May 5, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Big Oil's "net zero" club grows

Ben Geman, author of Generate

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Total, the French multinational oil-and-gas giant, said Tuesday it hopes to reach "net zero" emissions by 2050, joining European peers including Shell and BP in setting ambitious mid-century targets.

Why it matters: Total’s plan includes targets for Scope 3 emissions — that is, emissions from use of its products in the economy that comprise by far the largest share of total CO2 linked to the industry.

The big picture: The plan calls for increasing the amounts of climate-friendly energy in its product mix, including a vow to double the share of its capital spending devoted to low-carbon power to 20% by 2030.

Reality check: Plenty of details remain to be filled in when it comes to how exactly these behemoths will meet these long-term goals and even interim targets.

  • The plans also recognize that the goals — especially Scope 3 targets — rely on external forces the companies can influence but don't control.

One level deeper: Shell said when unveiling its plan last month that it would involve working with customers on their emissions-cutting efforts.

  • Total said it's aiming to reach net-zero "together with society." It's vowing to engage in "active" policy advocacy and work with other businesses to decarbonize their energy use.
  • Total also said it wants a "60% or more reduction in the average carbon intensity of energy products used worldwide by Total customers by 2050."

Of note: The plan arrived on the same day that Total posted a 35% decline in Q1 profits compared to the same period a year earlier, as low prices bite. CNBC has more.

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