LONDON (AP) — Energy producer BP said Wednesday it wants to eliminate or offset all carbon emissions from its operations and the oil and gas it sells to customers by 2050, though it remains unclear how it would achieve such an ambitious target as the company comes under pressure to help combat climate change.
London-based BP’s goals include becoming a net zero emitter in its own production of energy but also to reduce the carbon dioxide created by its customers as they use that energy – the bulk of emissions from the industry. Doing so would require not only a shift to cleaner energy sources but also coming up with new technologies to offset emissions or extract CO2 from the atmosphere.
As such, BP’s announcement was less of a detailed restructuring plan and more of a statement of intent from a company that is trying, like the wider energy industry, to ensure its long-term viability as the world decreases its reliance on fossil fuels in an effort to fight climate change.
“The world’s carbon budget is finite and running out fast; we need a rapid transition to net zero,’’ CEO Bernard Looney said in a statement. “We all want energy that is reliable and affordable, but that is no longer enough. It must also be cleaner.’’
In a presentation in London that featured climate scientists, investors and journalists, Looney acknowledged that targets and more specifics would follow. He compared the announcements, which come only two weeks into his tenure as CEO, as being setting the destination in a GPS.
“We’re starting with a destination,”‘ he said. “The details will come.”
Other energy companies have expressed similar ambitions as public awareness of climate change – and the energy industry’s role in emitting CO2 – has grown.
Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, called BP’s plans a “bold strategic move” that will put pressure on other oil companies to follow suit. But he said they don’t go far enough if the world is going to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.
“The oil and gas industry can only survive the next few decades if they take ownership of the rapid transition to zero-emissions energy,” Ward said. ”However, what is lacking from BP’s announcement is any indication of whether the company accepts that there will be a major reduction in the global demand for its hydrocarbon fuels.”
BP said it plans to help customers reduce their emissions by cutting in half the amount of greenhouse gases produced by the fuels it sells by 2050. The company also said it will increase investment in “low carbon businesses” and put less money into oil and gas businesses in coming years.
It said it would install monitoring equipment at all oil and gas processing plants by 2023 as it seeks to reduce the amount of methane the facilities release into the environment by 50%.
On a broader level, the company said it would work to promote policies that move society toward net-zero emissions. BP said it will stop “corporate reputation advertising” and shift that spending toward promoting carbon reduction.
Looney said society will have to invest trillions of dollars “in replumbing and rewiring the world’s energy system.”
He stressed that BP’s commitment is to eventually reach net-zero emissions both for its own operations and for the fuels it sells.
“This is what we mean by making BP net zero,’’ he said. “It directly addresses all the carbon we get out of the ground as well as all the greenhouse gases we emit from our operations.”
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