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Should Oil Producers Be Included in the Conversation About Global Climate Change?

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Later this year, some of the world’s leading scientists and environmentalists will gather in Paris to discuss global climate change — and some of the biggest oil companies also want a say in these negotiations.

According to a May 26 Christian Science Monitor article, major oil producers like Total, Eni, Saudi Aramco, BG, Royal Dutch Shell and others recently formed an industry group that will be present during the Paris negotiations. In June, the group plans to announce a think tank.

This year’s Paris talks are intended to establish a more stringent and binding international agreement on lowered greenhouse gas emissions targets. The emissions goals set in Copenhagen in 2009 have been largely viewed as a failure due to their lax nature.

The oil group plans to push for industry-wide changes and reforms in response to climate change. For example, they have agreed to advocate for natural gas as an alternative to coal. Total has already begun using the hashtag #MakeThingsBetter to promote its investments in natural gas, the “cleanest fossil fuel.”

By forming an industry group, the oil companies can ensure their voices are heard during talks for more aggressive emissions standards. Yet it’s hard to discern whether these oil companies are heading to Paris because they genuinely want to halt climate change — or if they’re simply protecting their livelihood.

According to the UK Guardian, Shell has openly acknowledged the scientific evidence supporting climate change; its executives agree that violent climate change will be inevitable if we burn all our fossil fuel reserves.

Yet in the very same corporate breath, Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden has said, “All the oil that we have, we will use.” With enough oil reserves on hand to support another 53.3 years of production, a statement like this is concerning, to say the least.

Ultimately, the oil companies will have to follow whatever regulations are set down in Paris this year, whether they like it or not — if any regulations are set down at all.

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