As the nation focused on the midterm elections, the world’s attention has been on Egypt, the location of the COP27 – the meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) – the 27th United Nations Climate Change conference. The conference started November 6th and will continue until November 18th. COP27 is this year’s annual gathering of nations to advance the world’s attempts to minimize the ongoing – and worsening – climate crisis. At these events, countries review and revise their pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions – largely those produced by the burning of oil, coal, and gas.
According to the U.N., since last year’s meetings in Scotland only 26 of the 193 countries have followed through on last year’s promises. Such actions are desperately needed: This year was Europe’s hottest summer in 500 years, a third of Pakistan flooded, the Philippines were hammered by huge storms, and the whole of Cuba is under daily blackouts.
Countries that failed last year to put forward strengthened targets were expected to do so before COP27. Financial and other support for protecting the world’s vulnerable countries is supposed to be near the top of the climate crisis-fighting agenda. Yet, developing countries are not getting the promised assistance, including an annual $100 billion meant to be delivered from 2020 to 2025.
Wealthy nations need to give as much as ten times current levels of funding to help developing countries adapt to climate change or face widespread suffering and displacement as well as increased conflict, according to the U.N.
The war in Ukraine has begun to derail pledges already made. For example, Germany had vowed to completely cease using coal to produce energy by 2030, but it recently stepped up coal production in response to dwindling supplies of gas from Russia.
Undoubtedly, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has scrambled climate plans. However, the ongoing climate crisis does not take a pause because of human conflicts. Ironically, the Russian aggression is being funded by the purchase of Russian fossil fuels – which is contributing to the climate crisis.
In addition to being a big factor in providing financing to the Russian war machine, the roiling energy market has resulted in price gouging by energy interests, fattening the profits of Big Oil and other fossil fuel industries.
For example, the United States’ biggest oil companies – ExxonMobil and Chevron – reported a fourth consecutive quarter of robust profits from high oil and natural gas prices and strong chemical and refining earnings. ExxonMobil’s profit of nearly $20 billion from operations topped the previous quarter’s $17.9 billion. The oil company’s latest quarterly profit was nearly triple what it made in the same period last year. The cumulative takings for the seven biggest private sector oil drillers during the first nine months of 2022 could hit $173 billion. Saudi oil giant Aramco, reported a mind-blowing $42 billion profit in the third quarter alone, making profits so far in 2022 of $130.3 billion, compared to $77.6 billion in 2021.
Those profits not only make executives richer and shareholders happy, they also help fund the industry’s public relations, lobbying, and campaign financing activities.
A report issued last week documented how that spending is playing out in New York. The report (issued by the advocacy group Lil Sis) found that the industry is helping to finance a campaign to undermine the implementation of the state’s climate goals. A few years ago, New York enacted some of the most aggressive programs to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The law, however, delegated setting up the program that would implement those goals to the Climate Action Council (CAC).
Last week’s report identified that the oil industry and its allies have begun an aggressive lobbying effort to block implementation of the CAC’s plans. According to the report their efforts, “have already succeeded in eliminating a proposal from the state budget to ban fossil gas hookups in newly constructed buildings – which was recommended by the Climate Action Council in its draft scoping plan – and are now promoting misinformation to further weaken New York’s agenda as the Climate Action Council holds hearings across the state on its proposed plan.”
Fake coalitions, front groups, and big spending by corporate polluters is, sadly, nothing new. But the swollen profits of Big Oil can add staggering sums to that advocacy. And unlike corporate-shilling advocacy of the past, this one may have globally catastrophic consequences.
We are, after all, talking about an existential threat to the world. Big Oil’s efforts to undermine steps to protect the environment and human health may further enrich the companies and their unprincipled mouthpieces, but for the billions who will be left with incredible misery and early deaths, it is too high a price.
The global conference in Egypt can help keep climate fighting momentum alive, but we all need lawmakers willing to take on the greed of the oil industry and the dishonesty of their public relations mouthpieces. Otherwise, we will all pay dearly and for many decades to come.