Despite an array of new “net zero” pledges released in the past two years, the climate promises of major U.S. and European oil and gas companies still fail to meet the bare minimum for alignment with the Paris Agreement, according to a new study released Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
“Big oil and gas companies’ climate pledges and plans appear to be designed to disinform and distract, not to seriously confront the climate crisis,” said David Tong, lead author of the report and Global Industry campaign manager at Oil Change International. “This new analysis shows that not even one of the eight oil majors considered comes anywhere close to aligning their businesses with what’s needed for 1.5ºC.”
The report, titled “Big Oil Reality Check,” was released by Oil Change International in collaboration with over 35 organisations from across the globe.
Updating an inaugural 2020 study, the report analyses the latest climate pledges of BP, Chevron, Eni, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Repsol, Shell, and TotalEnergies against 10 minimum benchmarks for alignment with the 1.5°C temperature goal outlined in the Paris Agreement, including new criteria highlighting the need to uphold human rights and Indigenous Peoples’ rights, including Free, Prior, and Informed Consent.
The analysis provides new data on the climate threat from the eight companies’ near-term plans to develop new oil and gas extraction projects – plans that clash with the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s conclusion that new oil and gas development should cease after 2021 to keep global warming below 1.5°C.
The report finds the oil and gas majors are involved in over 200 expansion projects on track for approval from 2022 through 2025. If they go forward, these companies’ investments could create an additional 8.6 billion tonnes (Gt) of carbon pollution – equivalent to the lifetime emissions of 77 new coal power plants.
In East Africa, activists have protested a multi-billion-dollar oil project in Uganda.
A peer-reviewed study released just a week ago found that burning just the oil, gas, and coal in fields and mines operating now would far exceed the remaining carbon budget for 1.5ºC.
“Instead of facing up to the reality of the climate crisis and cutting fossil fuel production, our analysis found that these big oil and gas companies plan to keep adding fuel to the fire,” said Kelly Trout, Research Co-Director at Oil Change International. “The few companies projecting declines in total production by 2030 appear to have a strategy of selling off dirty assets for other companies to keep exploiting, rather than winding them down.”
The rubric used to assess oil and gas companies focuses on the level of ambition to keep fossil fuels in the ground on a rapid timeline, the integrity of pledges, including their scale of reliance on carbon-sequestration, offsets or fossil gas, and commitments to centring Indigenous communities and workers. All eight companies’ climate pledges and plans are rated grossly insufficient overall, with Chevron and ExxonMobil assessed as grossly insufficient on all criteria.
Over the past two years, global oil demand has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, reaching 99.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. Additionally, oil prices soared to record highs as countries responded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, delivering record profits for big oil and gas companies. Yet, the latest science shows an urgent need to end oil and gas expansion and deliver a rapid managed decline of the fossil fuel industry.
In March 2022, a report by researchers at the Tyndall Centre concluded that the wealthiest nations need to end oil and gas production by 2034 to preserve a 50% chance to limit warming to 1.5°C. The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows global fossil fuel emissions – of which oil and gas contribute the largest part – need to decline immediately to preserve a chance at keeping global warming below 1.5°C.
“The companies that have done the most to cause the climate crisis cannot be trusted to meaningfully confront it,” added Tong. “Big oil and gas companies will not manage their own decline. Investors and governments must step up and help us all break free from the unstable boom-bust cycle of the fossil fuel economy.”