Oil sector must take lead in climate debate: Shell CEO

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 11, 2015 7:30 PM

By Ron Bousso

LONDON (Reuters) - The oil industry needs to take a leading role in the fight against climate change to introduce "realism and practicality" into the debate, the head of Royal Dutch Shell will say on Thursday.

In excerpts of a keynote speech due to be given at the International Petroleum Week dinner in London on Thursday evening, Shell Chief Executive Ben van Beurden also accuses governments of taking at times counterproductive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"What can we as an industry do to help clear the way for a more informed debate? In the past we thought it was better to keep a low profile on the issue. I understand that tactic, but in the end it's not a good tactic," the CEO is expected to say.

Environmental organizations have accused the oil industry of not doing enough to reduce emissions and increase the use of renewable fuels.

"The debate about the future of energy is not always very balanced, partly because we keep such a low profile and there’s so little dialogue within our sector," he will say.

"You cannot talk credibly about lowering emissions globally if, for example, you are slow to acknowledge climate change; if you undermine calls for an effective carbon price; and if you always descend into the 'jobs versus environment' argument in the public debate."

Shell backed a resolution last month proposed by activist investors to force the company to recognize climate change risks by improving its transparency.

Van Beurden also criticizes "inefficient or even counterproductive measures" taken by governments.

He says Germany, while increasing the use of renewable energy sources, saw a rise in CO2 emissions in 2012 and 2013 as a result of the increased use of coal-powered plants.

"I'm well aware that the industry's credibility is an issue. Stereotypes that fail to see the benefits our industry brings to the world are short-sighted. But we must also take a critical look at ourselves."

"Our industry should be less aloof, more assertive. We have to make sure that our voice is heard," the Shell boss will say.

"Together, we can offer some realism and practicality to the debate."

Oil and gas companies have come under increasing pressure from investors to take more action in the fight to lower carbon emissions.

In December, the Church of England filed a shareholder resolution on climate change at Shell and BP.

Last year, the European Union set a 40 percent goal for cuts in emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, below 1990 levels by 2030.

(Editing by Louise Heavens and Dale Hudson)