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Green sentiment: 3, oil and gas giants: 0


Three developments in the oil and gas sector mark a critical moment in the global efforts to tackle climate change. A Dutch court has ordered Shell to cut carbon emissions from its oil and gas by 45% by 2030, a small activist investor group that owns 0.02% of ExxonMobil’s equity has persuaded enough green-minded support from among shareholders to secure two places on the company’s board, and investors have pushed through a vote, in the teeth of opposition by Chevron’s management, to slash the company’s Scope 3 emissions, that is, emissions arising from its value chain although not from assets directly owned or controlled by the company.

In terms of responsibility for cumulative emissions, Chevron is second among fossil fuel firms, ExxonMobil is third, and Shell sixth. These developments are not just about holding the worst polluters accountable but encapsulate growing public awareness and a critical mass of overt public support for undertaking radical transformation of the economy and society in order to tackle climate change.

The case against Shell was pursued by an NGO, Friends of the Earth, Netherlands, and 17,000 individuals. A Green Party nominee is the favourite for chancellor among German voters. It is this public demand that gives comfort and pushes governments, courts and businesses to change.

This is good news for developing countries, as indirect fulfilment of their long-standing demand to recognise the historical responsibility of rich industrialised nations to do more to reduce emissions and take climate action, so that developing countries have a little more room to deal with climate change while addressing developmental needs. That wiggle room, however, is not excuse for inaction, and the government must take the lead.

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