Top oil firms’ climate pledges failing on almost every metric, report finds

top oil firms’ climate pledges failing on almost every metric, report finds

A refinery in Houston, Texas. Photograph: Mark Felix/AFP/Getty Images

Major oil companies have in recent years made splashy climate pledges to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and take on the climate crisis, but a new report suggests those plans do not stand up to scrutiny.

The research and advocacy group Oil Change International examined climate plans from the eight largest US and European-based international oil and gas producers – BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Eni, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Shell and TotalEnergies – and found none was compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – a threshold scientists have long warned could have dire consequences if breached.

“There is no evidence that big oil and gas companies are acting seriously to be part of the energy transition,” David Tong, global industry campaign Manager at Oil Change International, who co-authored the analysis, said in a statement.

None of the companies were immediately available for comment.

The report’s authors used 10 criteria and ranked each aspect of each company’s plan on a spectrum from “fully aligned” to “grossly insufficient” and found all eight companies ranked “grossly insufficient” or “insufficient” on nearly all criteria.

The US firms Chevron, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil each ranked “grossly insufficient” on all 10 criteria.

“American fossil-fuel corporations are the worst of the worst,” Allie Rosenbluth, US program manager at Oil Change International, said in a statement.

The authors also found that the companies’ current oil and gas extraction plans could lead to more than 2.4C of global temperature rise, which would probably usher in climate devastation. The eight firms alone are on track to use 30% of the world’s remaining global carbon budget to keep global average temperature rise to 1.5C, the study found.

The authors broke the assessment’s criteria into three categories: ambition to curb fossil fuel exploration and production, integrity of methods used to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and commitment to overseeing just and “people-centered transitions” away from fossil fuels.

When it comes to ambition, the report found that none of the eight companies have plans to stop fossil fuel exploration or halt the approval or new extraction projects.

Six of the eight companies – all but Shell and BP – have explicit goals to increase oil and gas production. Shell, meanwhile, plans to keep oil production steady while increasing its gas output, suggesting the company could also grow its overall production.

Shell has technically lowered its fossil-fuel production volume in recent years. But it has done so by selling assets to other companies that continued extraction rather than shutting them down. It’s an approach that is inconsistent with the guidelines for corporate emissions accounting under the GHG Protocol, a global standard for measuring planet-heating pollution, and may also put the corporations out of step with the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the authors say.

BP, meanwhile, produced 2.6% more oil and gas in 2023 than 2022 and plans to increase production this year but keep it flat in 2025.

Both companies have also started up major new extraction projects in recent years.

The eight companies also largely failed to meet the integrity-focused metrics, the report says. None set comprehensive targets to rapidly and consistently curb their emissions, and every company plans to rely on questionable methods to meet its climate targets, the analysts say. These methods include carbon capture and storage, which does not yet exist at scale, and accounting tricks such as carbon offseting, which has been linked to human rights violations and does not itself lower emissions.

All eight firms also failed to “meet basic criteria for just transition plans for workers and communities where they operate,” and none met “basic” human rights criteria. Though some have human rights policies on the books, none have demonstrated sufficient plans to adhere to them, the authors say.

In emailed comments, the companies have pushed back on the findings. Curtis Smith, a spokesperson for Shell said the company did not “not recognize the conclusions of this report”, asserting that it plans to reach net-zero by 2050 and has been slashing its direct emissions.

Rikke Høistad Sjøberg, a spokesperson for Equinor, said the company generally supported the “scrutiny” of climate pledges but believed the report “misrepresents” Equinor’s plans. She said the firm suggested changes to Oil Change that they did not make.

One point of contention: Sjøberg said the researchers “misunderstood” the viability of carbon capture and storage in Norway, where she said the company has “captured and stored CO2 underground since 1994”.

Roberto Carlo Albini, a spokesperson for Eni, said: “Eni has indeed embarked on an industrial transformation.” He said Eni was “planning to allocate more than 30% of its expenditure” to low-carbon energy between now and 2027. And though the company’s plans include carbon capture and carbon credits, those play “one role among many”.

The report was endorsed by over 200 climate groups internationally. It marks the fourth annual “Big Oil Reality Check” from Oil Change International.

Since the first edition of the report in 2020, many oil companies have rolled back climate pledges amid spiking fossil fuel prices.

“The Big Oil Reality Check data illustrates these companies’ dangerous commitment to profit at all cost,” said Tong.

It follows a March report from the thinktank Carbon Tracker, which found none of the world’s 25 largest fossil fuel companies’ production and transition plans align with the central goal of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

This story has been updated to add comments from Shell, Eni and Equinor.

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