There is often staunch disagreement between industry and policymakers on how to address pollution. But an event last week convening business leaders, federal and state officials and other stakeholders showed that there’s at least one idea on which they can agree and work together: the feasibility of reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.
Here are four perspectives shared at this event that give me hope we can solve the large, but addressable problem of methane pollution from the oil and gas industry if we take a fact-based, collaborative approach. That would be great news in itself, and powerful precedent for tackling the broader climate opportunities ahead.
Environmental regulations are not a zero sum game. Martha Rudolph, director of Environmental Programs at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, was on the front lines when Colorado proposed the nation’s first direct regulation of methane pollution from the oil and gas industry. At the event, she shared her state’s powerful example of unlikely allies coming together to protect climate and communities in a way that makes business sense.
Instead of tales of industry resistance, she shared a history of business and other stakeholders coming together with state policy makers to formulate and implement cost-effective regulations that will cut 100,000 tons of methane emissions – the climate equivalent of taking over 1.8 million cars off the road. Rudolph reports that the rules have not been challenged in court, and to date, her office had not heard complaints about compliance being difficult or costly . Noble, Anadarko, and Encana supported strong rules at the front end, and even the industry trade associations have rolled up their sleeves and set up trainings to ease rule implementation. Read more
The combination of the Pope’s visit, Climate Week NYC and news of China planning a national cap and trade program has made last week huge in terms of support for climate action. But it’s also been a week of great sustainability news coming out of corporate America, and I’m excited to see the momentum building.
- Companies publicly stating aggressive, science-based sustainability goals? Check.
- Big brands supporting the Clean Power Plan? Check.
- Business committing to set an internal price on carbon? Check.
- Increasing commitment to sourcing 100% of energy from renewables? Check.
Like I said, it’s been a really good week. After 18 years as a sustainability advocate, I’m encouraged to see companies continuing to step up their leadership on climate— making public, science-based commitments and increasingly creating an environment where denial and delay by private and public sector leaders is no longer acceptable. Many of the companies who have made commitments, (this week, before this week, and hopefully leading into COP21), are demonstrating that tending one’s own sustainability garden is necessary but no longer sufficient—corporate leaders of today and tomorrow need to collaborate with each other for greater impact and assert public policy leadership as well. Read more
Since the president announced in January a national goal of reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry nearly in half by 2025, an outpouring of voices has supported the move. Now, EPA has proposed rules to help meet that target, and we’ve seen another wave of support – everyone from editorial boards in the heart of oil and gas country to massive investors like California’s pension funds has recognized that the rules are a manageable, commonsense means for reducing methane pollution.
The one voice that’s been silent? The companies with the opportunity to adopt the proven, cost-effective technologies and services to not only reduce pollution but also prevent the waste of the very energy resource they’re producing. Now another voice has emerged to make the case directly to these companies that it’s worth constructively engaging in the rulemaking process: the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a group of shareholders dedicated to promoting environmentally and socially responsible corporate practices.
Several shareholders from ICCR’s coalition sent letters today to dozens of energy companies in which they invest, voicing their concern about the impact of methane emissions on the climate and public health. As You Sow, BCAM, Mercy Investments, Miller Howard, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, Trillium Asset Management, and others made their case to companies whose shares they own, including some of the biggest names in the business, like Chesapeake Energy, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, Kinder Morgan, and Valero.
Specifically, the investors asked the companies to file public comments on EPA’s proposed methane rules, sharing the companies’ data and experience with methane monitoring and management and providing perspective on how the methane rules can be designed to reduce emissions cost effectively. They also urged the companies to guide their powerful trade associations –which have been some of the most vocal opponents of the rules – to engage honestly and transparently in the rulemaking process. Read more
Experts are saying 2015 may turn out to be the hottest year on record. But thankfully, as my colleague Tom Murray predicted earlier this year, 2015 is also shaping up to be a year for action – by businesses and governments alike – to bend the curve on the emissions that cause climate change.
This year, the Obama administration introduced important new regulations to cut GHG emissions from the electric power, oil and gas and transportation sectors. And businesses are standing behind them. Investors representing $1.5 trillion in managed assets supported federal limits on methane emissions. PepsiCo, Ben & Jerry’s and other companies called for stronger fuel economy and emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks. And 365 companies and investors wrote to state governors urging timely implementation of the Clean Power Plan, our nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants.
A watershed moment for climate action is approaching in December, when the United States and other nations gather in Paris for the COP21 climate negotiations. A strong agreement in Paris could put the world on a path towards greenhouse gas reductions that science tells us are necessary for a stable climate. Business leadership will be critical, both to embolden the negotiators to reach a strong deal, and to ensure that the U.S. delivers on the commitments made in Paris.
Amplifying business support for climate action
Right now, there is a wealth of opportunities for businesses to voice their support for a strong outcome in Paris, and showcase their own efforts to cut climate pollution. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) recently organized a webinar to present those opportunities and clarify how companies can get involved. Read more
Ben and Jerry’s became the latest corporate voice calling for strong fuel-efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for heavy trucks. In a Guardian op-ed, CEO Jostein Solheim made a compelling triple-bottom-line case for protective standards for new trucks.
Mr. Solheim noted that seventeen percent of the company’s carbon footprint is associated with transporting products. This includes bringing ingredients to manufacturing facilities (three percent) and moving the finished products to distribution centers (fourteen percent).
Like packaging, transportation and distribution is a consistent, significant carbon footprint component of every product: six percent of H&M clothes; twenty-five percent of the carbon budget from Mars; and thirty five percent of Philips operations, for example. And, trucks are the largest single component of distribution emissions, accounting for 57% of the collective impact. Therefore, it is in the interest of every product manufacturer and brand in the U.S. to see these trucks use less fuel.
The single most impactful thing we can do today to reduce emissions from product distribution is to build more efficient trucks. We have the technical know-how to cost-effectively double the efficiency of freight trucks. We also know that having well-designed standards in place is a necessary step to bringing these solutions to market at scale. Read more
California public school teachers. Religious charities. New York police officers and firefighters.
What do all of these groups have in common? Investors representing them — who manage $1.5 trillion in retirees, current employees’, and others assets – are standing together and calling for strong rules limiting harmful methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. This level of outpouring – from diversified investors with holdings in the oil and gas industry – represents five times the support investors expressed for methane rules last year. A trend is emerging.
The investors, including the largest retirement funds in California and New York, issued a powerful statement in support of the president’s methane proposal aimed at cutting emissions nearly in half in a decade. A centerpiece is regulation of methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas, which has over 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it’s released and is responsible for 25 percent of the warming we are feeling today.
From their vantage point as long-term stakeholders, the “serious threat” methane poses to climate stability compels them, as fiduciaries, to support action to cut emissions and avoid near term threats to “infrastructure and economic harm that will weaken not only the companies we invest in, but the nation as a whole.” Market pressure like that is difficult to ignore. Read more
Last week’s papal encyclical on climate change galvanized those of us who already see responsible stewardship for the earth as both a moral mandate and business imperative. In the 184-page document, Pope Francis calls for a sweeping overhaul of political, economic and individual practices to halt the degradation of the environment and protect our planet for the long term.
The pope's sweeping vision is sure to prompt churches, people of faith and a whole range of organizations to rethink their actions with regard to use of energy, water and other natural resources. But already, religious organizations have been working quietly and steadily to effectively manage their environmental impact, in keeping with the established theological tradition of moral economic development and use of resources.
(Credit: Sacred Heart)
Take Gene Murphy of Prescott, Ariz., as a prime example of someone sitting at the intersection of religion, sustainability and business. As the business manager for the Sacred Heart Parish in the Diocese of Phoenix, Gene has developed scalable solutions for his church and school that could and should be replicated across all churches, schools and relevant organizations.
The church performed a clean energy retrofit covering lighting, windows, waste and solar power that dramatically reduced their utility spending from $94,500 a year to $37,000, or $157 in daily savings and transformed the 32,000 square foot school into a near net-zero building. The solar project alone reduces more than 230,000 lbs of CO₂ per year, and the building is now lit with 97 percent LED lights. Gene is already drafting a template for similar organizations to use in analyzing their opportunities in light of new technologies, regulations and methodologies.
At EDF, we see Gene and the Sacred Heart Parish as a real-life example of the kind of pragmatic stewardship the pope is calling for, and we got on the phone with him to get some deeper insights into the parish's transformation. Read more
Freight transportation is the work horse of the global economy, ensuring that the products consumers want get on the shelves where and when they want them. With 70 percent of U.S. goods being moved by truck, freight is a key source of U.S. fuel consumption and corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Today, freight also offers companies a key opportunity to drive us toward a lower carbon future.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed with EDF President Fred Krupp, Pepsico Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi voiced the company’s strong support of the new fuel efficiency and GHG standards for medium and heavy duty trucks released June 19th by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency and Department of Transportation. Over the life of the program, these robust standards will cut fuel consumption in new trucks by 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce carbon emissions by one billion metric tons.
Leading companies like General Mills, Walmart and Anheuser-Busch have made reducing fuel use and emissions from freight a priority in setting their internal supply chain performance goals. But Pepsico’s willingness to step forward with this op-ed is a prime example of how companies can extend their leadership by aligning their public policy stances on with their sustainability goals – what EDF has been referring to as the business-policy nexus.
Freight affects all of us, but business is in the driver's seat
Freight transportation exists to serve companies that make or sell physical goods, from brands and manufacturers using trucks to bring in supplies and ship out final products, to technology companies needing trucks to deliver the hardware that powers their online services. While medium- and heavy-duty trucks only make up 7 percent of all vehicles on the road, they consume 25 percent of the fuel used by all U.S. vehicles.
Inefficient movement of goods wastes fuel, raises costs and increases environmental impacts. For firms like Pepsico, who maintain their own fleets, as well as those that contract out for freight moves, fuel is the single largest cost of owning and operating medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Truck fuel prices have increased 58 percent since 2009, a strong incentive for increasing the efficiency of trucks that move freight. Consumers are counting on businesses to solve this problem, as those costs are passed on to consumers. Through everyday purchases, the average U.S. household spends $1,100 a year to fuel big trucks. Strong standards can cut this expense by $150 on average a year by 2030. Read more
Pump jacks lined up in Oklahoma. (Credit: Kool Kats)
Six large European oil and gas companies recently announced a commitment to engage on climate policy, calling for a price on carbon. The now-emerging picture of their coordinated corporate talking points, however, leaves no doubt that promotion of natural gas is a core part of the group’s position.
Is this development a beneficial push to help the planet transition to a low carbon economy – or just another marketing campaign? The truth, so far, lies somewhere in between.
Here are the good, the bad and the ugly highlights of what we’ve learned over the past week and what it all means.
The good: Establishing a carbon price and cutting carbon dioxide emissions
Make no mistake about it: The world’s leading economies need to establish a price and limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and leadership from the private sector is instrumental in achieving that policy objective.
For large companies such as Shell, BP and Statoil to join forces and unequivocally state, as they now have, that a price on carbon should be a “key element” of climate policy frameworks is a refreshing boost to pre-Paris United Nations climate talks.
It is a potentially powerful validation that even some of the world’s largest corporate emitters see an upside to carbon pricing and will weigh in to make it a reality.
As to promoting natural gas a solution, it is well documented that in many cases natural gas will replace coal for power generation – a shift already underway in the United States and partly responsible for driving down carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Read more
Europe’s largest oil companies are reportedly working together on a policy strategy leading up to this year’s international climate talks in Paris. It’s nice to hear that some of the biggest players in the global oil and gas industry want to engage in solutions, but it remains to be seen if they will take the action needed to effectively tackle some of our most immediate climate threats – or to seize a major untapped opportunity.
That opportunity is methane. The highly potent greenhouse gas that’s been largely ignored until recently represents a solution for making real and immediate progress to slow warming. So will the group of oil companies sign on to tackle methane as a big part of its strategy, or are they going to ignore it?
Methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas, has over 80 times the warming power of CO2 and is responsible for 25 percent of the warming we are feeling today. That means tackling methane is an essential piece of the puzzle in making a real impact on greenhouse emissions. Read more