ExxonMobil may not be considered a natural ally to the environmental movement, but these are not normal times we’re living through. Officials from the world’s largest oil and gas company have just sent a letter to President Trump that urges him to stay in the Paris climate agreement.
The company are seemingly changing their long-held stance on climate change, even lobbying for carbon taxes. This has been in part due to the amount of pressure that ExxonMobil has been experiencing in relation to their position on climate change, but also presumably because the gas and oil in which they deal has a lower carbon footprint than coal.
“It is prudent that the United States remain a party to the Paris agreement to ensure a level playing field, so that global energy markets remain as free and competitive as possible,” the letter from ExxonMobil reads. “We welcomed the Paris Agreement when it was announced in December 2015 and again when it came into force in November 2016. We have reiterated our support on several occasions in opinion pieces and blog posts, most recently by our Chairman and CEO Darren Woods.”
It is a curious step for the oil and gas giant to take, especially considering that the company is currently under investigation for allegations that they have known about climate change and the role burning fossil fuels play in this since at least 1981. It is claimed that despite knowing this seven years before it became a public topic, the company kept quiet and then proceeded to fund climate-denying groups for the next 27 years.
Despite consistently reiterating on his campaign trail in the run up to the presidential election that he would pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, when President Trump signed the executive order to undo Obama's Clean Power Plan, he stopped short of fulfilling this promise.
This is possibly because the most influential people surrounding him are themselves split on what to do with it. While Steve Bannon, the White House Chief Strategist, is urging the President to pull out of the agreement, Trump’s own daughter, Ivanka, is thought to be in favor of remaining within it.
Perhaps most importantly, Rex Tillerson, who is now Secretary of State but who up until January was in fact the Exxon chief executive, thinks that pulling out of the agreement could significantly damage the United States’ international relations. Which side the President will fall on is anyone’s guess, but the best that environmentalists can hope for is that he simply resolves to ignore the volatile issue, preferring not to kick the hornets’ nest.