One day ahead of their annual shareholder meetings, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods and Chevron Corp. CEO Mike Wirth joined their global natural gas and oil peers, including BP plc and Royal Dutch Shell plc, to advocate climate change initiatives even as Covid-19’s long-term impact is uncertain.

The open letter sent Tuesday by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), of which the CEOs are members, was signed by BP’s Bernard Looney, Chevron’s Mike Wirth, China National Petroleum Corp.’s Dai Houliang, Eni SpA’s Claudio Descalzi, Equinor ASA’s Eldar Saetre, Occidental Petroleum Corp.’s Vicki Hollub, Petróleo Brasileiro SA’s Roberto Catello Branco, Repsol SA’s Josu John Imaz, Shell’s Ben van Beurden, Saudi Arabia Oil Co.’s Amin Nasser and Total SA’s Patrick Pouyanne.

“The unprecedented challenges the world is facing force us all to sharpen our focus on what really matters,” they wrote of Covid-19. “Our immediate priority, as CEOs, is to do everything we can so that our people and communities are safe and capable of confronting the pandemic effectively. We will work to help the world recover from the economic shock of this crisis that has undoubtedly hit some more than others yet impacts us all.”

Last fall the global producers launched a plan to decarbonize industrial hubs to reduce methane emissions. The plan overall is to boost large-scale commercial carbon capture, use and storage worldwide to support the United Nations climate accord, aka the Paris Agreement, reached by nearly 200 countries in late 2015.

There are “concerns that this crisis may push oil and gas companies — and governments around the world — to delay climate action,” the leaders said in their open letter. “The reality is that rather than shifting our priorities, the Covid-19 crisis is further crystallizing our focus on what is essential: health, safety and protection of the environment while providing the energy and vital products that society needs to support economic recovery.”
The shared mission of the OGCI since its formation in 2014 “is to act collectively in combating the climate challenge and to accelerate the global response to the risk of climate change even as we support economic growth.” The reality of climate change requires a consistent and dedicated approach, the company chiefs noted.

OGCI and its members reiterated their pledges to, among other things, accelerate emissions reduction efforts, such as continued reductions in methane emissions.

“We are taking action in our individual companies to sustain investments and technology development in low-carbon solutions, so we can continue to meet OGCI’s collective, as well as each companies’ specific, climate commitments,” said the CEOs.

“With the whole world cooperating — one region, one country, one community after another — to contain the pandemic, we have seen the importance of innovation, collaboration and courage to progress toward a healthier future for all,” they wrote. “We will continue to work with others to support economic recovery and to transition to a healthier, lower-carbon future.”

BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron, which have turned back stringent shareholder initiatives dealing with climate change for the past several years, have scheduled their annual meetings for Wednesday (May 27) in virtual-only formats.

ExxonMobil in early March urged the energy industry, stakeholders and policymakers to embrace a comprehensive overhaul to cut emissions from every phase of production. The model regulatory framework comes as energy operators face increasing pressure from lenders and shareholders to engage in decarbonization by following environmental, social and governance, or ESG, standards.

BP shareholders at the annual meeting last year voted 99% to approve a resolution to align the business strategy with the Paris climate accord.