Exxon wants to be the next Ms. Net Zero, and Congress will hold another Big Oil hearing
The company’s new net-zero pledge was released days before Congress asked oil giants to testify about their so-called climate commitments.
Emily Sanders is the Center for Climate Integrity’s editorial lead. Catch up with her on Twitter here.
BREAKING NEWS: The House Committee on Oversight and Reform is expanding its investigation into the fossil fuel industry’s campaigns to spread climate disinformation and delay action. Members of the boards of directors of Exxon, Chevron, BP, and Shell have been called to testify before Congress in February about whether their “commitments” to reduce carbon emissions are in line with the Paris Agreement.
“The hearing is part of the Committee’s ongoing investigation into the role of the fossil fuel industry in preventing meaningful action on global warming, including through misrepresenting the scale of industry efforts to address the crisis,” reads the Committee’s letter to the companies’ directors.
Lo and behold, on Tuesday, Exxon joined the parade of oil companies touting “net-zero” emissions pledges, and announced its very own meaningless plan to reduce emissions to “net-zero” by 2050. The company released some initial pieces of its emissions reduction pledge last month.
Congress should have a field day with this one, because Exxon’s “net-zero” plan does nothing, zilch, to address emissions from the use of its products, which make up most of the company’s emissions in the first place.
Exxon is only planning to clean up its Scope 1 and 2 emissions — that is, the 20% of its greenhouse gas pollution that comes from extracting, refining, and transporting fossil fuels. The other 80%, which occur when consumers use Exxon’s products as intended, are completely unaccounted for.
Always a hero, Exxon is yet again shifting the blame for its climate destruction onto consumers, while awaiting applause for “solving” the crisis it’s continuing to cause:
One of the ways Exxon is planning to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 emissions is by electrifying its operations with “low carbon power,” including… you guessed it, natural gas and carbon capture. We’ve covered the dangerous, expensive, and largely untested technology that would be involved in bringing carbon capture to scale — and we shouldn’t need to say this, but natural gas is not, and never will be, “low carbon.”
“Fires decimate homes in Colorado and super typhoons force hundreds of thousands in Southeast Asia to run for their lives, and what does Exxon, the original climate criminal, do? Release an empty and egregious ‘net zero’ pledge to distract from its culpability,” said Rachel Rose Jackson, Corporate Accountability’s Climate Research and Policy Director.
Less than two years ago, Exxon’s CEO, Darren Woods, called net-zero emissions targets a “beauty match.” As of 2021, Exxon didn’t have any plan to get to net-zero at all (turns out you don’t need one to make a pledge!)
In many ways, Exxon’s pledge is par for the course — last year, Jackson explained to us why Big Oil’s net-zero plans are not the answer to tackling our climate emergency, and could actually end up making the crisis worse. The “four conceptual flaws” of these plans are analyzed in Corporate Accountability’s report, which Jackson co-authored, titled “The Big Con: How Big Polluters are advancing a ‘net zero’ climate agenda to delay, deceive, and deny”:
They rely on a timeline that is too little, way too late, as reflected in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), often setting no interim targets before their 2050 deadline or explanations of how they’ll get there;
They count on risky schemes like carbon capture and storage to reduce emissions by that 2050 date, allowing them to keep producing and extracting fossil fuels in the meantime without making real investments in renewable energy;
They treat the emissions math as a straightforward quid pro quo — emit a ton of CO2 here while sucking out a ton somewhere else, ignoring the damage to communities where they do pollute;
They present the climate crisis as a problem in need of technical solutions, rather than the result of corporations knowingly and continuously deceiving the public and stalling the collective government action necessary to address it.
We’re looking forward to seeing Congress pull back the curtain on Big Oil’s “commitments” next month.
Reminder: Exxon and other Big Oil companies are not only the subject of a Congressional hearing into its climate deception — they are also being sued by cities, counties and states across the country for defrauding consumers and the public, and in some cases to make the company pay a fair share of the costs communities now face to adapt and rebuild from the resulting damages. The walls of accountability are closing in, and the industry is doing everything in its power to stave that off.
“Corporations like Exxon continue to invest in dangerous distractions, spend millions on delay tactics, and talk ‘climate solutions’ while continuing to sell fossil fuels,” Jackson said. “Exxon is making a mockery of lives at stake, yet it’s ever so clear: we must hold Big Polluters liable for knowingly causing destruction to people and the planet.”
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