Exxon praises ‘monumental’ Paris agreement in signal to Trump

Exxon Mobil Corp., the U.S. oil giant that’s facing investigations over what it knew and when about climate change, sees the Paris agreement to mitigate global warming as a “monumental” achievement, according to a top executive.

The company supports the December 2015 Paris accord as a “very meaningful and constructive process,” William M. Colton, Exxon’s vice president for corporate strategic planning, said in an interview in Berlin on Wednesday. Adhering to the accord’s commitments are achievable and compatible with Exxon’s business strategy, he said.

President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, former Exxon Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson, cleared a key confirmation hurdle Tuesday in Washington, overcoming objections that his appointment would threaten climate-change efforts. Before taking office, Trump dubbed global warming a Chinese invention to hurt U.S. manufacturing and subsequently promised to keep an “open mind” on the Paris deal.

Exxon “fully appreciates and acknowledges the risk posed by climate change,” Colton said, following a panel discussion at an energy conference. “We really admire the Paris process, where you have all the major nations of the world coming together on a global basis — for it is a global challenge.”

Court Fights

Exxon lost a bid earlier this month to block a subpoena by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey as part of her investigation into whether the company misled consumers and investors about the potential impact of climate change on its finances. Irving, Texas-based Exxon for months has been fighting in state courts in Massachusetts and New York, as well as in federal court in Texas, to block probes by Healey and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The Paris agreement entered force Nov. 4, binding its signatories to keep a global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels.

Trump may opt to keep the U.S. in the Paris Accord while effectively reneging on commitments, according to Liz Gallagher, senior associate at the policy research group E3G, who has been critical of the administration’s climate policy. While the likelihood of the U.S. withdrawing from the Paris Accord is narrowing, “staying in and undermining it from within would be just as bad,” she said.

‘America First’

Tillerson said earlier this month that the U.S. should stay “at the table” on the Paris climate pact and hinted that Trump conceivably could keep the U.S. in the deal — as long as it can be squared with his “America first” campaign vow. Trump stoked conflict this week with climate activists and native Americans by rescinding a decision by former President Barack Obama to block construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.

Exxon, which expects oil to remain the primary global energy source through 2030, sets the most store on technology to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Colton said. Global carbon dioxide emissions will peak in the 2030s and then fall as energy efficiency and clean power increase, he said.

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