Oil company Exxon has committed to reaching ‘zero emissions’ by 2050, but this does not include any caused by burning its products and only counts in-house ‘operations’. It’s the latest example of big business greenwashing for public favour.
Exxon is one of the world’s leading gas and oil companies – alongside Shell and BP – and is responsible for a huge chunk of our yearly carbon emissions.
It has faced routine accusations of climate denial, regressive policy, and was even discovered to have known about climate change as far back as 1981, seven years before it was a pressing public issue.
Now, in an effort to improve its public reputation, Exxon has announced ‘sweeping’ changes to reduce its emissions, with an ambition of reaching net zero by 2050. However, a quick look beyond the flashy headlines and you’ll find frustratingly vague and limiting promises that do little to meaningfully spark hope.
The pledge only includes Exxon’s ‘operations’ and does not cover the emissions that come as a result of burning its products. Given this an oil and gas company, no promise in this area means that the overall net emissions that Exxon is responsible for will not be reduced to net zero – or even anywhere close.
Keep in mind that climate experts insist the entire planet needs to reach net zero by 2050 at the very latest to avoid the worst of global temperature increases.
Exxon will not be covering emissions from gasoline, fuels from refined oils, natural gases in homes, or other assets such as oil fields that it has financial stakes in. It is only committing to making its facilities and processes greener, which is too little and far too late.
Exxon only began to make any significant attempt to improve its practices last year, after activists and investors criticised the company for being a ‘dinosaur’ that would not survive in a clean energy world.
It was forced to elect two new directors nominated by several investors after losing a vote against a handful of company-picked individuals. This was the first time this had ever happened in Exxon’s history and demonstrated the urgency that is needed to confront the climate crisis.
We’re still not seeing enough, however. Right now Exxon is only committing to ‘Scope 1’ and ‘Scope 2’ emissions, which are ones caused by the company directly. ‘Scope 3’ is where 85% of its emissions come from – customers using its fuels. Until that’s covered, experts say this is all a load of hot air, for lack of a better term.