Fossil fuel giants lobbied a UK government minister to use more natural gas in the transition to lower carbon energy production.
As reported by Channel 4, a memo released under the Freedom of Information Act details how firms pushed the then-trade minister Connor Burns to accept a “greater recognition” of gas.
The document, obtained by Unearthed (the investigative arm of Greenpeace UK), says representatives from ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron and Equinor met with Burns at a trade dinner in Houston in February last year.
The event was organised by Richard Hyde, the British consul general in Houston.
Lobbyists said the fossil fuel industry should be seen as a “vital” part in tackling climate change. They argued gas is a “necessary compromise” as it is “cleaner than coal and is fundamental to the Texas economy”.
In May this year, the International Energy Agency reported further gas developments would stop the world from reaching net zero by 2050 and safely slowing global heating.
While its use produces less carbon dioxide, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said methane emitted from using gas is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
When approached by Channel 4, BP, Equinor and Chevron defended their actions. Shell said: “We make no apology for talking to policy makers and regulators around the world about climate change and how to tackle it—business must be part of the solution.”
BP said gas is “an important part of our business and has a critical role to play in the transition to net zero”. It said it plans to reduce global oil and gas production and a tenfold rise in renewables by 2030.
ExxonMobil said fossil fuels will “continue to play a critical role in meeting the world’s demand for energy” and “many national and state governments have included a shift to natural gas in their carbon-reduction programs, recognizing the contribution that natural gas can make”.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office told Channel 4: “This was a routine engagement with the energy industry focused on the importance of the transition to a clean energy future. We discussed their investments in renewable energies and their decarbonization plans, and we were not lobbied.”