Shell boss warns of global warming 'disaster'

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The Independent Online

Governments, not oil companies, must act now on global warming or there will be a "disaster", the chairman of Shell's UK arm warned last night.

Governments, not oil companies, must act now on global warming or there will be a "disaster", the chairman of Shell's UK arm warned last night.

Delivering the annual business lecture hosted by the environmental group Greenpeace, Lord Oxburgh laid responsibility for tackling greenhouse gas emissions squarely at the feet of government.

Lord Oxburgh, a former chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence, is one of the two chairmen at Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant. He heads the UK half of the business. He insisted last night that it was not up to the likes of Shell to reform their behaviour and reduce their supply of fossil fuels.

"Whether you like it or not, we live in a capitalist society. If we at Shell ceased to find and extract and market fossil fuel products while there was demand for them, we would fail as a company. Shell would disappear as any kind of economic force," Lord Oxburgh maintained.

He said it was up to government to provide a new regulatory framework that would reduce the incentive to consume fossil fuels, the burning of which produces carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for global warming.

If government failed to do this, there "will be a disaster" he said, pointing to the environmental consequences of a rise in the earth's temperature. Lord Oxburgh said that Shell would be prepared to accept this kind of regulatory change, "provided that our competitors operate under similar constraints".

He said: "Our job is to respond in a positive way to a regulatory environment that has to be determined by government ... given the urgency, we have to start now."

Unusually for an oil company the chairman of Shell is an eminent scientist and an expert on climate change.

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