Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Dear UN, Put a Price on Carbon. Yours Truly, Big Oil

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Dear UN, Put a Price on Carbon. Yours Truly, Big Oil

Article excerpt

Six of the world's largest oil producers are making what might seem like an unusual request coming from an industry that is often skeptical of government regulation: They're asking world leaders to make their product more expensive by putting a price on carbon.

Environmentalists and climate leaders have long argued that carbon pricing would discourage the emission of climate-altering gases into the Earth's atmosphere and help curb the worst effects of climate change. Increasingly, fossil fuel groups are joining in that call, despite the billions in profits they earn from their carbon- based products.

In a letter to the United Nations Monday, oil and gas groups made their clearest push for a carbon price yet. The leaders of European energy firms BP, Eni, Statoil, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, and BG Group asked governments across the globe to provide "clear, stable, long-term, ambitious policy frameworks" in which carbon pricing is a "key element." The letter comes just months ahead of international climate negotiations in Paris.

It also comes as global oil prices hover around $65 per barrel, down by roughly half from a year ago. That cheaper oil environment means added carbon costs would likely have less of a negative economic impact than if oil were $100 per barrel.

"We acknowledge that the current trend of greenhouse gas emissions is in excess of what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says is needed to limit the temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels," the group's letter reads. "The challenge is how to meet greater energy demand with less CO2. We stand ready to play our part."

Some might see the move as a pure public-relations ploy. Critics often brand major oil companies as greedy, polluting, climate- denying megacorporations, and at least two of the signatories are struggling to overcome recent high-profile environmental incidents. Associating themselves with global climate efforts is one way to rebrand themselves as more environmentally friendly.

But there are other reasons why major oil firms might want a price on carbon. Multinational corporations like predictability and uniformity in policies. …

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