Environmentalists had a good day against oil companies last week. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Environmentalists had a good day against oil companies last week. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Big oil was put on notice last week, gives me some hope

Every once in a while, there’s a day where things don’t seem so bleak and I get a glimpse of a future where we don’t succumb to climate disaster.

Last Wednesday was one of those days. It started when a Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce their carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030.

It was followed by news of Chevron’s shareholders voting in favour of a proposal to force the company to cut its emissions.

Third was the news of an activist hedge fund getting two board members and one too-close-to-call elected to the 12-member ExxonMobil board with the goal of making the company greener.

The Shell case is the first time a multi-national corporation was required to reduce emissions to meet goals from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, setting a precedent for future action of this kind. The Chevron item is not the first of its kind, but it is an example that shareholders in these companies are ready for them to do the right thing.

With Exxon, the potential for 25 per cent of the board (which has hiring and firing power) pushing for a greener direction means there’s finally some real teeth behind what people have been asking for for years.

The problem with climate action is that it has lacked real teeth. There has always been someone else to shuffle the blame off to, from Cap and Trade carbon tax schemes and shifting high-emissions manufacturing sectors overseas to countries committing to reducing emissions, while multi-national corporations have had the freedom to do whatever they want in the name of profit, as well as companies like Shell and ExxonMobil pushing regular people to reduce their carbon impacts while the companies run amok burning through resources.

All of this has lost us a lot of time; especially considering the maddening amount of “non-binding” agreements that were signed — in good faith — in the earlier part of the 2010s that don’t actually require organizations and governments to do anything about their impact on the crisis.

With powerful interests like these three oil companies standing in the way, many of our greatest ideas to get out of this situation have not gotten the attention or funding they deserve. If companies with billions of dollars at their disposal are forced to find ways to reduce their carbon impact by drastic amounts, imagine what kinds of things they’ll think of.

If anything, it’ll facilitate a green just transition that will add large amounts of jobs and help us all through this and future crises.

I hope this catches on. I hope future climate litigation has teeth and the strength to keep knocking these big companies down. I hope this inspires more action to push against rampant environmental destruction.

I hope big multinational corporations are forced to diversify and work towards an environmentally friendly future.

For once, I hope.


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