On 20 November 2018, Equinor, one of the largest oil and gas firms in the world, wrote to Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The first sentence spells trouble. “The way you lead the important work to deliver solutions to the global climate challenge is of great inspiration to us,” Equinor’s CEO Eldar Sætre writes.
So, we’ve got a major oil company praising the Paris Agreement.
Even if countries met their commitments under the Paris Agreement, there is a serious danger that climate tipping points will result in a “Hothouse Earth”. And, of course, we’re nowhere near on track to meet either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets in the Paris Agreement.
Equinor used to be called Statoil. The government of Norway is the largest shareholder in the company.
In the company’s most recent annual report, the chair of the board, Jon Erik Reinhardsen writes,
2017 has been a good year for Statoil, both operationally and financially. We have seen significant positive impacts from the improvements, and have benefitted from an upturn in the oil and gas market.
Stopping drilling for oil is the only meaningful action that an oil company can take to address climate change, because once the oil is extracted, it will be burned. When this happens, the carbon that had been stored in the oil for millions of years will be released to the atmosphere.
Instead of stopping its oil drilling activities, Equinor tells Espinosa that,
To supplement further Equinor’s climate actions, we are ready to invest in natural climate solutions in line with the UNFCCC REDD+ framework. Equinor is supporting the development of a jurisdictional forest carbon market with high environmental and social integrity standards and aims to be a catalyst for enhanced investments across industries.
In response to Equinor’s letter, Simone Lovera of the Global Forest Coalition, told the Guardian that,
“It’s absolute greenwash. By definition forest carbon offsets don’t add anything to mitigating climate change.
“The big problem is there is no guarantee when you plant trees that that forest will be there in 20-30 years, the emissions reductions might not be permanent.”
Equinor’s letter to the UNFCCC executive secretary coincided with Equinor’s 2018 Autumn Conference. Espinosa flew to Oslo to take part in the conference.
Norway’s climate strategy is identical to Donald Trump’s
The conference opened with a speech from Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg, in which she admits that Norway plans to continue its massive contribution to climate change:
We are a significant oil and gas producer. And of course, the burning of fossil fuels is one of the main causes of climate change. But shutting down our production is not a viable option, given the economic and climate-related challenges facing the world today.
Solberg ends her speech, with some support for Equinor’s greenwash about forests:
I would like to close by thanking Equinor for the good news this morning. Norway’s single most important mitigation measure is the International Climate and Forest Initiative.
Like the Norwegian Government, Equinor will make voluntary payments to countries for verified reductions in deforestation. The intention is to contribute to the development of a robust carbon market for forests, with the highest standards for environmental and social integrity. I commend you for this initiative, and I hope other companies will follow your lead.
This, then, is Norway’s climate change strategy. Continue profiting from fossil fuels for as long as possible. That’s identical to Donald Trump’s climate change strategy.
Meanwhile, Norway is throwing its money at REDD, to delay structural change to the fossil fuels industry.
Thanks for big oil from the UNFCCC
Espinosa thanks Equinor for their greenwash:
The day after writing to Espinosa about its proposed REDD investments, Equinor started construction of the Johan Castberg vessel, part of the company’s latest oil development in the Barents Sea.
PHOTO Credit: From left to right – Erna Solberg, Patricia Espinosa, and Eldar Sætre at the Autumn Conference in Oslo.