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“Climate litigation turns personal as directors come under scrutiny”

17 April 2023

Not my headline, but typical of several I have seen recently.  I don’t think it’s useful pointing the finger of blame, or involving lengthy and expensive litigation.  Can there be a positive outcome to this?  Not often.  In most people’s experience, litigation leaves everyone bitter.

 

But I do think it is time to personalise the business world in relation to climate change.  Businesses are not deciding to continue to emit carbon.  The people who run businesses are.  These are people, just like you and me.  They inhabit the same world as us.  They go home at night to partners, families, friends, and occupy themselves with meals, television, sports, hobbies, activities that resemble what everyone does.

 

So we can safely assume that when it pours with rain for us, when it freezes, floods or overheats, when food shortages on supermarket shelves happen to us, all these things happen to them too.

 

These are the people who need to consider what their decisions mean when they are at their desk in the office.  They are doing things which will have an effect on their own world, and hence their own lives, their families lives, and their friends lives.

 

The modern Oil & Gas industry has been compared to the Tobacco industry.  In both cases, the businesses concerned are filled with highly intelligent, well-educated and qualified men and women who perfectly well know the harm their products are doing, but they continue to do it.  It is easy enough to understand why.  They are being very well-paid, they have mortgages and responsibilities, they have lifestyles that cost them much to maintain.

 

But there is a big difference between the Tobacco company executives and their peers in Oil & Gas.  The Tobacco executives are damaging other people, while they stay safe from the harmful effects of the products they promote.  Their peers in O&G, on the other hand, are damaging themselves as well as everyone else as a result of the harmful effects of the products they promote.

 

What can be more self-defeating?  This explains why I think we have to personalise the discussion now.  These are persons, real people, not companies.  These are the people who need to consider what their future holds, and how they are destroying it by virtue of the decisions they are making now.  

 

They don’t need litigation to make them realise.  They need their own common sense.  And their children’s.