Oil majors are at the sharp end of the climate debate and face a bewildering balancing act to secure their futures. It’s a Catch-22 situation: to meet ambitious emissions targets by investing in low-carbon technologies, they will have to rely on revenue from expanding their businesses in oil and gas, for which there is still growing global demand.
On one hand, they must satisfy the big investors who are rewarding companies with progressive climate policies and dumping heavy polluters; yet on the other, they can’t risk cutting the generous dividends that keep shareholders sweet.
How energy companies navigate this maze could determine the winners and losers in a lower-carbon future, and help govern whether the world can rein in warming. So no pressure, then.
The confusion has been thrown into stark relief this week at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, where oil majors, state oil giants and ministers have been debating behind closed doors in their biggest gathering of the year.
While climate activists, notably Greta Thunberg, have called for all fossil fuel production to be halted to avert catastrophe, U.S President Donald Trump has decried “prophets of doom” & hailed the economic importance of oil and gas.
“It feels like we are at the epicentre of this debate. We sit right there between energy needs and climate change,” said Al Cook, executive vice-president of Norway’s energy giant Equinor.
“If you listen to Davos speeches, you’ve got some people who say only economic growth and energy matter. Others ask to stop oil and gas immediately. We need to find a way to balance this but the challenge is that you cannot always be popular with either side,” Cook told Reuters.
CLEAN ENERGY: FRACTION OF CAPEX
Repsol is at the vanguard of an industry climate drive, announcing this year that it plans to become carbon neutral by 2050. As a result, Norway’s wealth fund has doubled its stake in the Spanish energy firm.