One of the world’s largest oil companies has made headlines this year for its “ambitious” plan to tackle climate change, including transitioning to low-carbon energy production and vowing to reach net-zero emissions before 2050.
Despite the public commitment, Royal Dutch Shell continues to back hundreds of industry organizations, including the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) — a powerful lobby group representing Canada’s largest oil and gas companies, which has campaigned to delay, weaken or end federal and provincial climate change policies and environmental regulations as recently as this spring.
Last year, Shell publicly quit the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, over the leading oil lobby group’s stance on climate change, and began releasing reviews of its memberships with 19 associations, determining that some, including CAPP, were “misaligned” with Shell’s climate change position.
In Shell’s 2020 review update, it said it paid the equivalent of between C$666,000 and $1.3 million last year to CAPP — and will continue to do so — despite taking issue with CAPP’s lack of public support for the Paris Agreement emission targets and government-led carbon pricing.
CAPP told HuffPost Canada that it values Shell’s membership and approach.
“Shell brings to our membership significant international expertise on climate change related policies and solutions, which has been particularly valuable to our ongoing work in this area,” CAPP’s Jay Averill said in an email.
Shell spokesperson Tara Lemay said the company is advocating for CAPP to adopt more progressive climate change stances.
“Shell Canada remains a member of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and we are closely monitoring our alignment with CAPP on climate-related topics, taking opportunities to positively influence from within,” Lemay said in an email.
“CAPP is the single largest impediment to climate policy in Canada.”
But that’s not enough, said Keith Brooks, programs director with Environmental Defence, an advocacy group that has launched a letter-writing campaign to pressure Shell to leave CAPP.
“Either Shell is sincere or they’re not. It would seem to us if they’re going to maintain their membership in CAPP and other associations that are doing the dirty work of lobbying for the oil and gas industry — while on the other hand they profess to be climate leaders — then it looks like hypocrisy or greenwashing,” Brooks said.
“CAPP is the single largest impediment to climate policy in Canada. They have weakened or delayed practically every climate change policy.”
Shell withdrawing its membership from CAPP would be significant, said Brooks.
“It’s another domino dropping.”
Canadian mining company Teck Resources announced in May it was leaving CAPP as part of cost-cutting measures. This summer, French energy company Total also cancelled its membership because of “misalignment” with CAPP’s public positions on climate change.
In response, CAPP CEO Tim McMillian told BNN Bloomberg that Total was “virtue signalling” and part of an “orchestrated campaign globally against Canada” as Total continues to invest in “objectionable” jurisdictions, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“I think Canada and the oilsands are needed and must play an important role if we want to achieve our global environmental outcomes,” McMillian said.
The extent of CAPP’s influence was on full display in the spring of 2019, when it and other energy stakeholders sent more than 50,000 letters and emails to senators claiming the Liberal’s attempt to make Canada’s environmental assessments more stringent would block important infrastructure.
Conservative and independent Senators made hundreds of pages of changes, including some that came directly from CAPP. While Trudeau’s government did not accept all of them, it did exempt high-carbon projects from review, including gas fracking and in situ tar sands mines.
This March, CAPP lobbied the federal government to change regulations in the short and long term in response, it said, to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a memo to Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan, CAPP urged the government to take “a flexible approach” when it came to “low-risk” regulations.
Among 33 recommendations, CAPP requested the feds:
- delay strengthening Canada’s 2030 carbon emission target
- postpone setting a net-zero emission target for 2050
- hold the carbon price at $30 per tonne, rather than increase it to $40 in 2021
- halt developing the Clean Fuel Standard that would incentivize the use of fuels with lower carbon
- defer reporting greenhouse gas emissions
- defer implementing methane regulations.
Environmental Defence alerted Shell to the memo and the oil company said in a letter it would consider this information when it reviews its membership with CAPP in 2021.
Averill, from CAPP, told HuffPost it is “unfortunate” Environmental Defence continues to campaign against Canada’s oil and gas industry, which is one of the country’s largest generators of jobs and government revenues.
“Environmental Defence’s end goal will only drive investment in oil and natural gas production out of Canada into higher-polluting jurisdictions that do not meet Canada’s high environmental or human rights standards,” Averill said.