Get tough on oil firms over climate, councils told


The chairman of the UK’s Climate Change Committee has told council bosses to avoid companies that hold back the fight against climate change, citing ExxonMobil as one offender.

Speaking at the ADEPT autumn conference, Lord Deben (pictured) was critical of the company's new pipeline to transport aviation fuel to Heathrow.

He also took a shot at the Government for its apparent backing for a new coal mine in Cumbria.

He described oil giant ExxonMobil’s controversial project to build a replacement pipeline from the Fawley oil refinery near Southampton to Heathrow Airport as a ‘stranded asset’ in the light of the legal requirement to cut carbon emissions.

He added: ‘Many of your local authorities are being serviced by Esso; you shouldn’t do it. You should go to somebody else who is trying to make a difference. We’ve got to begin to be tough about this.

‘You’ve got to say that you work with people who are really trying to deal with net zero, because if you don’t then you are contributing to those who are holding us back, and the urgency is now too great for that’.

ExxonMobil said the existing pipeline is already transporting so-called ‘sustainable’ aviation fuel (SAF) and that it anticipates that the replacement pipeline will provide the capacity to transport whatever aviation fuel is in demand in future, therefore playing an important role in supporting the UK’s security of energy supply and resilience.

It added that without the pipeline, it an additional 100 tanker trucks could be needed every day to deliver aviation fuel from Fawley to Esso’s West London terminal.

The Aviation Environment Federation has warned of the ‘ever-present’ danger of SAF being used for ‘greenwash’ purposes, noting particularly that ‘both the aviation industry and some politicians are keen to present SAFs as the big solution for aviation decarbonisation, creating the impression that airports can continue to expand, and people can continue to fly without worrying about the climate impacts’.

Speaking more broadly about efforts to tackle climate change, Lord Deben, who as John Gummer was a Conservative secretary of state for the environment, said: ‘There is no way of doing this unless it is done by partnership, and partnership first of all between government and local government.’

He added: ‘One of the real dangers of our country is that local government is not treated properly by government and local government officers are not given the kind of respect by civil servants which they ought to have.’

Citing his experience as a minister, he said: ‘I know that any attempt at devolution always ends up with a senior civil servant coming in and very smoothly saying: “Better not minister, we never know what they might do.”

‘In the end, we either make a deal with local authorities or we’re not going to solve these problems.’

Criticising both the resources available to local government and the rate of delivery by central government, he added: ‘This Government needs to be congratulated on its targets: it is leading the way in what it wants to do and its commitments. But it is way behind on actually delivering on those commitments.’

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