EUROPEAN oil and gas giants such as BP, Shell, Equinor and Repsol are ahead of rivals elsewhere in the speed of their response to the challenge of climate change, research has found.

Law firm CMS said European majors are leading progress in the clean energy sector . They are leaving behind American counterparts Chevron, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips and state-owned heavyweights in countries such as Mexico and China.

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A study by CMS with Capital Economics found oil and gas majors understand the need to adapt their business models in response to concern about climate change.

But, in addition to highlighting differences in the speed of the firms’ responses, the study identified a range of factors that could hold up progress. These include regulatory changes, shareholder pressure for firms to achieve high returns on investment, uncertainty about the longevity of technologies and competition from renewable energy firms.

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A significant majority of the 15 majors studied are adapting their strategies to invest in a more diverse energy portfolio.

The 15 firms could invest $100 billion (£77m) on renewables and carbon capture from 2019 to 2030 on current trends. With increased commitment from majors and the right support from policymakers the total invested could increase to $209bn.

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“Energy transition now dominates conversations at board level. Whether it is de-carbonising their own operations or investing in alternative energy, the transition will happen,” said Munir Hassan, head of CMS’ energy group.

He added: “It will take time, but time is something that is in short supply.”