Oil giant BP pledges to become 'net zero' by 2050

Oil giant BP pledges to become ‘net zero’ by 2050 as new boss claims ‘the world’s carbon budget is running out fast’ — but environmentalists claim the target is ‘not credible’

  • New CEO Bernard Looney, 50, made the claims during a London press event
  • Mr Looney took over BP’s reigns last week from his predecessor, Bob Dudley 
  • The firm says it will cut 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year
  • Investors reacted positively to the announcement, but others were sceptical

Oil giant BP has pledged to reinvent itself and become ‘net zero’ by 2050 as its new boss warned that ‘the world’s carbon budget is running out fast’.

Bernard Looney, 50 — who became the oil and gas firm’s CEO last week — said that BP would match the mid-century target adopted by the UK Government last year.

The new chief executive is clearly hoping to leave his mark on the century-old business after taking over from American Bob Dudley last week.

However, environmental groups have branded the emissions-slashing target as ‘not credible’, with ‘little of substance to show how [BP] will achieve these grand claims.’

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Oil giant BP has pledged to reinvent itself and become ‘net zero’ by 2050 as new boss Bernard Looney, pictured, warned that ‘the world’s carbon budget is running out fast’

Mr Looney made the remarks during a speech to investors, analysts and the media — all of whose travel had been carbon offset — in London on February 12, 2020.

‘The world’s carbon budget is finite and running out fast. We need a rapid transition to net-zero,’ he said.

‘We all want energy that is reliable and affordable, but that is no longer enough. It must also be cleaner.’

In his first major announcement as the major oil and gas firm’s chief executive, Mr Looney reported that BP would be working to eliminate the 55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent that it emits into the atmosphere each year.

The net-zero policy will also cover carbon in the oil and gas that BP produces, amounting to around 360 million tonnes of carbon equivalent. 

If successful, the move would slash emissions by more than 400 million tonnes per year, or approximately the same as the UK’s total annual emissions.

‘This is what we mean by making BP net-zero,’ Mr Looney added.

‘It directly addresses all the carbon we get out of the ground as well as all the greenhouse gases we emit from our operations.’

Mr Looney promised that BP would halve the carbon intensity of the products it sells by 2050 or sooner, while increasing investment in low-carbon alternatives.

‘We expect to invest more in low-carbon businesses — and less in oil and gas — over time,’ he said, promising that more details would be revealed during the firm’s so-called ‘capital markets day’ in September.

He also told onlookers: ‘If anyone sees BP acting in a way that is counter to what I say here today then I want to hear about it.’

In his first major announcement as the major oil and gas firm’s chief executive, Mr Looney reported that BP would be working to eliminate the 55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent that it emits into the atmosphere each year

Investors appeared to react well to Mr Looney’s statements, with BP’s shares subsequently rising by just under 1 per cent — and investor groups that had been pushing for action on climate change also seemed optimistic. 

‘This is a very welcome announcement from BP’s new CEO,’ said the chief executive of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, Stephanie Pfeifer.

‘We need to see a wholesale shift to a net-zero economy by 2050.’ 

‘This must include oil and gas companies if we are to have any chance of successfully tackling the climate crisis.’

However, critics noted that the company’s announcement left many unanswered questions and contained little detail on how BP will meet its new goals

However, critics noted that the company’s announcement left many unanswered questions and contained little detail on how BP will meet its new goals.

‘There is nothing ambitious about a plan that is simply not credible,’ said Murray Worthy, senior campaigner at the environmental charity Global Witness.

‘BP’s net-zero pledge looks like an attempt to grab some positive headlines by a new CEO, but with little of substance to show how it will achieve these grand claims.’

 In fact Mr Looney himself acknowledged the vagaries of his proposal.

‘Today is about a vision, it is about a direction of travel,’ he said.

‘What I will not talk to today is a lot of the detail on the next month, the next year, or the next five years,’ he added.

‘Details have to come, you have to judge us by our actions, not by what I say here today.’

Greenpeace, meanwhile, accused Mr Looney of burdening his successors with much of the responsibility to get to net-zero, as he had set the goalpost in the middle of the century, by which time he will have left the business.

Charlie Kronick, the organisation’s oil adviser, said there were many urgent and unanswered questions: ‘When will they stop wasting billions on drilling for new oil and gas we can’t burn?’

‘What is the scale and schedule for the renewables investment they barely mention?’

‘And what are they going to do this decade, when the battle to protect our climate will be won or lost?’

Katie White, WWF Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, said: ‘Even the oil and gas giants can see that the writing is on the wall for fossil fuels – but the reality is that no credible plan for net zero involves new oil and gas exploration.’

‘If we want to prevent a climate and nature breakdown the science is clear. 

‘We have to stop looking for new oil and gas reserves, and leave what we’ve already discovered in the ground.’

‘TIME IS RUNNING OUT’: DAVID ATTENBOROUGH’S WARNING TO HUMANITY

Sir David urged action against global warming and called it a man-made disaster that poses ‘our greatest threat in thousands of years’

Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

‘We the peoples of the United Nations’.

These are the opening words of the UN Charter.

A charter that puts people at the centre.

A pledge to give every person in the world a voice on its future.

A promise to help protect the weakest and the strongest from war, famine and other man-made disasters.

Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale.

Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate Change.

If we don’t take action the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.

The United Nations provides a unique platform that can unite the whole world.

And as the Paris agreement proved, together we can make real change happen.

At this crucial moment, the United Nations has invited the world’s people to have their voice heard, by giving them a seat.

The People’s Seat; giving everyone the opportunity to join us here today, virtually, and speak directly to you the decision makers.

In the last two weeks, the world’s people have taken part in building this address, answering polls, sending video messages and voicing their opinions.

I am only here to represent the ‘Voice of the People’: to deliver our collective thoughts, concerns, ideas and suggestions.

This is our ‘We the peoples’ message. 

The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear.

Time is running out.

They want you, the decision makers, to act now.

They are behind you, along with civil society represented here today. 

Supporting you in making tough decisions but also willing to make sacrifices in their daily lives.

To help make change happen, the UN is launching the Act Now bot.

Helping people to discover simple everyday actions that they can take, because they recognize that they too must play their part.

The People have spoken.

Leaders of the world, you must lead.

The continuation of our civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend, is in your hands.

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