Internal documents cast doubt on oil majors’ climate promises

The internal documents of the major oil companies released by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee appear to cast doubt on their alleged commitments to climate and green energy.

shells The site says The company’s “goal” is to “become a net-zero emissions company by 2050”.

But the committee’s internal message routing documents state that “Shell has no immediate plans to transition to a net-zero portfolio over our 10-20 year investment horizon.”

Net zero emissions is when a company’s contribution to climate change is fully offset by its actions that mitigate climate change – bringing its total emissions to zero.

A Shell spokesperson, Curtis Smith, said via email that internal assertions about the company’s net-zero ambitions seem outdated.

The message routing document appears to be attached to an email dated January 31, 2020. A few months later, in April 2020, Shell unveiled a Net Zero Commitment.

But later that year, in October 2020, Helen O’Connor, Shell’s director of stakeholder relations in the US, in an email exchange, seemed to suggest that a particular climate policy for the company “has nothing to do with our business plans.”

In a separate email exchange, as of 2019, O’Connor stated that the Paris Shell Agreement track “is not a Shell business plan.”

The Paris Agreement is a global agreement to try to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius.

Likewise, the above message routing document states that the company’s “scenarios” such as its Paris trajectory “the sky scenario” are not intended to be “predictions of possible future events or outcomes.”

Smith said Shell has been putting forward such “scenarios” for decades, and said that “it is widely understood that they are not prescriptions or forecasts or intended to represent Shell’s current business plan.”

The documents also show that an ExxonMobil official suggested pushing the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a group it says leads the sector’s climate response, away from including the Paris Agreement in its 2019 policy statement.

In a note to CEO Darren Woods, Peter Trillenberg, Exxon’s director of environmental policy and planning, warned that “creating a link between our advocacy/participation and the Paris Agreement could create a potential commitment to defending the objectives of the Paris Agreement.”

However, company spokesperson Todd Spittler said via email that the company has supported the Paris Agreement since its inception in 2015.

Certain groups have sought to distort ExxonMobil’s positions and support for effective policy solutions by reframing genuine political debates as a disinformation campaign. “These accusations are baseless and any suggestion to the contrary is false,” Spitler said by email.

The commission released documents it received from companies in an effort to prove that such companies are “greenwashing” – that is – engaging in deceptive practices that make them appear more environmentally friendly than they actually are.

“The documents I am issuing today as part of my investigation into Big Oil’s efforts to deceive the American public about the climate crisis are explosive,” Ro Khanna, chair of the Environmental Subcommittee (D-Calif.), said in a statement.

“Internal emails and letter guidelines show that Big Oil’s climate pledges rely on unproven technology, accounting tricks and misleading language to obscure reality,” he added.

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