‘Every oil major is betting heavily against a 1.5C world and investing in projects that are contrary to the Paris goals,’ says report author
Major oil and gas companies have approved £40bn of projects since last year that undermine global efforts to avert a climate crisis, a report has revealed.
Fossil fuel giants including Shell, BP and ExxonMobil are investing billions in plans that are incompatible with the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5C, according to an analysis by the think tank Carbon Tracker.
Shell’s £10.6bn Canadian liquefied natural gas developments, BP’s oilfield expansion in Azerbaijan, and a £1.1bn deepwater site in Angola involving five major oil companies are among the projects that researchers said would not be economically viable if government’s implemented the agreement.
“Every oil major is betting heavily against a 1.5C world and investing in projects that are contrary to the Paris goals,” said Andrew Grant, a former natural resources analyst at Barclays and co-author of the report.
Scientists have warned a 1.5C temperature rise is the tipping point at which climate impacts, such as sea-level rise, natural disasters, forced migration, failed harvests and deadly heatwaves, will rapidly start to intensify.
“To meet climate goals, it is an unavoidable consequence that fossil fuel use must drop dramatically,” Carbon Tracker’s report said. “The only way that fossil fuel companies can be ‘Paris-aligned’ is to commit to not sanctioning projects that fall outside this constraint, and shrink where necessary.”
The analysis, co-authored by Mike Coffin, a former geologist at BP, found that 18 newly-approved oil and gas projects worth £40bn would be “deep out of the money” in a lower carbon world.
The report also concluded oil and gas companies risk “wasting” £1.8 trillion by 2030 on new projects if governments apply stricter curbs on greenhouse gas emissions.
Previous research on the implications of climate change for oil and gas companies, including influential reports by Carbon Tracker, has contributed to a wave of investor pressure on major firms to show their investments are aligned with the Paris goals.
Darren Woods, Exxon’s chief executive, this week insisted the world’s rapidly growing demand for energy would not be met by renewables alone. He cited International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that £17 trillion of new investment in energy production is needed by 2040, representing a “compelling investment case” for fossil fuels.
Shell said in a statement it had set out an “ambition” to halve net carbon emissions by 2050 “in step with society as it moves towards meeting the aims of Paris”.
“As the energy system evolves, so is our business, to provide the mix of products that our customers need,” a spokesperson added.
BP insisted its strategy to produce low cost and low carbon oil and gas was in line with the IEA’s forecasts and the Paris Agreement.
“All of this is aimed at evolving BP from an oil and gas focused company to a much broader energy company so that we are best equipped to help the world get to net zero while meeting rising energy demand,” the company said in a statement.
But the Carbon Tracker report found big oil and gas companies spent at least 30 per cent of their investment last year on projects that are inconsistent with plans to limit global warming even to 1.6C.
“These projects represent an imminent challenge for investors and companies looking to align with climate goals,” it warned.
Carbon Tracker’s calculations were based on three scenarios produced by the Paris-based IEA models of oil and gas supply under different warming pathways.
With fossil fuel supply on course to outstrip demand if the world limits warming at 1.5C, the report assumed the projects with the lowest production costs would be the most competitive. It said “pursuing higher-cost projects risks creating stranded assets that will never deliver adequate returns”.