EXCLUSIVE

US oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron finally join a global climate initiative—as an Indian titan exits

Turning the taps.
Turning the taps.
Image: Reuters/Zohra Bensemra
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The oil industry has a history of actively sowing doubts about climate science. So it was a big deal when, in 2014, a group of 10 oil companies agreed to collaborate on climate action by creating the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI). The founding members spanned the globe, with companies based in Italy, the UK, Spain, China, India, Mexico, France, Netherlands, Norway, and Saudi Arabia. But the US was conspicuously missing.

Four years later, US oil giants finally look ready to take a seat at the table. ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Occidental Petroleum are set to join OGCI as soon as Monday, according to Axios. “This is one of the strongest signs yet of how America’s biggest oil companies, under pressure from investors and lawsuits, are joining most other US corporations in working to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions despite [US] president [Donald] Trump reversing America’s course on the matter,” writes Amy Harder, who broke the story. (Quartz has reached out to the US oil companies for comment.)

Together, the companies that make up the OGCI are responsible for supplying 30% of all oil and gas, which is about 20% of all the world’s energy. It’s a shame, then, that even as US oil giants join the initiative, India’s Reliance Petroleum (which is now part of Reliance Industries) has quit the coalition. Reliance supplies a small fraction of the world’s oil (about 1.2 million barrels per day in capacity, which is about 1% of global oil production). But its exit means the OGCI no longer has an Indian company among its ranks.

Reliance joined the OGCI in November 2016, just as the initiative announced a $1 billion fund to invest in companies that can help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from the oil and gas sector. In 2017, the OGCI hired Pratima Rangarajan, a former GE wind power executive, as CEO. It has since announced investments in four startups, featuring the following technologies: Solidia Technologies (low-emissions cement), Achates Power (more efficient internal combustion engines), Inventys (low-cost carbon capture), and Econic Technologies (using carbon dioxide to make plastics). Apart from the US oil companies, the initiative has also added Brazil’s Petrobras.

Reliance left the initiative earlier this year, a spokesperson for the OGCI confirmed. The OGCI declined to share what sum each member company paid into its $1 billion fund. Thus, it’s not clear what Reliance’s contributions were during the period that it was part of the initiative and whether it lost any money when it quit. “OGCI is a voluntary CEO-led initiative,” the spokesperson said. Reliance did not respond to Quartz’s multiple requests for comment on its decision to leave the group.

Though Reliance Industries seems to have backtracked on the OCGI, the company’s chairman, Mukesh Ambani—also India’s richest person, with a net worth of $40 billion—remains part of another climate initiative. Alongside Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Jack Ma, Ambani is part of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a $1 billion fund that invests in energy startups in a bid to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.

Sushma UN contributed to the reporting.