Guest essay by Eric Worrall
What a surprise – researchers have painstakingly analysed Big Oil’s public commitments to climate change vs their actions, and concluded “accusations of greenwashing are well founded”.
Big oil all talk, no action on climate change? Researchers say they’ve got the proof
The world’s highest-polluting oil companies are promising big but delivering very little on climate change, according to damning new research published today.
- Researchers looked at how four big oil companies performed against their clean energy claims
- They found that none of them were producing clean energy on a scale that indicates a move away from fossil fuels
- Clean energy investment targets were often not being met
Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and BP are failing to meet green energy investment pledges and lack consistent transparency in their reporting of investments, the researchers say in science journal PLOS ONE.
They say fossil fuel production was maintained or increased by Chevron, Shell and BP between 2009 and 2020, despite committing to, or in Chevron’s case “aspiring to”, net-zero emissions by 2050 or before.
No indication of shifting away from fossil fuels
Between 2009 and 2020, none of the four companies generated renewable energy on a scale that would “indicate a shift away from fossil fuels”, despite all showing a significant increase in references to “climate change”, “transition”, “emissions” and “low carbon energy” in their annual reporting.
Chevron, ExxonMobil dragging the chain
Investment in “clean energy” by the two American companies — Chevron and ExxonMobil — made up less than a quarter of a per cent of their total capital expenditure.
But the researchers urged caution even over these modest figures.
“We can have one company claiming that it’s invested, you know, X amount of dollars in clean energy, but we don’t really know what’s meant by clean energy,” Dr Trencher said.
“There’s no industry accepted definition of this.”
The abstract of the study;
The clean energy claims of BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell: A mismatch between discourse, actions and investments
Mei Li, Gregory Trencher, Jusen Asuka
Published: February 16, 2022
The energy products of oil and gas majors have contributed significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and planetary warming over the past century. Decarbonizing the global economy by mid-century to avoid dangerous climate change thus cannot occur without a profound transformation of their fossil fuel-based business models. Recently, several majors are increasingly discussing clean energy and climate change, pledging decarbonization strategies, and investing in alternative energies. Some even claim to be transforming into clean energy companies. Given a history of obstructive climate actions and “greenwashing”, there is a need to objectively evaluate current and historical decarbonization efforts and investment behavior. This study focuses on two American (Chevron, ExxonMobil) and two European majors (BP, Shell). Using data collected over 2009–2020, we comparatively examine the extent of decarbonization and clean energy transition activity from three perspectives: (1) keyword use in annual reports (discourse); (2) business strategies (pledges and actions); and (3) production, expenditures and earnings for fossil fuels along with investments in clean energy (investments). We found a strong increase in discourse related to “climate”, “low-carbon” and “transition”, especially by BP and Shell. Similarly, we observed increasing tendencies toward strategies related to decarbonization and clean energy. But these are dominated by pledges rather than concrete actions. Moreover, the financial analysis reveals a continuing business model dependence on fossil fuels along with insignificant and opaque spending on clean energy. We thus conclude that the transition to clean energy business models is not occurring, since the magnitude of investments and actions does not match discourse. Until actions and investment behavior are brought into alignment with discourse, accusations of greenwashing appear well-founded.Read more: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0263596
I know you are all as shocked as I am. Who could have predicted that researchers analysing the promises of big oil would discover that big oil doesn’t really care about climate change?