The most important strategic issue facing the energy industry today is climate change. As the earth’s average temperature continues to rise with the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the stable functioning of earth’s natural systems adjusts to the new, high-carbon reality and society begins to witness the effects of an altered natural environment and its impact on our lives and livelihoods.
Most greenhouse gas emissions are caused by human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels. This reality demands a change to our energy system. Given this threat, governments are increasingly enacting policies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and investors in companies that sell fossil fuels are putting increasing pressure on management to show how they will navigate an energy system in transition. In addition, the economics of renewable energy are becoming increasingly attractive, creating potential alternatives to fossil fuels. Facing all of these drivers, some oil and gas companies are strategizing to become “energy companies,” adapting to this global energy transition.
This report, based on research and a workshop held at CSIS in February 2019 with industry, investors, academics, and environmental groups, attempts to explore how oil and gas companies are taking action to address climate change, how these actions fit with the overall needs of the energy transition, and whether there is more companies can do to contribute to the solution set of this problem.