LONDON (Reuters) - The oil industry needs to take a leading role in the fight against climate change to introduce “realism and practicality” into the debate, the head of Royal Dutch Shell said on Thursday.
Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden also criticised governments of taking at times counterproductive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“What can we as an industry do to help clear the way for a more informed debate? In the past we thought it was better to keep a low profile on the issue. I understand that tactic, but in the end it’s not a good tactic,” van Beurden said in excerpts of a speech he was planned to give at the International Petroleum Week dinner in London on Thursday evening.
Environmental organisations have accused the oil industry of not doing enough to reduce emissions and increase the use of renewable fuels.
“You cannot talk credibly about lowering emissions globally if, for example, you are slow to acknowledge climate change; if you undermine calls for an effective carbon price; and if you always descend into the ‘jobs versus environment’ argument in the public debate,” van Beurden said.
Shell backed a resolution last month proposed by activist investors to force the company to recognise climate change risks by improving its transparency.
Van Beurden also criticised “inefficient or even counterproductive measures” taken by governments.
He said that Germany, while increasing the use of renewable energy sources, saw a rise in CO2 emissions in 2012 and 2013 as a result of the increased use of coal-powered plants.
“I’m well aware that the industry’s credibility is an issue. Stereotypes that fail to see the benefits our industry brings to the world are short-sighted. But we must also take a critical look at ourselves.”
“Our industry should be less aloof, more assertive. We have to make sure that our voice is heard,” the Shell boss said.
“Together, we can offer some realism and practicality to the debate.”
Oil and gas companies have come under increasing pressure from investors to take more action in the fight to lower carbon emissions.
In December, the Church of England filed a shareholder resolution on climate change at Shell and BP.
Last year, the European Union set a 40 percent goal for cuts in emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, below 1990 levels by 2030.
Reporting by Ron Bousso, editing by Louise Heavens