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Energy firms vowing to cut emissions ‘will produce billions of tonnes of CO2’

The 50 signatories to the deal agreed to stop flaring by 2030 (Matthew Brown/AP)
The 50 signatories to the deal agreed to stop flaring by 2030 (Matthew Brown/AP)

Oil and gas companies that signed up to an emissions reduction plan at Cop28 will collectively produce more than 150 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050, according to analysis by Global Witness.

That is around 454 times more than the UK emitted in 2022, with campaigners calling the Cop28 plan “marketing and spin”, as it does not include cutting emissions from the oil and gas they produce.

The climate conference in Dubai last month was the first time in its near 30-year history that countries agreed to move away from using fossil fuels.

Its president Sultan al-Jaber, who is also the CEO of the country’s national oil company, hailed a deal by 50 oil and gas companies to make their operations net zero by 2050 and cut flaring by 2030.

They did not make any agreement to slow production of oil and gas however, the emissions from which are known as scope 3, which Global Witness said represents about 90% of these companies’ total carbon footprints.

A mixture of national and international oil companies signed the pact, with ExxonMobil, Equinor, TotalEnergies, Eni and Shell set to produce enough oil and gas between now and 2050 that would equal 15 years’ worth of the European Union’s annual emissions, according to the analysis.

Global Witness said they calculated the emissions by using data from Rystad Energy, which projects what each company is likely to produce in the years ahead.

They took CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases and combined them in one metric to produce a carbon dioxide equivalent – a common practice in measuring the combined effects of the various greenhouse gases and not just CO2.

Sultan al-Jaber
Sultan al-Jaber celebrated the Cop28 agreement where countries said they need to move away from fossil fuels for the first time (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Patrick Galey, senior fossil fuels investigator at the NGO, said: “How can these CEOs keep insisting that their products play a role in solving a problem, the very root of which is those same products?

“How long will we keep letting them get away with such sleight of hand? We need a rapid and equitable phase-out of fossil fuels, and fossil fuel bosses must be locked out of climate talks.

“Everything else is marketing and spin, pure and simple.”

Global Witness said it contacted each of the named companies about their analysis.

A spokesperson for Shell said the company is halfway to its target of reducing its operations’ emissions by 50% compared to 2016 levels.

They added: “On Scope 3 emissions, global energy demand will continue to grow and be met by different types of energy, including oil and gas, for some time to come.

“The pace of transition depends on action in many areas, including government policy, changing customer demand and investment in low-carbon energy.

“Our aim is to play our part in a balanced energy transition, where the world achieves net zero emissions without compromising on delivery of secure and affordable energy which has improved so many lives, and which people will continue to need today and for many years to come.”

Other campaigners said it is hypocritical of these companies to pledge to reduce emissions but continue to produce the fuel that is the main driver of climate change.

Jamie Peters, climate coordinator at Friends of the Earth, said: “This analysis, while jaw-dropping, only reinforces what we’ve long known – that fossil fuel companies will stop at nothing to extract every last drop of profit from the world’s remaining fossil reserves, no matter the cost.

Campaigners have been pushing diplomats and politicians not to abandon the Paris Agreement ambition (Joshua A Bickel/AP)

“At a time when people all over the world are facing extortionate living costs – with the volatility of global gas and oil markets among the biggest factors driving up prices – and the mounting effects of climate breakdown, the companies fuelling both continue to cash in at our expense.

“That execs from these very same companies are getting prime access to influential climate talks is so absurd that it hardly registers as surprising. The injustice is breathtaking.”

A spokesperson for TotalEnergies said the company fully supports the charter it signed during Cop28, known as the Oil & Gas Decarbonisation Charter (OGDC).

They said: “The IEA (International Energy Agency) has assessed what the effect would be of the full implementation of the methane pledge of the OGDC and indicate that the 50 companies (who are) signatories to this charter ‘account for about 40% of global oil production and 35% of combined oil and gas production’.

“In addition, IEA analysis shows that the full delivery on these pledges – covering renewables, efficiency and methane/flaring – by the current signatories would result in global energy-related GHG in 2030 being around four GtCO2e (gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) lower than would be expected without them based on the Stated Policies Scenario in the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2023.”