Big gas chiefs bill themselves as climate leaders at COP27

A view shows a gas flare at Portovaya Bay in the Gulf of Finland
A view shows a gas flare at Portovaya Bay on the coast of the Gulf of Finland in the Leningrad Region, Russia August 26, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, Nov 14 (Reuters) - The heads of two big natural gas companies told Reuters on Monday they were seeking to use the setting of the COP27 international climate summit to bill their industry as a leader in the fight against global warming.

The charm offensive by gas producers EQT (EQT.N) and NewMed Energy (NWMDp.TA) reflected the friendlier reception enjoyed by some fossil fuel companies at this year's U.N. climate negotiations in Egypt, following years in which they were ostracized as the chief villains of global warming.

"The most important thing is for people to see America’s largest natural gas producer here at COP27 as a symbol that we’re going to be a leader in energy transition," Toby Rice, EQT's (EQT.N) chief Executive, told Reuters on the sidelines of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday.

"We're meeting with some political leaders in different countries, we’re meeting with some environmental groups to talk about this plan," he said.

While gas emits far less carbon dioxide than coal when it is burned, producing it and getting it to market is known to lead to significant leaks of methane - a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.

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The United States and the EU are driving an international effort to crack down on oil and gas industry methane leaks, something they say is critical to reaching a global goal to limit planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The chief of NewMed Energy (NWMDp.TA) which owns a stake in Israel's huge Leviathan gasfield, said it was taking a similar approach to the conference, which was also visited by BP's (BP.L) and TotalEnergies' (TTEF.PA) chief executives, the latter promoting an emissions cutting iniative for gas producers.

"The world has changed, people have better understanding that upstream (gas) companies are not the enemy. Emissions is the enemy," Yossi Abu said, referring to Israel using NewMed's gas to replace coal-fired coal production.

"We’re seeing globally people taking a much more realistic approach, developing renewables but also developing a lot of natural gas."

However, the research collaboration Climate Action Tracker said last week that countries scrambling to source more natural gas to replace supplies from Russia are risking years of emissions that could thwart climate goals.

"These fossil fuel companies are what have driven the climate to breaking point, with global heating now already at 1.2 Celsius. And yet their solution to this climate crisis is more fossil fuels," said Mohamed Adow, Director at climate and energy think tank Power Shift Africa.

Coal power plants produced a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, more than any other single source, according to the International Energy Agency.

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Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Writes about the intersection of corporate oil and climate policy. Has reported on politics, economics, migration, nuclear diplomacy and business from Cairo, Vienna and elsewhere.