Shell Chief Pops Carney’s ‘Carbon Bubble’

  • Date: 07/10/15
  • Robin Pagnamenta, The Times

The boss of Royal Dutch Shell has hit back after an attack on the fossil fuels industry by the governor of the Bank of England, accusing Mark Carney of a “lack of realism” in his comments about climate change.

Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank Of England, warned last week of a “carbon bubble” that posed a risk to financial stability – Dominic Lipinski/Reuters

Ben van Beurden, Shell’s chief executive, dismissed Mr Carney’s warning last week that investors in the industry risked being left with billions of dollars’ worth of “stranded assets” — oil and gas that could never be extracted because of carbon regulation — as simplistic.

“There is some attraction in the simplicity of that argument,” Mr van Beurden said. “Of course, we have heard and seen [it] before, although not necessarily from the governor of the Bank of England. The problem and the solution for it is being characterised as relatively straightforward and of course it’s not.” Mr van Beurden said that Mr Carney and others were wrong to suggest that climate change could be tackled merely by leaving hydrocarbons in the ground. “The problem is that it doesn’t address the real problem. What exactly would the policy response look like that ultimately would leave those deposits in the ground?

“In the comments that the governor made, I didn’t hear any policy in there. That is where the real issue is . . . because ultimately it is through demand that carbon emissions are being generated. That’s more difficult.” Mr van Beurden said that there was an urgent need for policies to restrict energy demand.

Speaking at an oil industry conference in London, the executive, who has been a vocal advocate of carbon pricing to help to drive investment in alternative forms of energy, suggested that the views of Mr Carney and others were a hindrance to real progress on climate change. “Where I’m really concerned is the fact that the arguments that are being put forward — their seductive simplicity — mean that meaningful climate change action is being delayed.”

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