Surprise! Oil companies are “Greenwashing”

Agence Science-Presse

In the running for the least surprising story of the year: a study of statements by four of the world’s largest oil companies finds that they engage in “greenwashing.”

Three researchers analyzed the annual reports of BP, Shell, Chevron and Exxon-Mobil published between 2009 and 2020, as well as the statements of their top executives, and their spending. Result: There’s a mismatch between what they say and the what they do.

To be clear, these four companies aren’t acting to fulfil their promises to make the transition to clean energy. In 2020, both BP and Shell promised to be carbon-neutral by 2050 (that means sufficiently reducing their greenhouse gas emissions enough to offset them by activities such as tree planting).

The study found that more and more often, these companies use words such as “climate”, “transition” and “low-carbon” in their annual reports. For example, in BP’s reports, “climate change” went from 22 to 326 mentions over the 2009 to 2020 period. But on the whole, these companies remain as financially engaged in fossil fuel exploitation as ever.

The three Japanese researchers found that “the companies are pledging a transition to clean energy and setting targets more than they are making concrete actions.” The study was published in the journal PLOS One. A separate study by the International Energy Agency estimated that in 2020, investments in green energy by large oil and gas companies amounted to 1% of their total capital expenditures.

The most striking example is that of investment in new fossil fuel extraction projects. BP and Shell both promised to reduce such investments. But in fact, over the last few years they’ve expanded the surface area of places where they’re carrying out new exploration. This, even though the two European companies – BP and Shell – have been ahead of the game in recognizing climate change science compared to the two American oil companies.

French version on the Reflet de Société website

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