Climate Change

Fwd: ExxonMobil’s climate plans are still “grossly insufficient”

David Tong posted: "In January, ExxonMobil released their so-called “2021 Energy and Carbon Summary.” In it, they attempt to detail the company’s commitments related to climate change. And, for the first time ever, they report on their so-called “Scope 3” emissions (that is,"

New post on Oil Change International

ExxonMobil’s climate plans are still “grossly insufficient”

by David Tong

In January, ExxonMobil released their so-called “2021 Energy and Carbon Summary.” In it, they attempt to detail the company’s commitments related to climate change. And, for the first time ever, they report on their so-called “Scope 3” emissions (that is, the emissions that result from the use of the products they sell, i.e. burning fossil fuels). And earlier this week, they followed up by announcing the creation of a new line of business they dub “ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions,” focused on carbon capture and sequestration programs.

However, it’s important to avoid taking the document and recent announcement at face value. After a tumultuous year for the oil and gas industry that ended with ExxonMobil writing down an unprecedented $20 billion in fossil fuel assets, it’s fair to assume the company will be doing what it can to bolster its image for investors and the public.

So let’s dive under the hood and see the grim reality that ExxonMobil is hiding in this document and recent announcement.

Conveniently, we at OCI have a handy set of metrics to judge it by, thanks to our Big Oil Reality Check discussion paper published last September – endorsed by 30 other organizations worldwide. In Reality Check, we set out ten minimum criteria that an oil and gas company’s climate plans would need to meet for them to even have a chance of aligning with the 1.5 degrees Celsius (ºC) goal set out in the Paris Agreement.

We built our Reality Check analysis on two key premises. The first is that extracting and burning only the oil and gas in existing fields would blow our emissions budget for 1.5ºC, even if coal use ended overnight. We are beyond the point where we can focus on cutting one fossil fuel at a time. Reality Check included a 2020 update of our 2016 The Sky’s Limit analysis.

Second, though a lot of companies and countries choose to focus their targets far into the future, 2030 not 2050 must be the first test of ambition. The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees made it clear that to limit warming to 1.5°C with little to no overshoot of that threshold, we should halve global carbon pollution by 2030. The decisions that happen now matter. If fossil fuel pollution continues to rise this decade, we could reach net zero by 2050 but still blow far past 1.5ºC.

The pace at which oil, gas, and coal start declining in this decade will determine global success or failure in meeting the Paris goals.

From these starting points, and in consultation with our partner organizations, we identified ten key minimum criteria and assessed eight of the biggest integrated, publicly-traded oil and gas companies against them. Not one of the companies came anywhere close to even a possibility of aligning with 1.5ºC, as shown below. There was a gap between the least worst and the worst of them, but a much, much bigger gap between all of them and the bare minimum for 1.5ºC-alignment.

In September last year, we rated ExxonMobil as “grossly insufficient” on all ten of these criteria. There are tiny steps forward in the company’s new 2021 announcement, but nothing that would change any of our ten metrics from “grossly insufficient” to “insufficient”, let alone even “partial alignment.”

ExxonMobil is still searching for more oil and gas that can never be burned. It is still planning new extraction projects, and has no plans to decline production or develop at 1.5ºC-alignment long-term phase out plan. In fact, in the FAQ of this new document at page 45, ExxonMobil tries to claim that it can align with the Paris Agreement without cutting production.

Even now, the company has no absolute emissions reduction target, let alone one covering all oil and gas extraction on a full equity share. All ExxonMobil has started to do now is publish an assessment of its scope 3 emissions (that is, its supply chain emissions, including the emissions from its customers burning the oil and gas it produces). That’s a tiny step toward transparency, but without a plan to actually cut these emissions, it means very little. It’s not enough to report on these emissions without cutting them. People and communities are demanding Exxon stop producing more of the fuels that are cooking our climate, not to simply better report on precisely how much their products are cooking our climate.

Far from recognising the risks of over reliance on carbon sequestration, carbon capture and storage (CCS), or offsets, ExxonMobil claims to be “a global leader in CCS”, devoting three pages in the carbon report to risky, speculative techno-fixes that are unproven at scale.

Their new announced “Low Carbon Solutions” effort only doubles down