A surge of positive climate news has been a pleasant surprise for environmentalists…and a dread for investors still loyal to the coal, oil, and gas industry
Last week, the UK’s Court of Appeal blocked a proposed runway expansion at Europe’s busiest airport, London’s Heathrow, saying the government had neglected to consider its commitment to reducing carbon emissions under the 2016 Paris Agreement. After a 13-year battle by campaigners, this decision has global repercussions for airlines, the regulation of flight emissions, and the global #NoFly (or Flight Free) campaign.
In a second development, Canadian mining company Teck Resources withdrew its application to build a $15.7 billion (in U.S. dollars) oil sands mine in Alberta, with Teck CEO Donald Lindsay citing climate change and environmental and indigenous opposition. Campaigns against tar sands projects have included hundreds of protests across Canada and the U.S. Speaking at a conference in Florida, Lindsay said the project was “squarely at the nexus of a much broader national discussion on energy development, indigenous reconciliation and of course climate change” and the company was “stepping back to let Canada have this important discussion without a looming regulatory deadline for just one project.”
Three similar decisions have continued the global retreat from fossil fuels. The campaign to stop deep-sea oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight Marine Park received a major win when Norwegian mining company Equinor pulled out of a $200 million project, saying it was not “commercially competitive.” The move made Equinor the third oil company (after Chevron and BP) to decide not to drill in the ecologically fragile area, off Australia’s southern coast. The five-year opposition campaign by indigenous elders as well as environmental and local community groups also made the project unappealing for Equinor, both in Australia and in Europe. In South America, a federal court suspended the environmental license for what would have been the largest open-pit coal mine in Latin America, at Guaíba, Brazil. And in Asia, a ruling board banned all new coal power stations in the agricultural province of Iloilo, Philippines.
In the world of finance, Chase announced that it would no longer directly finance new oil and gas development in the Arctic and would curtail its coal financing. With big climate commitments from BlackRock and Goldman Sachs, and moves away from coal by mining majors Rio Tinto and BHP, new fossil fuel projects may be becoming an endangered species.
As environmentalists rejoice, fossil fuel investors should beware.