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What #ShellKnew and How it Was Used to Stall International Climate Change Negotiations

Read time: 7 mins

Shell, one of the world’s largest oil companies, has gained privileged access to the UN climate change negotiations while pushing the same unworkable solutions for almost 20 years, internal company documents reveal.

DeSmog UK has previously reported on a tranche of documents first unearthed by Jelmer Mommers of De Correspondent published on Climate Files, that reveal Shell knew about the causes and impacts of climate change since at least the 1980s.

Analysis of these documents, combined with new sources freshly uncovered by DeSmog UK, shows that while Shell’s understanding of the science developed, its proposed solution to the problem has remained remarkably static.

Oil Giants Shell and Eni Face Trial in Milan over Bribery Allegations in Biggest Corruption Case Facing Sector in Years

Read time: 4 mins
Shell truck

One of the biggest corruption cases faced by the oil industry in recent years is due to resume in Milan on Wednesday as two of the world’s biggest oil companies Royal Dutch Shell and Italian firm Eni are facing trial.

Prosecutors are bringing criminal charges against Shell and Eni executives over allegations of corruption regarding a $1.3 billion oil deal in Nigeria.

This is the first time an oil company as large as Shell or senior executives of a major oil company have ever stood trial for bribery offences.

The case, which has been repeatedly delayed, involves the 2011 purchase by Shell and Eni of Nigeria’s OPL 245 offshore oilfield — one of Africa’s most valuable oil blocks.

What 30 Years of Documents Show Shell Knew About Climate Science

Read time: 8 mins

There can be no mistake: as early as 1981, big oil company Shell was aware of the causes and dangers of climate change.

These documents show Shell walking backwards. In the 1980s it was acknowledging anthropogenic global warming. Then, as the scientific consensus became more and more clear, it started introducing doubt and giving weight to a “significant minority” of “alternative viewpoints” as the full implications for the company's business model became clear.  

By trawling through a tranche of documents first uncovered by Jelmer Mommers of De Correspondent, published on Climate Files, DeSmog UK can chart 30 years of the company’s understanding of climate science.

UN Accused of Promoting 'Greenwash' by Supporting Shell's Solution to Climate Change

Read time: 6 mins
Oil in the Niger Delta

The UN has been called out for acting as a mouthpiece for oil giant Shell in a tweet campaigners have slammed as evidence of the conflict of interest inside the international organisation overseeing global climate policy.

UN Climate, previously known as the UNFCCC, was accused of “greenwashing” after it promoted the oil giant’s vision for how the world can move away from fossil fuels and oil.

In its latest “Sky” scenario, Shell set out its vision on how to limit the global temperature rise to “well below two degrees” compared with 1990 level.

In a series of tweets, UN Climate secretariat, which facilitates global climate negotiations between countries, directly linked and quoted from Shell’s report.

Study Fills in Missing Data on Homes, Schools, Habitats at Risk from Shell’s Falcon Pipeline

Read time: 7 mins
Aerial view of the future site of the Shell ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania

At the end of 2017, Shell ran slightly afoul of Pennsylvania state regulators after filing a pipeline permit application to the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that failed to show sensitive environmental areas in the path of its proposed Falcon ethane pipeline. Now, a concerned nonprofit has pieced together the details Shell should have included (and more), revealing hundreds of homes, schools, streams, and wetlands in the path of the fracking products pipeline.

The 97-mile Falcon Ethane project will carry more than 107,000 barrels a day of a flammable plastics precursor to a small town in Pennsylvania where Shell is building an ethane “cracker” facility. In a region poised to be transformed by petrochemical development, this huge plastics plant will superheat the ethane and “crack” it as it manufactures over a million tons per year of tiny plastic beads of ethylene or polyethylene.

Shell, BP Climate Disclosures 'Just a Marketing Tool' — Report

Read time: 3 mins
Shell, BP shareholder climate resolutions

Two years after BP and Shell shareholders resoundingly passed resolutions requiring the oil majors to factor climate change risks into their corporate strategy and accounting, the two companies are disclosing no more than bare minimum, a new report has found.

The report, published by responsible investment nonprofit ShareAction – which was involved in the push to pass these climate resolutions in 2015 – found that while they have taken the necessary steps to meet their new disclosure commitments, the two oil companies are failing to plan for a more rapid transition to a low-carbon economy.

As ShareAction’s report argues, the companies may be publicly supporting the Paris Agreement, but their actions are not living up to their words.

Dirty Energy Giants Censured for Claiming Natural Gas Is 'Cleanest' Fossil Fuel

Read time: 4 mins
Exxon gas station

For many years, a standard talking point from the fossil fuel industry and those who speak on the industry’s behalf has been that natural gas is a cleaner alternative to conventional energy sources like coal and oil. This talking point is at least partially responsible for many people — including former President Barack Obama and his Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz — believing that natural gas can act as a “bridge fuel” in the eventual shift from coal and oil to renewable sources of energy.

But the truth is a lot more complicated than a talking point, something which a Dutch advertising watchdog has recognized as it takes two fossil fuel companies to task over misleading ads about natural gas being the “cleanest of all fossil fuels.”

Fossil Fuel Industry Steps in to Help Save Paris Climate Deal for All the Wrong Reasons

Read time: 3 mins
Money clenched in a person's hand

In May of 2016, six months before the U.S. presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump said that he would “cancel” the United States’ involvement in the Paris climate accord. Immediately following his election, however, Trump appeared to back-track slightly, saying he had “an open mind” about the agreement. And just this week, his administration canceled a much-hyped meeting to discuss the deal’s future in the U.S.

The back and forth from the administration likely stems from the fact that officials within it are split, with people like senior adviser Stephen Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt urging the president to withdraw from the deal, and people like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying that the U.S. should remain in it.

Pressure to stay in the Paris agreement isn’t just coming from members of the White House, either. Polls show that 71 percent of the American public supports the deal, so pulling out would prove to be highly unpopular with American voters. But another faction is begging the president to keep the deal in place: American businesses and fossil fuel companies.

Have Oil Majors Changed Their Tune on Climate Change?

Read time: 6 mins
Oil rig by wind turbines

This is the biggest challenge as we have at the moment as a company,” Ben van Beurden, chief executive of oil giant Shell, said recently. “The fact that societal acceptance of the energy system as we have it is just disappearing.”

Speaking at the annual CERAWeek energy conference in Houston on March 9, van Beurden described the growing tensions between his industry, which has created our fossil fuel dependent energy system, and the public, which is demanding a switch to clean energy: “I do think trust has been eroded to the point where it starts to become a serious issue for our long-term future.”

The world’s largest oil companies are increasingly faced with public pressure to do something about their impact on climate change. And increasingly we’re seeing their chief executives responding. The question is though, how much is for real and what's just greenwash?

Congressional Energy and Climate Committees Are Loaded with Ex-Fossil Fuel Lobbyists

Read time: 8 mins
U.S. Capitol building

Though the U.S. Congress has been in session for two months, much of the policy action which has taken place since Donald Trump assumed the presidency on January 20 has centered around his Executive Orders.

As some have pointed out, Trump's first speech in front of a joint session of Congress on February 28 can be seen as a reset moment, with the clock ticking on Republicans to deliver on promises made to voters in the 2016 election. In the energy and environment sphere, those efforts will likely center around gutting climate and environmental protections, and much of it will be carried out by congressional committee staffers. 

A DeSmog investigation has revealed that many Republican staff members on key committees are former fossil fuel industry lobbyists, which could help fast-track the industry's legislative agenda in the weeks and months ahead. In total, 15 staffers on the eight main energy and environment congressional committees previously worked as industry lobbyists on behalf of oil, gas, mining, coal, petrochemical, and electric utility interests. 

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