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Don't Worry, Everyone - Fossil Fuel Companies Will Make Sure COP21 Runs Like a Well-Oiled Machine

21/10/2015 16:59 | Updated 19 October 2016

Since the government's attack on renewables, we've already lost over 1000 jobs in the solar industry. This isn't the sort of leadership I wanted to see before the UN climate talks in a few weeks' time. But don't worry. Help is at hand. Real leadership has emerged where our government is failing. Ten of the biggest fossil fuel companies have come together to pledge action on climate change. They'll make sure that COP21 runs like a well-oiled machine.

Their joint statement says that "Our shared ambition is for a 2C future". Well, they'll certainly manage that. In fact, they'll smash it. It's far too modest to say they'll only hit two degrees when their business plans commit us to at least four degrees warming. They ought to give themselves more credit.

They don't do anything ridiculous like suggesting something which might actually help - imposing a price on carbon, for instance. Even though six of them already committed to this exact idea earlier this year, they've cast the suggestion aside. Instead, they're trotting out the same old wheeze on research and development across renewables, and silver bullet solutions like carbon capture.

We've seen this sort of thing before. It was particularly in vogue around fifteen years ago, when BP charmingly rebranded themselves as being 'Beyond Petroleum'. Shouting about their supposed commitment to renewables has been the greenwash staple of fossil fuel companies for decades. The green movement basically gave them the benefit of the doubt at the time. We can't fall for it again.

To this day, less than two per cent of these companies' turnover is spent on renewables. If they were serious about making the transition, they could do it. The technology exists. But they never have been, and there's no reason to believe they are now. What the oil companies are really proposing is business as usual, and that's not an option. That's prioritising short term profits for a few over long term devastation for billions.

In the end, there's only one clear cut solution: leaving 80 per cent of fossil fuels in the ground, and transitioning to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050. Measures like carbon pricing can undoubtedly be helpful, but there's no replacement for simply keeping coal, oil and gas unburned. That's what we need to see negotiations driving towards at COP21. And when our governments fail us on these targets, we need to ramp up the pressure.

To be fair to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, their statement rightly reminds us that we need governments to be providing clear policy frameworks for staying within two degrees warming. But they can suggest this because they know there's not much danger of it actually happening.

Just look at what's going on in the UK at the moment - nearly 90 per cent cuts to renewables subsidies, while we still pump billions into gas, oil and coal every year. Our government has made an ideological decision to back fossil fuels and big money above clean energy and local communities. No wonder big oil doesn't seem too worried.

It's easy to make empty gestures when you know the game is already oil-rigged. That's why we can't let fossil fuel companies use the global stage of COP21 as a way to pedal greenwash and justify business as usual. They'll pollute an already difficult political process. Even in a best case scenario, we know that results of the UN climate talks aren't likely to go far enough, and influence from oil companies will make the negotiations even murkier and more slippery. That's the last thing we need in a room where so many palms are already greased.