludes that the world will encounter “unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods” if it continues on its path to a 4˚C increase by 2100.
While Shell’s support of carbon pricing is not unprecedented, – it admitted internally pricing of $40 per ton CO2 in 2010 — it does provide new fodder for the dialogue around pricing carbon. Unfortunately, even though Shell, Exxon and the world’s top investors are endorsing this kind of carbon policy, the Obama Administration still won’t touch it.
Tom Wittig is an intern on the ocean policy team at the Center for American Progress.