Oil Company Chiefs See Little Impact From U.S. Quitting Paris Accord

By James Marson and Elena Cherney Features Dow Jones Newswires

ST. PETERSBURG--Top officials and executives from major oil-producing countries and leading companies said that U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord was unlikely to have a major effect on efforts to reduce carbon emissions, as technological advances make cleaner forms of energy more economically viable.

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Speaking at an economic forum in Russia, chief executives from BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Total SA said they are still expecting the shift to cleaner energy to continue, including in the U.S.

"We are in an energy transition. The energy transition is unstoppable," said Ben van Beurden, CEO of Shell. "Ultimately it is policy, public sentiment, but also technology that's driving it. It is fundamentally a force that cannot be stopped, irrespective of what any actors, even if they are large actors like the United States, decide to do in relation to Paris."

Mr. Trump said Thursday that he will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris accord in an effort to boost the country's industry and independence.

He said the U.S. would begin negotiations to either re-enter the Paris deal under new terms or create a new deal that he considers fair, an idea immediately rejected by several countries.

Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said he expected U.S. companies to continue to push forward new technology to reduce emissions.

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"I wouldn't write off the United States' contribution to climate action. In the United States, power is dispersed. There are companies, innovation. The United States will end up being a significant player in the climate conversation," he said.

Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of French oil company Total, said companies would continue to invest in cleaner forms of energy, a decision driven by companies' search for profit.

"Consumers want cheap energy," he said. "We want to stay a major energy company in 20-25 years."

Still, Mohammed Barkindo, secretary-general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, said achieving the aim of the Paris accord of keeping average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, would be tough without U.S. involvement.

Accomplishing the goal "without the United States looks very challenging and almost a task that the world will have to revisit," he said.

Write to James Marson at james.marson@wsj.com and Elena Cherney at elena.cherney@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 02, 2017 09:05 ET (13:05 GMT)