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Mohammed Barkindo, the secretary general of Opec, said there was a growing mass mobilisation of world opinion against oil, which was “beginning to … dictate policies and corporate decisions, including investment in the industry”.
He said the pressure was also being felt within the families of Opec officials because their own children “are asking us about their future because … they see their peers on the streets campaigning against this industry”.
Although he accused the campaigners of misleading people with unscientific arguments, the comments were welcomed by student and divestment campaigners as a sign the oil industry is worried it may be losing the battle for public opinion.
“Thank you! Our biggest compliment yet!” tweeted Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish initiator of the school student strike movement, which continues every Friday.
The backlash is not just from students, Extinction Rebellion activists and climate scientists.
Insurance companies – which have the most to lose from storms, floods, fires and other extreme weather – are increasingly pulling investment from fossil fuel assets. The governor of the Bank of England has warned of growing climate risks to the financial sector.
Earlier this week, the London Stock Exchange reclassified oil and gas companies under a non-renewable energy category that effectively puts them on the wrong side of climate crisis.
Parliaments in three countries – the UK, Canada, France – have declared a climate emergency, as have dozens of municipalities. They include most recently a first major US city, New York, which has previously filed a lawsuit against the five biggest private oil companies.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of wealthy countries, has also taken a more strident tone in calling for government to put a higher price on oil, gas and coal, to end subsidies and to rethink fossil fuel investment.
“Our policies have to be made with our children’s future in mind … short-term decision-making can lock countries into expensive mistakes in financing and developing infrastructure … that will be neither necessary nor profitable in a low-emissions world, they will be stranded assets,” said the OECD secretary general Angel Gurría.