Notes on a talk given by Christiana Figueres (Ex-Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) at the Energy Lab 05:
[My comments in square brackets]
[During the Paris talks, there was much activist discussion about the presence of fossil fuel companies at the discussion and the amount of influence they may have exerted. In this answer to a question, she may well be responding to this…]
We all know that fossil fuel companies have large amounts of fossil fuel reserves and exploration processes on their balance sheets. These are reserves, which if abandoned [as we do need them to be], will probably cause massive loss in share price and could drive the companies out of business [- or make the subject to takeover bids from less principled companies]. Consequently, many of these companies are putting up a strong fight against change.
However, they don’t want to be the “Kodak of the Twentyfirst century”, superseded by a newer and better technology.
Their survival is ultimately in their hands. There is no point in demonising them, they are working within the parameters they are used to, and the parameters which ensure their survival. If you demonise them then they will see themselves as being a corner and fight to the death. They have huge amounts of money they can throw at this fight – they can win – relatively easily [see how well they have been doing so far and they are not yet desperate].
We need them because of their experience and because they not only have masses of money which could be spent constructively, but because they have amongst the biggest engineering capacity and experience of anyone on the planet. We need this capacity devoted to being constructive. Energy demand will likely increase, so we need energy companies.
So we invite them to the table to get them involved.
There are some good examples of change in oil companies.
StatOil from Norway. They have rights to drill the Artic. They know this is not popular. They know the drilling is expensive, especially given the price volatility of oil. The problem is that abandoning previously promised exploration, with money already sunk into it, would damage their share price.
However, they are also seeking a future based on their experience, and building huge wind power platforms. They know heaps about building stable platforms at sea – so this is really good.
Similarly, Total from France, is migrating its capacity. They have bought a big solar panel company and are set to improve its panels, especially for sale in high temperature countries. They have bought a lithium battery company and are set to try and improve the batteries.
Change is happening.