But oil major fails to establish targets for Scope 3 emissions that account for at least 85 per cent of its total emissions output

US oil major ExxonMobil announced yesterday that it plans to achieve net zero across its “operated assets” by 2050, tapping a range measures from energy efficiency and electrification to methane mitigation and equipment upgrades to slash emissions from its own operations.

Announcing the comapany’s enhanced climate targets, chief executive Darren Woods said the oil giant was committed to playing a “leading role in the energy transition” and had a “deliberate approach to helping society reach a lower-emissions future”.

The move is the latest in a string of net zero targets from leading oil and gas companies and marks a significant shift in tone from Exxon’s leadership, which had previously questioned the credibility of the wave of net zero targets announced by many of its European competitors in recent years.

But the plan only targets a small portion of the company’s gigantic emissions footprint, and fails to take responsibility for the emissions produced by the fossil fuels it extracts and sells, despite these emissions making up at least 85 per cent of the company’s total greenhouse gas output.

In 2019, the company’s Scope 3 value chain emissions totalled 650 million tonnes, a figure that was roughly equivalent to the greenhouse gas output of Canada.

ExxonMobil insisted its new business strategy was “resilient” when tested against “a range of Paris-aligned net zero scenarios”, including the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) 2018 special report and the International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) net zero scenario. 

The IEA’s net zero scenario, published in the summer, warned that delivering a net zero future would require an end to exploration for new oil and gas fields.

While some European oil majors have announced plans to decrease oil and gas production over the coming years, none have pledged to stop all exploration activity. Last year, ExxonMobil confirmed plans to expand its production of crude oil at its Guyana and the Permian Basin over the next several years.

ExxonMobil said it would publish detailed roadmaps this year that cover roughly 90 per cent of its operations-related emissions, with any gaps set to be addressed in 2023. Roughly 150 potential “steps and modifications” had been identified that would enable it to reach net zero emissions across its upstream, downstream, and chemical operations, it added.

“We are developing comprehensive roadmaps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our operated assets around the world, and where we are not the operator, we are working with our partners to achieve similar emission-reduction results,” Woods said.

The company stressed that “sound” government policies would be needed to enable a net zero future, insisting that it “continues to support an explicit price on carbon”.

The assertion comes just a six months ExxonMobil lobbyists were captured on camera saying the company’s support for a carbon tax was a public relations ploy to stall wider action to curb emissions.

However, today Woods stressed that the firm’s strategy was “unique among industry” and would enable the company “to succeed across multiple scenarios”.

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