Inaction is not an option this Earth Day

Inaction is not an option this Earth Day
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With more than 1 billion people participating, Earth Day is the largest day of action for climate justice in the world. It is the annual kickoff for 365 days of advocacy in support of renewable energy, sustainable practices, pollution-free communities and a commitment to protect species.

Several brands will celebrate with videos, graphics and other content to distribute to customers, employees and social media followers. Companies that are more dialed in may announce their own climate justice initiatives. For instance, in 2018, The Climate League partnered with Y&R and Red Fuse to launch a petition asking Secretary of Education Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosConsumer bureau head says Education Department blocking oversight of student loans Dem lawmaker: Betsy DeVos is 'a nice person, but boy she really is confused' Trump touts budget updates to fund Special Olympics, send astronauts to Mars MORE to expand science and climate education to all 50 states, beyond the 29 offering it at the time. The New York Yankees installed LED lighting in their stadium, and in 2016, Mexican beer manufacturer Corona took its beer off of shelves in select stores and sold them outside to encourage customers to spend more time outdoors.

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Given that the United States emits 15 percent of global greenhouse gases annually but represents just 4 percent of the world’s population, each of us has a role to play in addressing climate change. In the same way that scripture teaches us that to whom much is given, much is required, companies and entities that have a larger carbon footprint have a greater opportunity and responsibility to protect and preserve our environment.

Relatedly, the 800,000 members of United Methodist Women are taking seriously this responsibility to be good stewards of all of God’s creation — the environment and God’s people — by issuing a specific challenge to Chevron.

If Chevron wants to meaningfully participate in Earth Day 2019, it needs to take a number of internal steps to reduce its carbon footprint.

Chevron Corporation is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world since 1880. Chevron’s footprint is massive, and its methane emissions are impacting people across the globe. Chevron is one of the top 10 producers of natural gas globally, and its production is only increasing. In the United States alone, Chevron is planning to increase its U.S. oil and gas production to 900,000 barrels a day by 2023 — a sharp increase from last year’s prediction of 650,000 barrels by 2023.

Chevron has an opportunity to help reverse decades of environmental damage done to the earth and frontline communities particularly. Since May 2018, United Methodist Women members have met with Chevron staff and sent thousands of letters urging Chevron to reduce methane emissions, to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) current proposal to dismantle U.S. federal methane regulations and to direct more capital allocations to clean renewable energy. Chevron publicly agreed to link executive compensation to performance-based methane and other monitoring efforts to reduce emissions but failed to act on the United Methodist Women’s request for the company to support common-sense methane regulations.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas, and it is 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat over a 20-year time frame. Toxic air pollutants are leaked alongside natural gas development and transmission — including benzene, ethylbenzene and formaldehyde. These toxins jeopardize more than 15 million people living near these sites. These pollutants can cause respiratory diseases, asthma attacks, adverse birth outcomes, heart attacks, increased hospitalizations, reproductive problems, blood disorders, neurological problems and cancer while also contributing to climate change, which further impacts health. This does not include the incidence of gas leaks, which are occurring at a higher rate than previously calculated through the supply chain. Globally, oil and gas companies leak and vent an estimated $30 billion of methane per year into the atmosphere

As one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, Chevron could do three things right now to limit catastrophic climate change and improve health outcomes for the communities in which it has a presence:

  1. Use direct measurements to determine actual methane emissions and credibly report on methane targets. Chevron primarily relies on calculated engineering factors to inform its emissions inventory. However, recent science studies have shown that actual methane emissions may be up to 60 percent higher than those engineering factors estimate. To ensure the public that the company is truly achieving reductions of this harmful pollutant and making progress on its methane target, Chevron should use direct measurement to inform its emissions calculations and verify that methodology publicly.
  1. Voice public support for direct regulation of oil and gas methane emissions, particularly regarding the EPA’s current and anticipated rollbacks. Chevron recently requested rollbacks of methane regulations. Weakening or eliminating these standards opens the door for companies to put at risk the health of people who live and work near these facilities. In fact, a March infrared recording of a Chevron facility in New Mexico shows that methane leaks continue to exist. Chevron’s opposition to commonsense methane regulation is increasingly notable, while industry peers like BP, Exxon and Shell have already made strong public statements supporting direct regulation of methane.
  1. Stop the development of new natural gas assets and invest in clean renewable energy sources that adhere to the principles of free, prior and informed consent. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report noted that our world must drastically reduce carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and to net-zero emissions by 2050. While reducing methane emissions is one step. Chevron can be an industry leader in transitioning U.S. energy source to be fueled by clean renewable energy.

With another Earth Day celebration, industry leaders, such as Chevron, will seize the opportunity and do more to protect people, species and the environment. Inaction is not an option.

Elizabeth Chun Hye Lee is the United Methodist Women executive for Economic and Environmental Justice. She is also the organization’s Climate Justice lead.