The Dishonest Accounting of Net-Zero Emissions
Author: Mark Schapiro
The International Energy Agency, the foremost global body conducting research and tracking trends in the global energy industry, also offers a list of actions that could actually lead to “net zero” by 2050. They all involve some version of ending or dramatically reducing our use of fossil fuels. The authors of the IEA report declare, “Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 will require nothing short of the complete transformation of the global energy system.” That’s a pretty high bar, but useful for any journalist trying to assess the veracity of net-zero claims. In its net-zero statements, ExxonMobil makes no reference to scope 3 emissions; same with Chevron. This is why in their promotional campaigns they can on the one hand be touting reduced emissions - mostly by imposing greater efficiencies on their own energy use - while opposing legislation that would reduce scope 3 emissions, such as higher miles per gallon or promotion of electric vehicles. By promising to go “net zero,” they, like many other companies, simply move the goalposts or, more accurately, carry the ball to their own 15-yard line and call it a touchdown. Nor are the oil companies alone in this accounting legerdemain: The shareholder action group As You Sow conducted a study of 55 of the country’s biggest companies and concluded that only six were reducing their emissions at all three levels, many of them while claiming to be going “net zero.” The group includes a listing of the “grades” for the 55 companies’ emissions performance: Microsoft at the top (“A”), Disney at the low end (“D-”), and Tesla at the bottom (“F”).