Senior officials from business, government, NGOs and academic institutions gathered in London this week for policy institute, the Chatham House’s annual conference on climate change.
The conference, held on 3-4 November, sought to “examine opportunities to raise ambition [on climate change] and convert this into results” ahead of December’s COP 20 discussions in Lima.
In addition to future climate negotiations, topics discussed included the benefits and costs of a low carbon economy as well as how to decarbonise “key sectors”.
However, the event had a mixed bag of sponsors. Shell Oil was listed as its only corporate sponsor alongside the Climate & Development Knowledge Network, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries as well as the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, did not hesitate to call out Shell for its “Jekyll and Hyde” response to climate change, during his keynote speech at the event on 4 November.
McKibben said: “I didn’t know Shell was sponsoring this conference when I agreed to do it, but I’m glad for the chance to say in public that Shell is among the most irresponsible companies on earth.”
“When they write the history of our time, the fact that Shell executives watched the Arctic melt and then led the rush to go drill for oil in that thawing north will provide the iconic example of the short-sighted greed that marks the richest people on our planet.”
Just this week Shell asked the U.S. government for a five year extension on its drilling licences in the Arctic waters north of Alaska.
Although the conference is held under Chatham House rules, McKibben’s speech is on record.
“We won the argument about climate change 20 years ago but we’ve been losing the fight ever since,” McKibben said, adding it is the “incredible vested interests” of fossil fuel companies that is holding back the movement to stop climate change.
“Change requires power and money and the fossil fuel industry holds most of the power and almost all of the money,” he said.
Fossil fuel company representatives in the room however, refused the opportunity to reply to McKibben’s comments accusing them of being “rogue companies.”
Chatham House had no comment to add when asked why they chose to partner with Shell on the event.
The conference comes on the heels of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report published on 2 November.
The IPCC report says that the use of fossil fuels should be completely phased out by 2100 with the exception of where carbon capture and storage is used.
If the majority of our energy does not come from low-carbon sources by 2050, the world faces “severe, pervasive and irreversible” damage the IPCC warns.
Picture: Platform London