Even Big Oil Is Concerned About Climate Change

CREDIT: Courtesy BP

Oil and gas giant BP held its annual meeting Thursday, and shareholders voted that the company should provide more information about its “preparation for the low carbon transition.”

While it may be historic that a major fossil fuel company has passed a climate change resolution, the decision is less about addressing the causes and effects of climate change than it is about navigating the new green economy to maximize the company’s profits.

In the resolution, investors asked for more information about BP’s “Alternative Energy” business, research and development in low carbon sources, and future plans “including any for carbon capture and storage.” The resolution came just one day before a group of investors petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to raise reporting requirements on oil and gas businesses.

BP’s platform already includes advocating for a transition from coal to natural gas. Coal accounts for three-quarters of the carbon emissions from the electricity sector, and natural gas makes up 50 percent of BP’s portfolio, the company reported.

“At BP we have consistently advocated for stronger government action and have been open and transparent about our environmental impact,” group chief officer Bob Dudley told shareholders. “The challenge ahead is to make the case for the necessary role of fossil fuels, and further transparency supports that case.”

Accepting the science of climate change has become a popular platform for investors. On Friday, a group of 62 investors representing nearly $2 trillion in assets, sent a letter to the SEC asking for higher disclosure standards for oil and gas companies.

“By failing to hold the fossil fuel industry to the same disclosure standards as other industries, the SEC is allowing the sector to hide its true level of risk and impeding investment capital from flowing to the low-carbon projects we desperately need,” Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, the group that organized the letter, said in a statement. “This is unfortunate in a world where an additional trillion dollars per year — a Clean Trillion — is needed in order to curb carbon pollution to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.”