- Trends in Energy
- COP a Plea
COP a Plea
This Week's Trend In Brief:
As COP28 drew to a close last month, environmental activist groups celebrated a breakthrough climate agreement calling for a transition away from fossil fuels. Now they are leveraging it to press the Biden Administration for more aggressive domestic climate action.
That pressure includes arguing that if the Biden Administration is genuinely committed to transitioning from fossil fuels, it must reject any new project activists deem unworthy, including LNG export facilities vital to supporting our allies in Europe and offshore oil leases needed to keep domestic energy prices in check.
Indeed, while the activists challenging the administration say they are targeting new oil and gas infrastructure, many of the same environmental groups targeting the new buildout also have green energy projects like carbon capture and hydrogen production and usage in their crosshairs.
While some in industry may see COP28 as just another global gabfest, activists view the commitments made there as a tool to enact their preferred policy positions in the U.S. and intend to make sure the Administration listens, particularly in an election year.
For public affairs professionals supporting companies hoping to build the projects needed to meet both the energy needs and climate goals in the U.S. and globally, it is essential to ensure policymakers’ vision isn’t clouded by this pressure, and that means understanding which policymakers and stakeholders you can work with and whose efforts you have to overcome.
Last month, climate activists in the U.S. and worldwide celebrated a breakthrough climate agreement calling for a transition away from fossil fuels at the conclusion of COP28 in Dubai. According to the United Nations, the agreement is the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era that lays “the ground for a swift, just and equitable transition, underpinned by deep emissions cuts and scaled-up finance.” Climate activists across the world lauded the deal, and green groups in the U.S. are already leveraging the new agreement to pressure the Biden Administration to take more aggressive domestic climate action.
Indeed, these environmental activist groups insist the Biden Administration’s decision to sign on to the COP28 agreement means the Administration should cease approving any new domestic oil and natural gas projects. Center for Biological Diversity senior attorney Jean Su called the U.S. decision to join the agreement “one of the biggest moves from the Biden administration,” but asked, “Then why is the Biden administration continuing to expand fossil fuels?” Oil Change International U.S. campaigns manager Collin Rees called it “a huge step forward that people are even talking about transitioning from fossil fuels,” but contends the Biden Administration is not doing enough on the home front, pointing to Venture Global’s proposed CP2 LNG export facility on the Gulf Coast. Rees argued, “People are looking at things like CP2 and these other upcoming decisions on expanding fossil fuel production and will want to see the proof in the pudding.” These same activists are using similar arguments against the offshore lease sales, which the Administration needs to keep domestic energy prices in check. But Sierra Club senior attorney Devorah Ancel argues selling offshore leases “to Big Polluters is incompatible with achieving the ambitious climate goals the Biden Administration itself has set.”
Climate activists’ efforts go beyond new oil and gas infrastructure, targeting many of the green energy projects like carbon capture and hydrogen production and usage that will be necessary to reach domestic and global climate goals. For years, climate activists have made clear they view hydrogen and carbon capture as “false solutions” that merely extend the life of fossil fuels. While LNG projects on the Gulf Coast are currently drawing much of the ire facing industry from green groups, these groups are simultaneously targeting carbon capture and hydrogen projects across the country. Opposition to these projects comes even as the Biden Administration hails them as an essential part of its plan to reduce U.S. reliance on fossil fuels, highlighting a growing divide between the climate-forward administration and an increasingly professionalized, nationally-backed, and uncompromising activist base who oppose any project deemed unworthy.
While some in industry may see COP28 as just another global confab, activists view the commitments made there as a tool to enact their preferred policy positions in the U.S., and they intend to make sure the Administration listens, particularly in an election year. For months, the Biden Administration has been “scrambling to elevate” Biden’s climate achievements over the past several years to win over climate-concerned voters in 2024. Still, these efforts have done little to appease environmental activists who have repeatedly called on Biden to take a firmer stance to end all fossil fuel use in the U.S. As 350.org founder Bill McKibben noted, “Biden rode into office on the back of young people eager for action on climate and environmental justice” and must, therefore, take aggressive climate action to secure their votes again. With less than a year before the next presidential election, Biden is already facing more pressure than ever to enact environmentalists’ preferred aggressive policies to address climate goals. Expect that pressure to rise as the election gets closer.
It is essential for public affairs professionals supporting energy developers to ensure policymakers’ vision isn’t clouded by this pressure. For those working in the energy industry, that means understanding which policymakers and stakeholders you can work with and whose efforts you have to overcome. Companies can leverage a proven playbook to secure that understanding, examining where these pressures originate, who amplifies the pressures, how those groups operate, and where they get their funding and technical expertise. This understanding ensures public affairs professionals and the companies they represent can navigate these challenges and avoid potential disruptions by staying two steps ahead of any opposition.
Trends in Energy is your weekly look at key trends affecting the energy industry, brought to you by the competitive intelligence experts at Delve. As the political and regulatory landscape continues to shift, reach out to learn how our insights can help you navigate these challenges.