Exxon Pledges Net-Zero Emissions By 2050 LOL

Burning fossil fuels — coal, natural gas, and petroleum — accounts for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Image credit: lastdjedai/Sutterstock.com

Exxon Mobil — behemoth of the fossil fuel industry — has pledged to cut its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero 2050, catching up with BP, Shell, and other rivals who have made similar promises to address their carbon footprints. 

Perhaps you may be wondering how companies that make billions of dollars selling fossil fuels would be capable of producing net-zero carbon emissions. Well, that’s a very good question. 

Exxon’s net-zero aspirations were announced earlier this week in the company's Advancing Climate Solutions 2022 Progress Report. In essence, the plan aims to reduce or offset emissions produced through the extraction, refining, and shipping of their oil and gas (in Big Oil buzzword terms, this is known as scope 1 and scope 2)

But — and it’s a huge but — the plan does not cover emissions that result from the products they sell (scope 3), which accounts for the vast majority of the emissions they are responsible for. In other words, the company will clean up its own operation to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. However, they will continue to sell fossil fuels as per normal.

“It is typical of Exxon to make a big song and dance about setting pledges to reach net-zero by 2050 while continuing to expand their climate-wrecking operations around the world," May Boeve, Chief Executive of environmental NGO 350.org, told IFLScience.

"The term ‘net zero” is being used by the world’s biggest polluters and governments as a façade to evade responsibility, shift burdens, disguise climate inaction, and in some cases even to scale up fossil fuel extraction, burning and emissions. It comes as no surprise that Exxon, who orchestrated a campaign of doubt and deception for over 40 years, is now claiming to be part of the solution. If we are to tackle climate change we need to leave fossil fuels."

Others are also not impressed.

“ExxonMobil’s emissions reduction pledge misses the mark and is too little, too late," added Kathy Mulvey, accountability campaign director in the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"This commitment solely covers operational emissions, known as scope 1 and 2, which make up only a small portion of the global warming emissions associated with a fossil fuel company’s business. By not making any commitment to reduce the emissions that come from burning oil and gas, known as scope 3, ExxonMobil is shifting blame for the bulk of its emissions onto consumers who are using its products exactly as the company intended."

Burning fossil fuels — coal, natural gas, and petroleum — accounts for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. According to the Energy Information Administration, fossil fuel combustion for energy accounts for 92 percent of the total carbon emissions in the US and 74 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions.

Even beyond Exxon’s limp pledge, experts are becoming increasingly critical of companies and countries making vague "net-zero" pledges and commitments. Net-zero emissions does not mean no emissions. Instead, it doesn’t require any reduction of emissions and typically involves "offsetting" them by funding renewable energy projects, restoring forests, or carbon capture technology, which is currently very difficult to scale up.

Exxon famously (or infamously) knew about climate change and the impacts of burning fossil fuels since the 1970s and early ‘80s, but the company chose to obscure, downplay, and spin the information. Through the 1990s and 2000s, Exxon helped advance climate change denial internationally. One tactic was to twist the language surrounding climate change using rhetoric and buzzwords you can still hear today used by climate skeptics: “uncertainty,” “just a theory,” “inconclusive evidence,” and “bias”.

Now, it's announcing small future goals to address this damage, experts say it's too little, too late.



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