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Although the urgency of an energy transition is more apparent than ever, and many in the private sector are adjusting their strategies accordingly to embed sustainability into their operations, there is a curious pushback from increasingly reckless government deregulation.

As a recently published Bloomberg op-ed highlights, Donald Trump swept into offices on promises to roll back the environmental regulations adopted by predecessor administrations, reflecting a broader right-wing skepticism about man-made climate change.

Trump, and other ‘strongmen’ heads-of-state like him – think Bolsonaro, Duterte, Putin – have confounded the consensus of the scientific community by doubling down on destructive energy policies.

Trump took unilateral action to withdraw America from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord and is keen to promote coal and methane gas as part of some bizarre nostalgia for the good old days of of America’s energy dominance.

But the private sector seems to have different ideas. After the Environmental Protection Agency, at Trump’s command, scrapped a law limiting methane emissions in August, environmentalists found unlikely allies in the form of BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil. The world’s largest energy providers are standing firm behind the sustainability development targets introduced by world leaders in 2016.

This is odd, of course. But these companies are increasingly sensitive to negative PR and public opinion. What’s more, shareholders and asset management firms are reorienting their portfolios behind more environmentally-conscious organisations. In spite of Trump’s best efforts, global demand for coal is suffering a precipitous global decline that doesn’t look like slowing any time soon.

Such an unexpectedly positive stand-off is encouraging for environmentalists and provides hope that we might yet find some way to reduce global emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. It is a testament to the global energy sector, which has been hammered – and sometimes rightly so – by public and media criticism about its impact on the environment. Much more needs to be done, but it is vital that public perception is informed of the actions being taken to facilitate a sustainable energy transition. To find out about the energy companies adjusting to the changing needs of society.

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