Exxon, Chevron join industry climate-change initiative in u-turn

Signage is displayed on a fuel pump at a Chevron Corp. gas station in Guild, Tennessee, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. Chevron Corp. is expected to release earnings figures on January 27. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg
Signage is displayed on a fuel pump at a Chevron Corp. gas station in Guild, Tennessee, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. Chevron Corp. is expected to release earnings figures on January 27. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

US oil companies Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Occidental Petroleum Corp. will join an oil industry climate-change group led by their European rivals, after refusing to do so for years.

The companies will become members of the Oil & Gas Climate Initiative on Sept. 24, according to an announcement from the group. The OGCI was founded in 2014 by the heads of BP Plc, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Saudi Aramco and seven others based in Europe and Asia. It invests in carbon-reduction ventures.

The U-turn by the American oil majors puts them at odds with their country’s president, who is trying to relax rules governing greenhouse-gas emissions and last year vowed to pull the U.S. out of the landmark Paris climate agreement.

In 2015, the heads of the six largest oil companies in Europe broke ranks with their American counterparts, calling on governments to agree on carbon pricing at a climate summit in Paris. Exxon and Chevron are now under new leadership, and have come closer to the views of their European competitors.

“It will take the collective efforts of many in the energy industry and society to develop scalable, affordable solutions that will be needed to address the risks of climate change,” Exxon Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods said in a statement. “This dual challenge is one of the most important issues facing society and our company.”

The OGCI has been trying to bring in the large U.S. companies for at least a year, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Lately, they’ve participated in calls with the group and also attended a meeting of CEO members in Geneva as observers, the people said.

Their involvement comes as investors and environmentalists ramp up pressure on oil companies to act on climate change. A group called 350.org is leading a worldwide movement to divest fossil-fuel stocks and bonds, and has received pledges from funds managing more than $6 trillion, according to its website.

With the three U.S. companies, the OGCI will have 13 members. Together, they represent about 30 percent of global oil and gas production.

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