Some of the most impactful multinational corporations belong to the oil and gas sector. Oil and gas companies have transformed the world’s access to energy for transportation, heating and electricity over the course of the 20th century. They have allowed for the rapid development of many regions of the world, and for incredible prosperity. However, this development has been uneven; many Global South countries have seen some benefits, but not all of them have reliable energy coverage. Moreover, climate change layers difficulties onto this. Global unevenness in development heightens Global South countries’ exposure to climate change and their responses to it. It does not help that the very energy source – oil and gas - that has brought us this far, contributes to the problem. 

In light of this, my research examines the history of the oil and gas sector to examine the global inequalities we see unfolding under climate change today, and how to tackle them. I ask, how do multinational oil and gas corporations fit into the problem of tackling climate change and related inequalities? In particular, what are the benefits and constraints of such a corporate form in advancing action on climate change as a development problem? To address these questions, I use one oil and gas multinational as a case study to look at how this global corporate form and its decisionmakers have historically acted to advance economic development in the Global North and South, and how they may have slowed it at other times. What are the circumstances under which multinational corporations advance development, and what are the circumstances under which they do not? I will tie this focus on economic development in to the corporation’s more recent actions around climate change, to see when the firm, its decisions, and the circumstances of these decisions might advance climate action, and when it does not. In my empirical research I will trace the corporation’s historical operations in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela as well as in Western Europe abutting the North Sea. I also draw links to the corporation’s activities in Indonesia to do so.