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Charities Urge Oil Companies to Tackle Climate Change

Tuesday October 30 2018

Petrochemical refinery at Grangemouth. Picture by John, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Church of Scotland and other faith charities have sent an open letter to the chairmen of three oil companies, asking them to align their business plans with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Christian Aid Scotland and Eco Congregation Scotland joined the Church in calling on BP, Shell and Total to make the radical changes needed to keep global warming as far below 2°C as possible.

The Richard Frazer, Convener of Church and Society Council said: “Oil companies have a critical role in deciding whether or not global warming stays within targets set by the Paris agreement of 2015.

“That agreement was to limit global warming to 1.5°C if possible and at most 2°C. I am now writing to ask them to tell us if they are committed to limit global warming and if so what are they going to do?”

In early October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that urgent changes are necessary to achieve climate targets and avoid the dangers of drought, extreme heat, floods and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

Sally Foster Fulton Head of Christian Aid Scotland said: “Right now, climate change is eroding life for the most vulnerable in our world and robbing our children of a future. Right now is the only time we have and time is running out. Christian Aid Scotland stands together with the Church of Scotland and Eco-congregations Scotland in asking oil and gas companies to be leaders and solution-makers, moving intentionally and quickly to a fossil-free future.”

Burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal causes carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere, one of the principal causes of global warming. The Paris Climate Agreement urges a transition toward low carbon energy sources.

Mary Sweetland, Chair of Eco-Congregation Scotland said: “We need to drastically reduce our use of carbon fuels, as the recent IPCC report shows. Big oil companies promised to clean up their act to meet the Paris commitments; now we need to know how quickly they are changing.”

The Church of Scotland sent the letters to the BP, Shell and Total, because it currently invests in those companies.

The 2018 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland voted not to withdraw the Church's investment in oil companies, but to engage with the industry and urge the companies to align their business plans with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Text of the open letter to Shell, BP and Total

We are writing an open letter to you as representatives of faith-based organisations in Scotland that are concerned about the impact of climate change. We know that climate change poses a threat to life on earth and creates terrible risks for people everywhere. The report from the IPCC on 1.5 degrees of warming published in October 2018 further adds to our concerns. We are particularly concerned that its impact is most keenly felt by those living in poverty. Those who have had least to do with its causes consistently suffer its worst effects.

We recognise as a matter of urgency the need to create a low carbon economy and that decisions made by oil and gas companies will be vital to bring about a just transition to a low carbon future. We also understand that to meet the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C and if possible to 1.5°C there must be radical change both in our use of energy and in the business plans of oil and gas companies. On this basis the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, meeting in May 2018, called for oil and gas companies to align their business plans with the Paris Climate Agreement.

We call upon [you] to take leadership in the energy transition to a net-zero-emission energy system. We ask you to set and publish targets that are aligned with the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C.

These targets need to cover the greenhouse gas emissions of [your] operations and the use of its energy products. We request that you report annually about plans and progress to achieve these targets.

Without this commitment we believe that the chance of implementing the Paris Climate Agreement is small and we therefore attach the highest importance to your response .

We would be delighted to meet to discuss and look forward to hearing from you.

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Rev Dr John Cameron - Sunday, November 11th, 2018

“Investment in renewable energy projects is growing around the world as countries rush to meet clean energy goals under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

But such projects, such as the hydropower boom, threaten animal life (including endemic species of fish) as well as people’s access to water used for drinking, fishing and farming.

Adrian Davidson - Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

“As an employee within the Scottish oil industry and someone who is very concerned about global warming, I find it puzzling that such a letter has been sent to three oil majors. Firstly, I would like to highlight that my family have taken steps to reduce our environmental impact, eg our house's thermal efficiency has been drastically improved, it is heated 100% by biomass, I car-share when ever practicable, we maximise the use of our smaller more efficient car. If government does not take a greater lead in both helping with the development of better technologies as well as stimulating cultural change that encourages people to act in a less selfish way, then progress will remain very slow. Looking to the oil majors to take a lead is simply not the answer. As Christians maybe we should look more critically at our own carbon footprints, which many of us could drastically reduce. ”

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