Only 1 in 10 of the world’s largest energy companies have made net zero plans

Just 13 out of the largest 132 coal, electricity, and oil and gas companies have made commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to net zero, new research has revealed.

The findings, published jointly by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, and the Transition Pathway Initiative, reveals the energy sector’s lack of progress in achieving the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement almost four years later.

Looking at the public disclosures of 20 coal companies, 62 electricity companies, and 50 oil and gas companies, the research finds that three coal mining companies and one oil and gas producer, have set a date by which they will reduce the emissions associated with at least one of their core business activities to net zero.

Of these thirteen firms, nine set a date of 2050 to achieve net zero, while four set a date of 2025 or 2030.

The extent of the companies’ commitments also varies. While all thirteen companies committed to achieving net zero direct emissions (those produced directly by the extraction of coal, oil or gas, or generation of electricity), only three pledged to eliminate indirect emissions (such as the emissions produced by generating the electricity used in their processes, or down the line from coal or gas extracted by the company, but burned by other firms).

The research also finds:

  • just over half (54%) explicitly acknowledge the aims of the Paris Agreement to pursue efforts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, but just 2 in 5 (39%) stated their support for these aims;
  • only 1 in 5 (20%) explicitly acknowledge the need to reach net zero emissions.

Many countries and businesses are committing to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions before 2050 in order to keep global heating well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Scientists last year said that any warming greater than 1.5°C “increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes” for the planet, and that global human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) need to reach net zero by around 2050. Reaching net zero involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible and offsetting residual emissions that can’t be reduced further, such as by planting trees.

Energy supply and use account for around 72% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2013, according to the Centre for Climate Energy Solutions.

Professor Simon Dietz, Professor of Environmental Policy at the Grantham Research Institute, said:

“Climate science tells us that net carbon dioxide emissions must fall to zero to stabilise global temperatures, and that limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees requires global carbon dioxide emissions to reach net zero around 2050. Although new corporate net zero commitments are being made all the time, our analysis shows that we are starting from a very low base.”