Despite a flurry of announcements from colossal fossils claiming great plans to decarbonize their operations, the companies’ actual performance shows they can’t be counted on to manage their own decline, Oil Change International concludes in a scathing new report that finds “failure across the board” in the industry’s climate plans.
“Not a single climate plan released by a major oil company comes close to aligning with the urgent 1.5°C global warming limit,” Oil Change writes in a release. “The discussion paper measures oil and gas company climate plans against 10 minimum criteria for 1.5°C alignment, underlining that commitments to stop expanding extraction and to significantly decline production by 2030 are critical near-term tests. It finds that each of the eight major companies assessed are failing, scoring grossly insufficient or insufficient in a majority of criteria.”
The 10 criteria in Oil Change’s rubric include: stopping oil and gas exploration; approving no new extraction projects; reducing production by 2030; setting long-term phaseout plans consistent with a 1.5°C future; setting absolute targets covering all oil and gas extraction; not relying on carbon sequestration or offsets; acknowledging fossil gas as a high-carbon product; ending all lobbying and advertising that obstruct climate solutions; setting an explicit end date for oil and gas extraction; and supporting a job transition for the fossil work force. Of the eight companies Oil Change assessed:
• Exxon and Chevron met none of the 10 criteria;
• Shell, Total, and Equinor rated “insufficient” on two of the criteria and failed completely on the other eight;
• Repsol rated insufficient on two criteria and partly compliant on a third;
• Eni came close to alignment on one criterion and rated insufficient on three others;
• BP rated partly compliant on two criteria and insufficient on three others.
None of the eight companies had committed to stop approving new fossil extraction projects, meet carbon reduction targets without relying on sequestration or offsets, be honest about fossil gas as a high-carbon product, set an explicit end date for extraction, or support a just transition.
“An arsonist pledging to light a few less fires is still an arsonist,” Oil Change Senior Research Analyst Kelly Trout. “As families across the United States and around the world flee fires and floods supercharged by fossil fuel pollution, BP, Shell, and Total are still drilling us into a deeper climate emergency, and that has to stop before they can claim any credibility.”
“Oil companies are responding to pressure from the public to get real on climate, but their response is, as ever, deceitful and geared toward protecting their bottom line,” added lead author and Oil Change Senior Campaigner David Tong. “A critical reality check has been urgently needed lest investors and the public be misled, much the way Big Oil has been misleading the public for decades.”
BP, in particular, has received a lot of attention lately, as the first colossal fossil to promise to cut back on oil and gas production. “However, when BP’s plan is held up against the 10 criteria laid out in this analysis, it joins the rest of the industry in failing to meet the bar of what is required,” Oil Change writes. “In particular, BP’s plans omit the company’s stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft, meaning its announced production cuts could be less than 30% by 2030 when science indicates global carbon dioxide pollution must be halved in that time frame.”
“The oil and gas industry should take responsibility to rapidly phase out its extraction-based business model and repair the climate damages it has caused,” the report states. “However, governments, investors, and communities should not assume the industry most responsible for causing the climate crisis will do its fair share to solve it. Governments in particular must step in to manage the decline in fossil fuels, by phasing out fossil fuel production and implementing just transition measures.”