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It’s time for a Big Oil reality check. In its most recent report, Oil Change International (OIC) exposes once again the fossil fuel sector’s wretched failure to address climate change. Big Oil Reality Check shows how major U.S. and European oil and gas companies are failing to meet the bare minimum for alignment with the Paris Agreement.

Big Oil won’t even meet the bare minimum 

Big Oil Climate Plans Fail the Climate Test, Below2C
These eight oil and gas companies are involved in over 200 expansion projects on track for approval from 2022 through 2025.  All eight have climate pledges and plans that are grossly insufficient.

“If these companies were serious about the climate crisis, we wouldn’t see them engaged in as many as, or more than, 200 new expansion projects potentially over the next four years,” Kelly Trout (Research Director, Oil Change International) told Canada’s National Observer in an interview. “It’s pretty laughable to claim that there can be any new oil and gas approved that’s actually compatible with 1.5C.”

It’s clear that the eight companies included in the analysis—BP, Chevron, Eni, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Repsol, Shell, TotalEnergies—do not intend to self-manage the winding down of their oil and gas production and transition to clean energy. Their expansion plans would dump an extra 8.6 billion tonnes of carbon pollution in the atmosphere — the equivalent of the lifetime emissions of 77 new coal power plants.

“No major oil and gas company considered in this analysis comes anywhere close to the bare minimum for alignment with the Paris Agreement. The only way to move off fossil fuels is for public and private-sector decision-makers to stop permitting and financing their expansion, and to take meaningful action to replace demand for fossil fuels with clean solutions.” — Kelly Trout, Research Director, Oil Change International

Distract and disinform

“Big oil and gas companies’ climate pledges and plans appear to be designed to disinform and distract, not to seriously confront the climate crisis,” says David Tong, lead author of the report and Global Industry campaign manager at Oil Change International. “This new analysis shows that not even one of the eight oil majors considered comes anywhere close to aligning their businesses with what’s needed for 1.5ºC.”

This latest OIC report follows a November 2021 analysis of the climate plans of major oil and gas companies operating in Canada — CNRL, Cenovus, Suncor, Imperial (ExxonMobil), Tourmaline, ARC Resources, Ovintiv, Shell. The expansion plans of these companies alone “would undo climate action taking place in Canada on other sources of emissions,” said Dale Marshall, National Climate Program Manager at Environmental Defence.

“The industry that has done the most to cause the climate crisis won’t solve it. Big oil and gas companies across Canada and the world will not manage their own decline…The reality is that to limit warming to 1.5ºC, we need a managed decline in oil and gas production.” — David Tong, Global Industry Campaign Manager at Oil Change International.

Excerpts from the conclusion of the report

  • The companies that have collectively done the most to fuel the climate crisis cannot be trusted to meaningfully confront it.
  • Big oil and gas companies will not manage their own decline. Investors and governments must intervene.
  • The reality is that, so long as an oil company pursues expansion plans, it is not in transition.
  • We need a managed decline in fossil fuel production, with some existing fields and mines being closed early alongside meaningful just transition measures.

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  1. Rolly, the salient statement for me in the OCI report:
    “Both public and private-sector decision-makers must take action both to destroy the demand for fossil fuels and to choke off their production. Governments and the financial sector each have key roles to play.”

    But it is crystal clear that governments & the financial sector are not about to take any such actions.
    Public and private-sector decision-makers are fully committed to FF expansion to support continued growth of the industrial economy.

    Where does it leave us – when damning analysis and unfolding catastrophe have zero effect on decision makers? Have we got to the point where we give up the notion that decision makers can be influenced by analysis & calls for action from science? I think we have. What then? Massive protests, walkouts, boycotts, blockades? Is there significant leverage to be gained there?

    Well it hasn’t worked so far, but then a campaign of truly massive and SUSTAINED citizen protest hasn’t yet been organized. It badly NEEDS to be organized. This can happen – through a “grand alliance” of organizations coming together in strategic coordination. Sporadic protest is simply ignored, gaining no influence, even if 500K show up. Because everyone goes home & back to their jobs the next day.

    So I think the onus is on climate/enviro leaders to make such a project/alliance happen. Is it an idea that Below2C might invite some of those leaders to comment on? May Boeve, Annie Leonard, Ginger Cassady, Kumi Naidoo, McKibben, Climate Reality reps, youth climate leaders… it would be a start to have any (or all) of their thoughts on the potential for forging such an alliance and campaign. Maybe we can get a bigger ball rolling.

    • Brian – I agree that what we’ve been doing so far is not working. Sure the climate movement has been able to raise awareness to a fever pitch but, as you point out, it hasn’t worked so far. The needle is starting to move but not at the speed and with the urgency that the climate problem requires.

      “A “grand alliance” of organizations coming together in strategic coordination” is most certainly an idea that has merit and is worth exploring.I will float your idea by a few organizations I’m involved with to gauge the appetite for a “truly massive and SUSTAINED citizen protest”.

      Thank you for the feedback.


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