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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Fossil fuel giants are misleading the public about their emission-reduction commitments

All while raking in record profits from fossil fuels.

A forest on fire in the village of Dikela, near Alexandroupolis town, in the northeastern Evros region, Greece, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023.

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

A new analysis of the activities of twelve major fossil fuel giants shows that the companies are misleading the public about their emission-reduction commitments while raking in record profits from fossil fuels, which are driving catastrophic extreme weather events across the globe.

In a report published Wednesday, Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe examines the decarbonization pledges, investments, and profits of six global fossil fuel giants—including Shell, BP, and TotalEnergies—and six European oil companies.

The results indicate that, in 2022, close to 93% of the oil giants' investments on average went to keeping the companies on the "fossil oil and gas path" while just 7.3% were aimed at promoting "low-carbon solutions" and sustainable production.

"Although most of the sample companies are committed to 'net zero' by 2050, a closer look shows that none of them has developed a coherent strategy to achieve this," the report notes, adding that the examined companies are in fact "scaling back their ambitions" even as their polluting activities wreak havoc worldwide. Shell and BP recently announced they are ditching previous plans to curb oil production and emissions.

The report shows that BP, Equinor, Wintershall, and TotalEnergies cut their investments in renewable products last year—a fact that, according to Greenpeace, bolsters the case for "compulsory investment in genuinely green infrastructure" and other government regulations.

Kuba Gogolewski, a finance campaigner at Greenpeace CEE, said Wednesday that "as the world endures unprecedented heat waves, deadly floods, and escalating storms, Big Oil clings to its destructive business model and continues to fuel the climate crisis."

"Instead of providing desperately needed clean energy, they feed us greenwashing garbage," Gogolewski added. "Big Oil's unwillingness to implement real change is a crime against the climate and future generations. Governments need to stop enabling fossil fuel companies, heavily regulate them, and plan our fossil fuel phase-out now. They will never change on their own."

The new report offers several examples of companies offering misleading data in an apparent attempt to convince investors and the public of their commitment to the renewable energy transition.

"Shell reports a 'renewable capacity' of 6.4 gigawatts for the 2022 financial year," the analysis observes. "Only in the footnote... does one learn that this figure also includes plants that are still under construction or committed for sale. The actual capacity at the end of 2022 was only 2.2 gigawatts, as the group admits in another place in its reporting."

In the case of BP's 2022 financial disclosures, the report notes, "there is no number that would show the amount of wind and solar power" the company generated last year.

"This lapse is only an indication that no major oil company can show a comprehensible plan for a 'net zero' in 2050," the report states.

"Fossil fuel companies like Shell, TotalEnergies, BP Equinor, and ENI have shown the public they are incapable of self-regulation after scaling back their climate ambitions, despite being heavily responsible for the climate crisis," said Gogolewski. "That's why Greenpeace is calling for European governments to strictly regulate the industry and begin its rapid economic and political downsizing."

The new analysis comes in the wake of devastating fires in Maui, Hawaii that were fueled by climate change, which contributed to the severely dry conditions that allowed the fires to spread rapidly.

Maui County is currently suing Shell, BP, and other fossil fuel giants, accusing them of engaging in a "coordinated, multi-front effort to conceal and deny their own knowledge" about the climate threat and profiting "from a massive increase in the extraction and consumption of oil, coal, and natural gas, which has in turn caused an enormous, foreseeable, and avoidable increase in global greenhouse gas pollution and a concordant increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases."

The Maui lawsuit states that "wildfires are becoming more frequent, intense, and destructive in the county" as the planet warms due to ever-rising carbon emissions.

Last month was the hottest on record.

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This work was shared under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.



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