For years the oil, coal and gas lobbies have been doing everything to be able to extend their power, even when scientists gave clear and clear indications on the need to reduce emissions into the atmosphere in a short time.
Labeled as catastrophists and overshadowed, so that public opinion doesn't over-emphasize their warnings, they continued the extraction and refining of fossil natural resources trying to create the greenest image possible.
Now that the global environmental movement is also made up of ordinary people and not just activists, the push towards renewable energy has found a valuable ally in finance, undermining the castle of oil, gas and coal producers.
We find interesting the article written by Bill McKibben, journalist and environmentalist, is leader of the 350.org decarbonization campaign.
The supervisor's threat to divest billions of fossil fuels is a major win for environmentalists. The entire portfolio will be decarbonised over the next two decades. The move represents a series of capitulations which, taken together, indicate that the once dominant fossil fuel industry has reached the minimum of its financial and political power.
New York State Accounts Supervisor, Thomas DiNapoli, announced that the state will begin divesting part of the $ 226 billion employee pension fund by oil and gas companies if within four years they do not produce a business plan in line with the objectives of the Paris agreement. Historically, these investments totaled approximately $ 12 billion.
The entire portfolio will be decarbonised over the next two decades. "Getting CO2 emissions to zero by 2040 will put the fund in a strong position with respect to the future outlined by the Paris agreement," DiNapoli said.
This is obviously a major victory for activists who for eight years have been trying to get Albany to divest from fossil fuels and for the global campaign for divestments in as a whole. Funds and portfolios with a total value of over $ 14 trillion have already joined.
This new move is the most substantial by an American pension fund and follows that of the New York City pension fund managed by Scott Stringer , which in 2018 announced its intention to divest five of its nearly $ 200 billion from fossil fuels over five years.
But it also has another meaning: that of a series of capitulations which, on the whole, indicate that the once dominant fossil fuel industry, it has reached the minimum of its financial and political power.
The first capitulation is that of investors, who have realized that most of the Big Oil simply do not represent a credible partner for change. DiNapoli has long argued the need to dialogue with fossil fuel companies, convinced that, if large shareholders started to express concern, companies would change course.
And this is how things should go: DiNapoli was warning companies that their strategy was not only putting the planet at risk but also their business. They should have listened to him.
Instead they ignored it over and over again. In December 2017, for example, at DiNapoli's urging, Exxon Mobil agreed to "analyze how global efforts to implement the Paris Agreement goals and reduce global warming they would have impacted his business, ”as the supervisor himself reported at the time.
It could have been a turning point. Two months later, however, Exxon published the absurd results of that analysis: the Paris agreement would have no effect on its business and therefore Exxon could have continued to extract oil and gas from its reserves. (Documents leaked later clearly show that Exxon instead planned to significantly increase its emissions by speeding up production.)
In his statement DiNapoli had said that divestment was "the last resort". But he also specified that it was "a tool that can be used against those companies that systematically jeopardize the long-term value of our investments".
For a long time oil companies have sought to establish themselves as a responsible partner in combating climate change , in opposition to pro-activists divestment, judged "unrealistic". The Independent Petroleum Association of America has even created an anti-divestment website to pressure decision makers like DiNapoli not to steal money under their control from Big Oil.
DiNapoli deserves the credit for having faced, albeit late, an industry that is still very powerful. Today he ranks alongside Stringer as a leading proponent of climate activism in the financial sector. And it has the indisputable credibility of those who first tried to act collaboratively.
Today other investors are ready to follow , not only because of the climate risk, but also because the fossil fuel industry has been the worst-performing sector of the American economy for many years.
The industry faces two kinds of problems: on the one hand, a vast resistance movement , motivated by the undeniable fact that its products are damaging the climate of the planet. On the other hand, on the side of wind and solar power , technologically formidable competitors able to offer a similar but more ecological and cheaper service.
These two realities will end up destroying the coal, gas and oil barons, it only remains to know when. At this point, Big Oil can only take time, but it becomes increasingly difficult to do so, especially now that, with the end of the Trump administration, the protective shield they enjoyed is about to fall.
There are the first signs that this second capitulation, the surrender of the oil companies to reality, has begun.
One of the so-called supermajors, BP PLC , announced its intention to cut oil production by 40% this summer and gas over a decade and to significantly increase investment in renewable energy.
Divestment activists have every reason to be skeptical: already in 2000 BP, coining the slogan "Beyond Petroleum", announced that it wanted to go "beyond oil ”, an intention soon abandoned. This time, however, at least the contents are good.
“The next decade,” reads a statement from BP's CEO, “will be critical to the global fight against climate change. To achieve the necessary changes in the global energy system, everyone's effort will be needed. "
Even around Exxon it seems that a kind of silent capitulation is beginning. While Exxon was the largest company in the world in 2013 , this fall is no longer even the largest in the energy sector: NextEra Energy, a renewable energy supplier based in Florida, it briefly exceeded its market value.
Last week Exxon put its cards on the table, revealing its intention to cut the budget assigned to exploration and capital expenditures from the expected 30 billion for this year and 35 for the next to about half and to want to cancel about 20 billion of natural gas reserves which, today he recognizes, will never extract.
The decline of oil and gas companies has finally begun and recalls the collapse of the coal industry over the past decade, collapse which DiNapoli helped speed up last summer, with the divestment of the New York state pension fund from coal.
Big Oil's decline does not only mean fewer emissions in the long term and, it also means less political influence in the short term and therefore less force to slow down the steps required for the transition to 'clean energy.
Big Oil's influence on the Republican party remains strong, but President-elect Joe Biden will not have to face the same behemoth his parents have had to deal with predecessors. The fact that DiNapoli is able to oppose these forces is a good indicator of what the new administration can achieve.
Last month was the most history globally and it seems increasingly certain that, despite the increasing cooling caused by La Niña in the Pacific, 2020 will reach or exceed the record of the hottest year.
The planet is warming rapidly but, as the news from Albany makes us understand, the same is true for the movement that wants to counteract the warming.
Automatic translation. We apologize for any inaccuracies. Original article in Italian.