A recent report suggests that the carbon neutrality commitments of major oil companies may underestimate their actual emissions, depend on “dirty” forms of energy, and lack transparency for the public. The “Fuelling the Climate Crisis” study by the Environmental Defenders Office, published on a Saturday, scrutinised the net-zero strategies of eight prominent fuel suppliers in Australia.
Although the report praises certain companies for their investments in electric vehicle charging stations and recognition of climate perils, it highlights significant shortcomings in many of their plans for energy transition, noting that one company has not disclosed any climate objectives.
Kirsty Ruddock, the managing lawyer for the safe climate at the Environmental Defenders Office, indicated the investigation aimed to equip consumers with straightforward information about the climate goals of these petrol entities. Ruddock emphasises the importance of transparency, indicating that without it, the public could be swayed by misleading corporate promises.
The scrutinised entities included Ampol, BP Australia, United, Chevron Puma, ExxonMobil, Viva Energy, EG Group, and 7-Eleven. The study observed that all but 7-Eleven had proposed net-zero and energy transition strategies, though these were often riddled with issues or lacked comprehensive details.
One critical aspect overlooked by most companies was the management of scope-three emissions, which constitute a significant portion of the emissions associated with the fuel industry’s products. For instance, Viva Energy’s strategy only addressed a mere 3.5% of its emissions by excluding these, and Ampol’s plans covered only 2.1%.
Ruddock highlighted the problematic omission of scope-three emissions, which come mainly from consumers burning petrol or diesel, as a significant gap in addressing their full climate impact.
The report also criticised BP Australia for its reliance on “fossil gas” as a cleaner alternative to coal, which it disputes. Similarly, it questioned the use of non-green hydrogen by ExxonMobil and Chevron, along with the dependence on carbon credits or offsets by Ampol, Viva, BP, and Chevron to achieve emission reductions.
On a positive note, the report acknowledges the steps taken by Ampol, Viva, EG Group, BP, and United to set up electric vehicle charging points, interpreting it as an acknowledgment of the need to transition to renewable energy sources eventually.
This report surfaces amid new federal discussions on climate-related financial disclosures for large corporations and draft guidance from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to prevent greenwashing. These guidelines, which suggest principles like evidence-based goals and clear explanations to prevent vague claims, are part of an ongoing consultation expected to conclude by December 1, with regulations anticipated to start in July 2024.