Feb 6, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Big Oil begins to broaden scope of its carbon emissions targets

Illustration of barrels of oil
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Only a very small handful of oil companies have laid out any kind of targets around Scope 3 emissions, which make up the vastly larger pollution from the use of their products in the economy, but that's quickly changing amid rising activist and investor pressure on oil giants over global warming.

Driving the news: Oil-and-gas giant Equinor rolled out on Thursday new climate plans that include a pledge to cut carbon intensity (that is, emissions per unit of output) by at least 50% by 2050 — a commitment that will cover Scope 3.

In addition to Equinor's move, Greenpeace protesters yesterday temporarily shut down BP's London offices and nine people were arrested, per multiple reports. atts of capacity.

  • The company said it intends to become a "global offshore wind major."
  • In addition, Equinor said it wants its direct operations to be carbon neutral by 2030.

What's next: BP, a bigger global player than Equinor, will unveil updated climate plans next Wednesday, which, per Reuters, are also expected to include some kind of Scope 3 element.

  • The last 24 hours have only intensified the spotlight on BP.
  • In addition to Equinor's move, Greenpeace protestors yesterday temporarily shut down BP's London offices and nine people were arrested, per multiple reports.
  • It occurred on the first day of longtime BP executive Bernard Looney's tenure as CEO.

Quick take: Equinor's announcement signals that addressing Scope 3 is quickly becoming the new table stakes at a time of growing pressure on the oil industry. The sector has been expanding its investments in low-carbon tech and startups, but that remains a very small fraction of overall spending.

  • The specifics of BP's plan will matter a lot. Equinor's plan is an intensity target, not an absolute reduction goal.
  • The big Spain-based oil company Repsol in December pledged to reach net-zero absolute emissions, including Scope 3, by 2050.

What they're saying: "Equinor's announcement substantially raises the bar for how BP's commitment will be judged," Andrew Logan of the sustainable investment advocacy group Ceres tells Axios."Anything that doesn't include a substantial commitment to lower Scope 3 emissions will be seen as falling short," he added.

  • Edward Mason, head of responsible investment of the Church Commissioners for England, said this morning on his personal Twitter feed that Equinor is doing "some great stuff," but added:
  • "I'm not sure a pledge to halve carbon intensity by 2050 does it any more. #Repsol has shown the net zero 2050 ambition we need."

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