Nov 16, 2023 - Technology

What Exxon wants from COP28

Illustration of plants sprouting from an oil barrel

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

ExxonMobil boss Darren Woods is hoping for a vibe shift at COP28 and beyond.

Driving the news: Woods is seeking recognition that a wide array of parties and companies — including oil giants — are needed to cut emissions, he said in a response to a question from Axios' Hope King on the sidelines of the APEC summit in San Francisco.

  • "My hope would be that you start to see more emphasis put on a problem statement of eliminating emissions, versus a problem statement focused on the oil and gas industry per se," the CEO said.

The big picture: His remarks touch a big fault line.

  • Big Oil emphasizes that amid strong global oil and gas demand, its skills and scale are needed in areas like carbon capture and hydrogen.
  • But many countries and activists want far more stronger policies to move away from fossil fuels — not just try and use them more cleanly.

The intrigue: Woods usually isn't an especially emotional CEO in public.

  • But his APEC speech found him saying that as a father and grandfather who cares about his family, he cares a lot about the planet's health.
  • Woods also said making oil companies into "villains" is easy, but "does, nothing absolutely nothing, to accomplish the goal of reducing emissions."

The bottom line: Woods' take is common in the industry, yet don't expect COP28 to be a kumbaya moment for Big Oil, especially as activists point to the sector's pushback against rapid transition policies.

— Hope King contributed.

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