It’s not only governments who have to take further climate action and aim for zero emissions by 2050. The private sector also has a big role to play in achieving those ambitious climate targets.
So far, when it comes to big oil, those pledges seem to have a lot of hot air in them.
While oil and gas companies have made pledges to curb their emissions, their net-zero targets have been overstated, according to a new independent study from the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI).
The report looked at six large European corporations, Total, Shell, BP, Repsol and Eni, and acknowledged they have all had made commitments to significantly reduce the carbon intensity of the energy they supply — a scenario that wasn’t there before a few years back.
“Three years ago, no company had set targets to reduce the carbon intensity of the energy they supply. Today all six oil and gas majors assessed by TPI have set such targets and we have seen significant progress in the past months, with companies engaging with the concept of net zero,” said in a statement Adam Matthews, co-chair of TPI.
But this is far from being enough.
The authors argued that none of the companies are yet aligned with the 1.5C temperature goal set in the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015. A temperature increase beyond that point would bring the worst impacts of climate change, according to scientist estimations.
TPI calculated that the average European oil and gas company would need to cut its emissions intensity by over 70% between 2018 and 2050 to align with a 2°C climate scenario by 2050, while a genuine net-zero strategy would require a 100% cut in absolute emissions. Even the most ambitious new targets fall far short of this.
According to the analysis, BP and Austrian company OMV are the only two oil and gas companies of the six assessed who have failed to align with the goals of the Paris climate agreement. For example, while BP has a target to reduce emissions of its sold products, that target excludes crude oil sales.
On the other hand, Shell was highlighted for not selling energy to customers that are not also aligned to net-zero pathways. Nevertheless, the authors said they haven’t been able to asses that plan yet. “Potentially [it] is very significant. And does get them to a sort of one and a half degree of warming kind of commitment,” Matthews said.
According to the authors, a genuine net-zero strategy for the average European oil and gas company would require a 100% cut in emissions between now and 2050. All of the plans they have assessed are, to some degree, dependent on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and nature-based solutions such as planting trees.
“There are very significant assumptions that need further probing,” said Adam Matthews. “And we obviously need greater understanding of the role that that these will play in delivering these strategies.”