Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
Four major oil companies are not taking concrete steps to deliver on their clean energy transition promises, new research shows.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One, found that Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell used terms such as “climate”, “low carbon” and “transition” more frequently in their recent annual reports and strategized around decarbonization. But their actions on clean energy were mostly promises and the companies remain financially dependent on fossil fuels.
“We therefore conclude that the transition to clean energy business models is not happening because the scale of investment and action does not match the narrative,” said the researchers from Tohoku University and the Kyoto University in Japan.
“Until stocks and investment behavior align with the rhetoric, accusations of greenwashing appear to be well-founded,” they added.
The four major oil companies on which the study focuses account for more than 10% of global carbon emissions since 1965, the researchers said.
Global energy companies have promised a transition to clean energy – or at least a reduction in their carbon footprint – as environmental advocates, shareholders and governments push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
The companies have come under particular fire from critics who say they have misled the public about the dangers of climate change for years and are now doing too little to tackle global warming.
Yet the energy industry is not unified on exactly how to achieve this goal, and the study concludes that the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas companies are underperforming relative to their peers. clean energy goals.
The article found little evidence of a major shift away from fossil fuels
Using data collected from 2009 to 2020, the researchers found that companies often talked about going clean energy without making dramatic changes that would enable them to make a company-wide transition.
For example, the newspaper reports that BP and Shell have pledged to cut investment in fossil fuel extraction projects. Instead, they have increased acreage for new oil and gas exploration in recent years.
The researchers said they found no evidence that companies were investing in clean energy on a scale that would allow them to move away from fossil fuels.
In fact, the study noted, “Flagrantly, ExxonMobil generated zero clean energy over the decade.” BP’s global renewables capacity – the largest among the four majors – amounts to just 2,000 MW, the equivalent of about two large gas-fired power stations.
In addition, the two European companies – BP and Shell – have more consistently acknowledged climate science, invested more in clean energy and taken more aggressive action than their American counterparts – ExxonMobil and Chevron – which “show defensive attitudes ” towards investments in renewable energy and away from it. from fossil fuels, the paper revealed.
Companies say they are moving towards clean energy
A spokesperson for Chevron, based in San Ramon, Calif., said the company could not comment directly on the document because it had not seen it, but that Chevron is focused on “reducing the carbon intensity of our operations and seeks to expand”. low-carbon companies as well as our traditional businesses. Chevron plans to invest $10 billion in low-carbon investments by 2028.
London-headquartered BP said through a spokesperson that because the company has made major progress towards its 2021 net zero targets, it does not believe the document fully reflects of his progress. For example, the company said it made $1.6 billion in capital investments in low-carbon energy last year. BP also reported that its oil and gas production declined during the period studied by the researchers.
“We have already made significant strategic progress – for example, quadrupling our renewable energy pipeline and nearly doubling our electric vehicle charging stations since 2019 – and we have recently defined and evolved both our strategy and our net zero ambition,” the BP spokesperson said. The study indicates that BP stood out by “increasing the proportion of investment in non-fossil fuel companies and gradually reducing hydrocarbon production…and exploration”.
A Shell spokesman said the company, also based in London, aims to have net zero emissions by 2050 – including the energy it uses and sells – and is the first energy company to submit its transition plan to shareholders, who approved it.
ExxonMobil said it expects oil and gas production be more or less stable through 2025, a spokesperson said. The company, based in Irving, Texas, has also committed to making $15 billion in low-emissions investments through 2027 and has “progressed more than 20 low-emissions projects around the world.”