Darren Woods reframes the climate challenge

Our chairman Darren Woods chose his keynote speech at this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in San Francisco in November to provide a groundbreaking speech on ExxonMobil’s approach to climate change.

In his presentation Darren said: “Climate change is real. Human activity plays a major role. And, it is one of the major problems facing the world today – the need to address the very real threat of climate change. But it’s not the only one.

Here’s another global problem – equally important – the need to continue producing affordable energy to maintain and raise living standards around the world.

…Oil and gas are at the centre of both [problems]. Combusting them is a leading source of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the societal cost, and it’s real. At the same time, the societal benefits of oil and gas are unmatched in human history. They’ve done more to grow economies, eradicate poverty and improve quality of life than anything else.”

Darren explained to the APEC audience that more than 80 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions come from commercial transport, heavy industry and power generation, but renewable sources, such as wind power and solar, are insufficient to solve emissions in these sectors.

That is why ExxonMobil is pursuing technologies such as carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, biofuels and lithium production which promise to be far more effective in reducing emissions in these hard to decarbonise industries.

“To get serious about net zero, the world needs to get real,” added Darren. “We cannot replace overnight an energy system that took 150 years to build. The size and complexity are simply too vast. Those who would tear down the existing energy system have the wrong problem statement. The problem is not oil and gas. It’s emissions.

Never before, have we stopped using an energy source because of the byproduct it produces. We successfully dealt with smog and acid rain by addressing harmful emissions, not by banning cars or shutting down power plants.”

Leaving oil in the ground would do nothing to stop the demand for it, explained Darren, but it would raise the price of oil, making it harder to alleviate poverty around the world.

In closing Darren said: “Oil and gas companies reliably provide affordable products essential to modern life. Making them into villains is easy. But it does nothing – absolutely nothing – to accomplish the goal of reducing emissions.

In fact, it puts the reliable supply of energy at risk, destabilizing global economies, degrading people’s standards of living, and, as we saw in Europe, actually raising emissions.

The better approach – the constructive approach – is to harness the industry’s capabilities for change. Put us to work. We’ve got the tools, the skills, the size, and the intellectual and financial resources, to bend the curve on emissions.”


Click here to read the speech in full and to see a video of Darren Woods making his presentation.