ExxonMobil has been criticised by Scientists for failing to set itself a long-term Net-Zero emissions goal. It just claims having a ‘Paris Consistent’ Climate Plan. The US oil and gas major does offer ‘respect and support’ for the global ambition to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Nevertheless, campaigners remain less than convinced.
ExxonMobil has unveiled several short term targets to tackle its carbon intensity, methane emissions, and flaring activity in a new climate plan it claims is “projected to be consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement”, despite the oil and gas giant’s continuing refusal to set a long-term net-zero emissions goal.
The US oil major, which has long held out against making major climate commitments, yesterday succumbed to increasing investor pressure by promising to cut greenhouse gas emissions for every barrel of oil it produces by up to a fifth over the next five years.
But while Exxon said it held “respect and support for society’s ambition to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050”, the firm again resisted calls to set longer-term absolute emissions goals, arguing short term targets to cut emissions intensity were “the best way to measure progress toward the goals of the Paris Agreement”.
The new targets commit the firm to reduce greenhouse gas intensity in its upstream operations by 15 to 20 per cent, its methane intensity by 40 to 50 per cent, and its flaring intensity by 35 to 40 per cent by 2025, all from a 2016 baseline. It has also pledged to eliminate routine flaring from its global operations by 2030, and to disclose the greenhouse gases generated by the use of its products, also known as Scope 3 emissions.
By focusing on increasing the CO2 efficiency of its operations, the intensity targets could still allow ExxonMobil’s emissions and flaring to increase over the coming years if overall demand for oil rises. But the firm argued intensity targets were “the truest reflection of how manufacturing companies like ExxonMobil are reducing the GHGs associated with each unit they produce”.
“Rather than setting aspirational 2050 pledges, we will continue to take defined actions to reduce our emissions in achievable time periods, while developing and deploying technology solutions that will be necessary to achieve this ambitious and challenging goal,” the company said.
The move follows a raft of climate commitments from oil and gas companies over the past year, although these have largely come from Europe where the likes of BP, Shell, and Repsol have set longer-term net-zero targets for 2050, backed by growing efforts to diversify their activities beyond fossil fuels.
Exxon, meanwhile, has faced growing pressure from investors to address the risk to its business posed by climate change, having recently announced plans to cut 14,000 jobs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has severely hit oil demand in 2020.
However, the company failed to set a long-term net-zero emissions goal, while claiming its new plan is consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement, which necessitates net-zero by mid-century.
ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Darren Woods said the firm supported the global drive towards net zero emissions by 2050 and would “continue to advocate for policies that promote cost-effective market-based solutions to address the risks of climate change”.
However, the oil giant’s climate plan yesterday sparked fierce criticism from green groups and climate scientists. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) slammed the plan as “woefully inadequate” in limiting temperature rise within the goals of the Paris Agreement and staving off the worst climate impacts.
Kathy Mulvey, accountability director in the climate and energy programme at UCS, said Exxon’s new climate plan was “too little, too late”, adding that the firm’s unwillingness to change its business model was increasingly putting it at odds with its investors.
“The company’s emissions reduction pledges don’t even match the aims of its European competitors and fall far short of what is needed to meet the principal goal of the Paris Agreement,” she said. “Any company that fails to keep pace with what science demands threatens its future while endangering the rest of us with escalating climate impacts and systemic risks to the global economy.”
It follows a hugely challenging year for the global oil and gas industry, which saw prices briefly move into negative territory in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
The sharp reduction in demand has fuelled speculation that global oil demand is close to peaking – or may have already peaked – as demand for electric vehicles and renewables soars and home-working practices become more commonplace.
And in its monthly market report today, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said oil demand would rebound more slowly than previously anticipated in 2021 largely due to the aviation sector taking longer to recover than expected from the decline in air travel experienced in 2020, the Financial Times reports.
Read more: businessgreen.com