BP’s Pledge to Reach Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 Turns up Heat on Competitors, Raises Questions About Follow-Through

Statement by Kathy Mulvey, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Feb 12, 2020

WASHINGTON (February 12, 2020)—BP announced today that it aims to reduce carbon emissions from its operations and the oil and gas it extracts to net-zero by 2050, as well as to reduce the carbon intensity of its sold products by 50 percent. Achieving these goals would bring the company in closer alignment to the Paris Agreement’s global temperature target.

BP’s announcement is significant because it’s the first time the company has acknowledged responsibility for its scope 3 emissions, which come from the burning of its oil and gas products and make up nearly 90 percent of its total emissions, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). BP resisted shareholder demands to include these emissions in company targets in 2019, but has been forced to respond to growing pressure from the investor community and climate activists to get on board with climate action or get out of the way.

Additionally, the company has promised to publish an audit of its trade associations’ climate policy advocacy—a growing demand from shareholders and public interest organizations that only some of its peers have met—and to be prepared to leave groups whose positions don’t align with the company’s. BP has also pledged to end a global advertising campaign designed to burnish its corporate image—which prompted a complaint alleging that it misleads consumers—and refocus on the company’s net-zero climate ambition.

Below is a statement by Kathy Mulvey, fossil fuel accountability campaign director at UCS.

“BP’s pledge to its reach net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century, including reducing emissions from the burning of products made from the oil and gas the company extracts, is more ambitious than pledges made by Chevron, ExxonMobil, and other major fossil fuel companies. However, the company won’t reveal its strategy and near-term plans to make good on this commitment until September. At that point, we’ll be in a better position to assess whether today’s announcement was a watershed moment or a whitewash. For example, will BP assume massive amounts of carbon capture and storage funded by taxpayers, or forest offsets of questionable quality?

“BP’s promise to shift its climate policy advocacy could also be a turning point. The company recently broke with one of its main trade associations, the American Petroleum Institute, to support federal regulations on methane, a greenhouse gas with 86 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. However, BP also spent a staggering $13 million to fight a carbon tax proposal in Washington state in 2018. The real BP needs to stand up and back its stated climate positions with consistent action.

“These are ambitious promises coming from a company that needs to regain the trust of investors and the public. Whether BP regains that trust will depend on how the company follows through on today’s announcement.”