As the world works to stem the tide of climate change and get back on track to build a healthy, sustainable planet, oil companies will probably have to lead the way. As the primary suppliers of the world’s energy, Big Oil will play a pivotal role in shaping future strategies that can improve the global climate outlook. Unfortunately, though, it looks at the moment like they’re not doing a very good job. As Business Insider reported, the oil industry claims to be doing its part on climate change, but in reality, it’s not even close.
An environmental research organization called CDP recently conducted a detailed study of the world’s top 24 publicly listed oil companies and found that collectively, they’re spending just 1.3 percent of their $260 billion total budget on low-carbon energy in 2018. By and large, these companies—including household names like Royal Dutch Shell and BP—have spent years touting their commitment to climate science, but the facts show that this commitment is mostly all talk.
“This 1 percent figure pales in comparison with the amount of money Big Oil spends blocking climate initiatives and regulations, and invests in fossil fuel projects that have no place in a well-below 2 degree Celsius world,” said Jeanne Martin of the climate advocacy group ShareAction.
It’s widely agreed in the scientific community that a low-carbon infrastructure is essential to combating climate change. Just last month, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came out with a landmark report declaring that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” were needed to cut carbon emissions. For the most part, though, the companies with the most power to make these changes are doing very little to contribute.
There are some Big Oil industry leaders that stand out. Norwegian energy company Equinor plans to be spending 20 percent of its budget on renewables by 2030, while the European company Total has spent around 4.3 percent since 2010, but these are the exception, not the rule.
While Europe has some innovative thinkers that have helped put a dent in the climate problem, the same cannot be said for the leading companies in the United States. CDP found that 70 percent of the world’s renewable energy capacity currently comes from European oil majors; U.S. companies are barely even on the map.
“With less domestic pressure to diversify, U.S. companies have not embraced renewables in the same way as their European peers,” the CDP report stated.