Energy, mining companies begin to back climate talks

Nearly 200 countries seek December accord over carbon-dioxide emissions at UN-sponsored negotiations in Paris

The Wall Street Journal Online | October 15, 2015

A major international agreement to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions is starting to draw in major energy and mining companies.

Some global companies, especially those that face heavy environmental regulation, say they are supportive of nearly 200 countries’ efforts to reach an accord in Paris in December at negotiations sponsored by the United Nations.

On Wednesday, a dozen companies, including oil giant BP PLC and global mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd. released a statement touting the Paris climate talks as a “critical opportunity to strengthen efforts globally addressing the causes and consequences of climate change.”

Many of the companies, based in highly developed economies, are eager to see poorer countries and the loosely regulated national champions in those nations operate under a similar set of rules as those the richer nations have already embraced domestically.

Large companies are looking for predictability and global standards to help shape their long-term strategies, including plans for natural gas and other lower-carbon fuels.

“These companies need to navigate their way through the low-carbon transition and are looking for clearer, more consistent guidance from governments, which is why they see benefits in a Paris agreement,” said Elliot Diringer, executive vice president at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a nonpartisan think tank that organized statement.

While the Paris talks aren’t likely to result in a global price on carbon, individual countries are submitting their own plans that could lead to market opportunities for major players.

” Calpine believes that this flexible, market-based solution will reward companies that invest and have invested in cleaner generation,” said Calpine Corp. spokesman Brett Kerr. Power company Calpine is the U.S. leader in natural-gas generation, avoids coal–a target of new regulations from the Obama administration–and operates a major geothermal energy project.

A system of carbon pricing generally taxes polluters, which then pass costs onto consumers and can lower demand. Another system is a so-called cap-and-trade plan that would set some limits on what polluters could emit.

The chief executive of another company on the list, Ben van Beurden of oil major Royal Dutch Shell PLC, this month told a major gathering of industry executives in London that S hell will promote a carbon-pricing plan that encourages investment in renewable energy and cleaner-burning natural gas rather than coal.

Some of the companies have previously embraced efforts to reduce emissions linked to climate change. But for many, Wednesday’s statement was the first embrace of the UN-led talks, a major policy focus for President Barack Obama and other world leaders.

Other major energy and commodity firms on the list are San Francisco-based utility PG&E Corp., Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto PLC and cement giant LafargeHolcim Ltd.

Absent from the list were leading U.S. coal companies, which along with allies in Congress have criticized the Paris talks and the Obama administration for a launching a war on coal.

Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. also didn’t endorse Wednesday’s statement and were also absent from a June endorsement by European energy companies of global carbon pricing.