Don't 'demonize' energy firms: BP boss says climate activists should avoid polarizing society

Key Points
  • BP has been targeted by climate activist groups on numerous occasions in recent months, with demonstrators increasingly angry about the lack of progress toward a lower carbon future.
  • "I don't think it helps anything to demonize companies or groups," BP CEO Bob Dudley told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" on Tuesday.
  • Greenpeace has urged BP to immediately end exploration projects for new oil and gas and switch to investing only in renewable energy.
Greenpeace activists unfurl a banner as they blockade all entrances to the BP headquarters in London, demanding an end to all new oil and gas exploration on May 20, 2019 in London, England.
Chris J Ratcliffe | Getty Images News | Getty Images

BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley urged climate activists not to "demonize" companies, following several weeks of protests designed to highlight how fossil fuels contribute to climate change.

The energy giant has been targeted by climate activist groups on numerous occasions in recent months, with demonstrators increasingly angry about the lack of progress toward a lower carbon future.

"I don't think it helps anything to demonize companies or groups. It gets society polarized and it is really hard to move through big complex problems when you set that up," BP CEO Bob Dudley told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" on Tuesday.

Dudley said he hoped BP would continue to have meaningful dialogue with climate protesters moving forward, before pointing out that "London seems to be the world center of this strong debate today."

The United Nations (UN) has recognized climate change as "the defining issue of our time," with a recent report calling the crisis "the greatest challenge to sustainable development."

Since the start of May, climate activists from Greenpeace have blockaded BP's U.K. headquarters, demonstrated outside the company's European base, picketed petrol stations worldwide, spoken out against the company's U.K. arts sponsorship and scaled an oil rig as it was being towed to one of BP's North Sea projects.

'No wiggle room' for oil giants

Greenpeace has urged BP to immediately end exploration projects for new oil and gas and switch to investing only in renewable energy.

"The reality is it is going to take all forms of energy to solve this. One of the groups wants us to go 100% into renewables (but) it has got to be a race to reduce emissions not a race to renewables," Dudley said, in an apparent reference to the demands of Greenpeace.

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"North of 95% of BP's capital expenditure is on fossil fuels. If Bob Dudley had been spending as much of their shareholders' money looking for a solution to the climate emergency, we'd be much closer to solving the problem," Rosie Rogers, who runs the climate emergency campaign at Greenpeace U.K., told CNBC via email on Tuesday.

"The science is crystal clear and leaves oil giants no wiggle room. Either they ditch fossil fuels, or we'll face the full impact of a climate disaster," Rogers said.

Climate action

BP believes its approach to lower carbon and reducing emissions is "embedded " within its strategy, according to the company's website.

In May, the FTSE 100 giant agreed to a request from shareholders for greater detail and transparency on how each capital investment decision would align with the Paris climate agreement — an international accord that seeks to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

The initiative was adopted after a report published by InfluenceMap in March showed BP was outspending the other largest publicly-owned oil and gas majors to lobby against climate action.