Subscribe

Economy

Oil platforms, North Sea.
Oil platforms in the North Sea. Photo credit: b k / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A new report shows oil majors fall short of meeting Paris Agreement targets while fueling global military conflicts.

Listen To This Story
Voiced by Amazon Polly

Oil majors are not on track to hit Paris Agreement climate targets that limit global temperature rise to 1.5 C (2.7 F), a new report reveals.

Eight fossil fuel giants — Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, TotalEnergies, BP, Eni, Equinor, and ConocoPhillips — are on course to use 30 percent of the world’s remaining carbon budget for that 1.5 C goal, according to the Big Oil Reality Check report by nonprofit Oil Change International (OCI).

Combined, the oil and gas companies’ extraction plans are consistent with a temperature rise of over 2.4 C (4.3 F), the report found. That level of warming, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will reduce food security, risk irreversible loss of ecosystems, and increase heat waves, rainfall, and extreme weather events.

“We analyzed the climate promises and plans of the largest eight international oil and gas companies that are owned in North America and Europe. What would it take for an oil and gas producer to align their production with limiting warming to 1.5?” David Tong, global industry campaign manager at OCI and co-author of the report, told DeSmog. 

“If an oil and gas company were serious about transitioning its business model, the first step would be ending all new production and then setting a Paris-aligned phaseout plan,” he added.

‘No New Fossil’ Standard

A recent paper by academics at University College London and the International Institute for Sustainable Development, published in Science in May, calls for stopping fossil fuel expansion and building a “No New Fossil” global norm. According to the authors, this would make it “easier to phase down fossil fuels” and achieve the Paris Agreement climate goals.

No new fossil fuel projects would be needed in a 1.5 C world, they wrote, because the “existing fossil fuel capital stock” is sufficient to meet energy demand. The authors also note that preventing new fossil fuel projects is, in general, more feasible than closing existing projects from an economic, political, and legal viewpoint.

In the face of continuing global pressure to stop fossil fuel expansion, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Equinor, Eni, ExxonMobil, and TotalEnergies have goals to increase oil and gas production within the next three years or beyond, the OCI report finds. While Shell does not quantify a target, the company plans to keep oil production steady while growing gas production in the near future, OCI said.

https://twitter.com/ciel_tweets/status/1795009848934793482

“None of those companies came anywhere close to alignment [with climate goals],” said Tong. “Six of the eight companies we analyzed have explicit plans to increase their oil and gas production in this critical decade when we need to be cutting our reliance on fossil fuels, cutting oil, gas, and oil production.”

Plateauing oil and expanding gas production, like some of these companies plan to do, is “grossly insufficient” compared with the action that’s needed, Tong added. Even commitments to make businesses more efficient aren’t going to cut it alone, he said.

“It’s like a cigarette company claiming that it will solve lung cancer by producing cigarettes more efficiently,” he noted. “That’s not just not a credible claim. It’s a promise to become a more efficient climate breaker.”

Big Oil and War

According to the OCI report, all the oil majors fail to meet basic criteria for just transition plans for workers and communities where they operate. 

“A number of these companies also face significant ongoing, unresolved allegations of human rights … and Indigenous people’s rights violations,” Tong told me.

A March 2024 investigation, commissioned by OCI and conducted by DataDesk, revealed that ExxonMobil, Chevron, TotalEnergies, BP, Shell, and Eni are “complicit in facilitating the supply of crude oil to Israel.” These findings are particularly noteworthy in the context of “Israel’s mounting evidence of war crimes” against Palestinians in Gaza, the OCI states in its new report. 

Diesel and gasoline for tanks and other military vehicles are supplied by Israel’s refineries, which rely on regular imports of crude oil by these companies and, since October 2023, supplies mainly from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan/Russia, Gabon, and Brazil, the research has found. 

The fossil fuel industry is “fueling war and military conflicts” in many regions of the world, said Svitlana Romanko, a prominent Ukrainian activist and founder and director of Razom We Stand, a Ukrainian organization campaigning to ban all imports of fossil fuels from Russia. 

According to Romanko, the OCI Big Oil Reality Check report “reinforces the importance of moving away from fossil fuels and investing into distributed renewable energy.”

A new analysis by a group of climate experts estimates that the first two years of Russia’s war on Ukraine resulted in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to around 175 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The estimated global cost of this warming in extreme weather impacts: $32 billion. 

After Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia earned over 681 billion euros in revenue from fossil fuel exports. European Union countries purchased fossil fuels from Russia for more than 195 billion euros.

Big Oil, as well as Russia, is profiting from the war, Romanko said. After the invasion, BP, Chevron, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Shell, and TotalEnergies raked in $219 billion, more than double their profits compared to the previous year.

“Most [governments] subsidize fossil fuels, and these subsidies are accounting for trillions of US dollars annually,” Romanko said. “This is a big part of fossil fuel profits, and the more fossil fuels are subsidized, [the] less investments are made available for renewable energies.”

She pointed out that the partnership between TotalEnergies and Russia’s largest private gas producer, Novatek, was also “instrumental” in helping Russia get access to technologies and engineering services to launch Novatek’s Yamal LNG and Arctic LNG 2 projects.

Romanko notes that fossil fuel infrastructure can also constitute a liability for military attacks and quickly become a target.

“Centralized infrastructure endangers energy supply and overall safety of the supply,” she said. In Ukraine, a massive effort to install solar power plants in schools and hospitals helped decentralize this key resource, Romanko explained. “Decentralized energy supply is essential to building true energy independence,” she added. “And this is the future.”

Pressure for Accountability

Some of the eight oil majors in OCI’s report have faced more international and national scrutiny than others. Such pressure can facilitate accountability, but that’s less likely when the fossil fuel company is closely intertwined with the institutional, political, and economic life of its country. 

BP, gas station, sign

BP British Petroleum gas station sign Guilford, CT, 2014.
Photo credit: Mike Mozart / Flickr (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

“We need to look at what has succeeded in putting so much pressure on companies like Shell and BP,” OCI’s Tong said. 

One factor: when communities in a company’s home country work closely in partnership with communities in fossil fuel-producing countries. Tong said that positive results also happen when campaigners use a range of strategies to expose producers, from nonviolent direct action to op-eds, research, and court action.

“This is particularly challenging with Eni, TotalEnergies, and Equinor in different ways because of the close interactions that each of the companies have with their home states,” he added.

Public, political, and legal pressure for accountability must also be coupled with industry regulation, according to Tong.

“We concluded that there is no evidence that the oil and gas sector will voluntarily transition to renewable energy, or voluntarily act to align their production with what’s needed for the Paris Agreement,” Tong said. Instead, governments must no longer license new production sites.

The strong right-wing result in the latest EU Parliament elections could also affect Big Oil’s energy transition.

“The more the links between the state and big polluters are overt, the more people get out in the streets and protest,” Tong said.

What is safe to say is that Big Oil’s business as usual will increase climate change effects.

“Floods, hurricanes, extreme weather events, and the millions of human lives affected and lost — this damage to nature, to human lives and to life on earth will only mount,” Romanko said. “What will be lost in a few more years will also mount if fossil fuel companies are allowed to continue with business as usual.”

This story by Stella Levantesi was originally published by DeSmog and is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

Covering Climate Now logo

Author

Comments are closed.