Climate (in)action report card: Fossil fuel giants are failing every test

Irving, Texas - A recent report from a climate think tank calls out the fossil fuel industry for saying one thing and doing another, and failing to do anything about the problem they are making worse.

Fossil fuels are the direct cause of climate change, so less would be best. That's not what the latest report from the Oil Change International think tank shows, though.
Fossil fuels are the direct cause of climate change, so less would be best. That's not what the latest report from the Oil Change International think tank shows, though.  © Collage: REUTERS

The non-profit organization Oil Change International released its updated report card on eight of the biggest fossil fuel companies and their climate pledges. Spoiler alert – they are all failing badly.

From plans for curbing production to ending misinformation campaigns, the biggest culprits of greenhouse gas emissions in the world are doing less than nothing to change their ways.

The list includes ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP, who were recently questioned in Congress for their role in spreading climate misinformation.

These industry giants are still claiming to take the climate crisis seriously, but since the last report from Oil Change came out in 2020, these companies have made a range of pledges that never turned into action.

Titled the Big Oil Reality Check, the latest study points out the mismatch between what fossil fuel companies promise and what they actually do, and why these companies cannot be trusted to take real climate action.

New fossil fuel projects

New fossil fuel projects are ticking carbon bombs.
New fossil fuel projects are ticking carbon bombs.  © 123RF/bluebay

Any new development of oil fields, drilling for natural gas, or digging up coal are a clear no-go for the climate.

But all the companies in the report are setting up to burn fossil fuels that need to stay in the ground if we are to have even a 50% chance at stopping warming temperatures.

Climate scientists agree that these carbon bombs are taking us over the brink of curbing the climate crisis, and would catapult temps past the 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels mark.

Although the science is crystal clear that stopping new projects is part of the climate solution, oil and gas majors aren't paying any attention.

Production and emissions

Fossil fuel companies could crank those valves shut... if they wanted to.
Fossil fuel companies could crank those valves shut... if they wanted to.  © 123RF/maxxyustas

The amount of new oil, gas, and coal getting extracted and sold needs to drop yesterday.

To meet even the less-ambitious goal of stopping average global warming below two degrees Celsius, the team at Oil Change International said that wealthier countries that rely less on fossil fuel should be the first to start shoving a cork in oil and gas projects.

That takes some serious cash, but places like the US or the EU have more options for switching away from gas and oil, like moving to heat pumps, electric vehicles, and rapidly expanding renewable energy generation without breaking the bank.

And yet the fossil fuel companies themselves, with literal hands on pumps, are in the perfect position to turn them off and are failing to do so, says the report. Instead, they're banking on the hopes that silver bullet technology like carbon capture will save the day and let them keep selling their products.

And the report found that production is expected to increase by 2030 for five of the companies, which is the climate action equivalent of pouring water on a grease fire.

Misinformation and accountability

Court cases and scientists have been calling on fossil fuel companies to end their climate misinformation campaigns.

But according to the updated report card, no company comes close to doing even the bare minimum to stop sowing doubt and distrust in climate science.

The companies also have done nothing to admit that their oil, gas, and coal business directly emits high amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases like methane.

First People and workers' rights

Activists protesting against the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrate in 2017.
Activists protesting against the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrate in 2017.  © Tim Exton / AFP

Fossil fuel projects often run into Native Americans' rights, such as the now-dead Keystone XL project, which would have barged through Sioux territory.

The effects of climate change are also damaging Native American land and culture, as seen in the fight to keep salmon populations in Alaska alive, or the fights against fossil fuel extraction from communities and climate activists like Ruth Miller.

But the companies responsible for these projects only have policies without real enforcement in place to protect Native American communities.

The report also found that regular nine-to-five workers aren't getting meaningful support to prepare them for a transition away from working in the fossil fuel industry.

The bottom line of the Big Oil Reality Check 2022 is that these companies, which flunked hard in 2020, are still failing.

There is only one category in which five companies fare a little better by comparison in the report, but it's their 2050 emissions targets. Here, they rely heavily on offsets and ineffective carbon capture tech, instead of actually dropping emissions – a recipe that has proven to be good only for greenwashing so far.

Cover photo: Collage: REUTERS

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