This week, oil and gas industry leaders, government officials, and other leaders in the energy world will virtually gather for the annual CERAWeek conference. This conference is the industry’s first significant opportunity to collectively send a clear signal of whether or not they are serious about their climate commitments and willing to support a shovel ready plan that meets the Biden administration’s call to “use every tool available” to cut methane pollution.
In recent years, CERAWeek has become the place for companies to make voluntary climate commitments to maintain its credibility amidst growing pressure to address the climate crisis. In 2019, Shell, BP, and ExxonMobil used this conference to announce opposition to Trump’s methane safeguard rollback and show support for federal regulation of methane.
Since then, oil and gas companies have continued to make bigger and bolder commitments to tackle the growing oil and gas methane pollution crisis, but they largely aren’t backing it up. In fact, our recent report shows that every company that claims to support federal safeguards for methane emissions has also funded lobbying to dismantle them.
This gap between what oil and gas companies say versus what they do is troubling. Therefore, CERAWeek is a golden opportunity for shareholders, stakeholders, and the public to hold oil and gas companies and their trade associations accountable for those commitments made to cut methane.
The question for CERAWeek 2021 is: Will oil and gas companies and their trade associations make good on their public promises? Or are they, once again, just a PR stunt?
Cutting Methane By 65% Below 2012 Levels by 2025 Is Within Reach
President Biden has a robust agenda to tackle the climate crisis, and has already taken action through his executive order calling on all federal agencies to do everything in their power to reduce oil and gas methane pollution, a potent climate pollutant–over 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide–that is accelerating climate change.
Since the beginning of the fracking boom methane levels have skyrocketed and Trump’s rollback of methane rules have essentially given oil and gas companies a free pass to pollute. Studies from on the ground, planes, and satellite data have documented how methane pollution from oil and gas far worse than what companies are reporting.
Polls show that american voters overwhelmingly support strengthening of federal methane standards for oil and gas extraction. Environmental, public health, and community advocacy organizations have laid out a clear and achievable plan for the Biden administration to use its existing Clean Air Act authority to cut methane pollution from oil and gas development 65% below 2012 levels by 2025.
All Eyes Are on Industry
Major oil and gas companies understand what is at stake. Investors and financial institutions have subjected American oil and gas operations to increased scrutiny because of a failure to date to address climate impacts. In order to survive they need to convince investors and consumers that they are serious about change.
That is why most of them have already made public commitments to support federal methane safeguards, in theory. But those commitments are only words, in some cases undermined by their lobbying dollars, and relatively easily made during a Trump Administration that was hell bent and determined to eliminate environmental protections.
To make their commitments real these companies have to make clear what rules they support under a Biden administration that will actually implement them. To put their money where their mouth is, and assure the public in the process, they should commit to a rule that requires a 65% cut in oil and gas methane pollution below 2012 levels by 2025.
The pressure is now on the industry to respond with real action. Promises and PR aren’t enough.