Analysis of oil company net-zero plans reveals insufficiencies
The Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) has examined the emission reduction plans of six major European oil and gas companies. Primary findings include:
- None of the companies’ plans are consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C
- BP and OMV failed to align with Paris Agreement pledges; Shell, Eni, Total and Repsol do align the Paris Agreement, but this is still far off even a 2°C scenario
- Shell has the most ambitious targets, but TPI’s calculations find that they are still not consistent with a 2°C scenario. However, TPI were unable to quantify the effect of Shell’s statement that they will only sell products to companies which are committed to net-zero. If this is followed through then it may allow Shell to meet their 1.5°C.
- Scope 3 emissions are now included in the targets of the six European companies, but in only one of the 42 non-European companies assessed (Petrobas, Brazil). Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions other than those from the generation of electricity, steam, heating and cooling – crucially, they include emissions from products after they are sold.
- All the companies rely to some degree on negative emissions, through Carbon Capture & Storage and Natural Climate Solutions (nature-based solutions for carbon sequestration); however, TPI states that greater clarity is required on the contribution of negative emissions compared to emission reductions.
There is widespread concern amongst the scientific community that nature-based solutions are being used by fossil fuel companies to avoid truly decarbonising the energy sector. Offsetting projects are often not conducted with sufficient planning and rigour to ensure long-term storage of carbon. There is also uncertainty about the quantity of carbon that ecosystem restoration sequesters, and over what time scale this occurs; this is an active area of research, so the figures used to estimate net-zero pathways are subject to error. Furthermore, using NbS for offsetting can allow companies to delay primary emission reductions. Ecosystem restoration to store carbon should, indeed, be conducted on a grand scale to contribute to the emission reductions we require, but it should not be done in place of true decarbonisation.