Over 50 oil and gas companies that signed the decarbonization pact at the COP28 climate summit are projected to emit over 150 billion metric tons of climate pollution by 2050, according to an analysis by Global Witness. This represents about 62% of the remaining carbon dioxide budget to stay below the 1.5°C temperature rise limit. The analysis only covers crude oil and gas, excluding figures for NGL and condensate, making the estimates conservative. The calculations are based on a carbon budget equivalent to 250 billion tonnes CO2 to retain a 50% chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C. The dataset includes all assets currently in production, under development, and undiscovered, covering operating production from 2023 to 2050.
The Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter was introduced at COP28 by Saudi Arabia and conference president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber. The charter commits companies to achieving net zero and ending methane emissions and routine flaring by 2030. Saudi Arabia’s Aramco and the UAE’s ADNOC, along with 29 other national oil companies, signed the non-binding charter. PetroChina, ExxonMobil, TotalEnergies, Petrobras, and Shell have also signed, although their agreement is voluntary.
While the charter signifies a promising climate commitment from the oil majors, there is a significant loophole. It only addresses emissions directly released by the companies, ignoring the considerable impact of their products’ use, known as Scope 3 emissions, which make up to 90% of the oil and gas industry’s total carbon emissions. Global Witness used data from Rystad Energy to analyze the production plans of the charter’s signatories and found that they would produce 265 billion barrels of oil and 26.7 billion cubic meters of gas by 2050, resulting in 156 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions, or approximately 62% of the remaining carbon budget.
Among the companies that signed the pact, ADNOC and Saudi Aramco have the largest carbon footprints through 2050. Together, they have a combined production of 136.4 billion barrels of oil and 5.5 billion cubic meters of gas, projected to emit 64.7 billion metric tons of CO2, more than a quarter of the remaining carbon budget. ExxonMobil, Equinor, TotalEnergies, Eni, and Shell also have plans to emit as much as the European Union does in 15 years – 38.6 billion metric tons of CO2.
These findings further fuel climate activists’ claims of greenwashing against oil and gas companies. Concerns have been raised about the industry’s emissions reduction commitments compared to the environmental impact of their products. Campaigners argue that governments must urgently phase out fossil fuels and accelerate the transition to renewable energy and efficiency measures. Shell responded to the concerns, stating that their targets are more comprehensive and ambitious than the charter requirements, but they are willing to learn from others in the industry.
In light of the analysis by Global Witness, it is evident that oil and gas companies are projected to consume 62% of the remaining carbon budget. This raises critical questions about the true environmental costs of the industry and highlights the need for urgent action to address climate change.