Surprise, surprise . . . Chevron’s net zero plans are based on junk offsets and ignore 90% of the company’s emissions
A new report by Corporate Accountability reveals that oil giant Chevron’s “net zero” plans are based on junk offsets.
The report is titled “Destruction is at the heart of everything we do: Chevron’s junk climate action agenda and how it intensifies global harm”.
Corporate Accountability’s research found that:
93% of the carbon offsets that Chevron bought over the past three years “seem to be worthless - presumed ‘junk’ until proven otherwise”. The offsets may even be fuelling further emissions.
A large proportion (42%) are linked to claims of harm to communities and ecosystems, particularly in the Global South.
About half of the carbon offsets are generated by large hydropower dams that do not lead to new emissions reductions.
Chevron’s “net zero” promise ignores 90% of the emissions from burning the fossil fuels that Chevron profits from extracting.
Far from phasing out fossil fuels, Chevron plans to invest US$57.4 billion in oil expansion by 2030. The company’s projected emissions for 2022 to 2025 are more than the total emissions of 10 European countries during 2017 to 2020 (Austria, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Lithuania, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, and Iceland).
In 2022, Chevron lobbied on more than 150 federal bills or issues in the US, opposing policies that aim to lower emissions, while supporting policies such as carbon capture, utilisation, and storage that are risky and unproven.
In 2020 to 2022 Chevron spent US$20.8 million lobbying in the US. Its partner trade groups spent more than US$310.5 million in the same period.
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Justino Piaguaje, Plaintiff against Chevron and leader of the Siekopai Indigenous Nation UDAPT, based in Ecuador, said in a press release about the report:
“This report sheds light on what the Union of Affected Communities by Texaco/Chevron (UDAPT) have been living first-hand for almost three decades: the disastrous impact of Chevron. We’ve said it time and again, Chevron deceives and destroys, ruining lives, nature, and eroding the possibility of living in a world free of fossil fuel emissions.
“This report underscores that Chevron hasn’t just betrayed the people directly impacted by Chevron-Texaco, but is also misleading the whole world. This is why . . . we continue to stand against Chevron, to defend the planet and our right to protect our livelihoods.”
Corporate Accountability points out that “governments, shareholders, and parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) must commit to an equitable phase out of fossil fuels”.
In 2022, Chevron made a profit of US$36.5 billion - the company’s highest ever. Chevron is the second-largest fossil fuel corporation in the US.
In response to Corporate Accountability’s report, The Guardian reports that Chevron said, “The majority of the offsets referred to in the report are compliance-grade offsets accepted by governments in the regions where we operate.”
Which may well be true. But that doesn’t mean that the offsets are not junk.
Chevron’s junk offsets: REDD
In the years 2020, 2021, and 2022, Chevron retired a total of 5.83 million carbon credits.
Corporate Accountability found that at least 93% of these credits were generated by projects of “low environmental integrity”.
Nearly one-third (32.47%) of Chevron’s carbon credits were certified by Verra. Almost all of these credits (99%) were REDD projects in Colombia. Earlier this week, David Antonioli CEO of Verra announced his resignation. His resignation comes when Verra is facing ever more criticism. A nine-month investigation published in January 2023 by The Guardian, Die Zeit, and SourceMaterial that found that more than 90% of Verra’s rainforest carbon offsets were worthless.
A June 2021 investigation by Carbon Market Watch found that two of the biggest REDD projects in Colombia (Mataven - a Verra project, and Kaliawiri - a BioCarbon Registry project) were “hot air”. The projects did not result in “real environmental benefits” or “forest conservation”.
Carbon Market Watch found that the Kaliawiri REDD project has an inflated baseline, and project documents claim that there are no Indigenous Peoples in the area when it is on Indigenous lands.
Chevron has bought carbon credits from these projects since 2018.
Industrial tree plantations
Chevron also buys carbon offsets from two large rubber plantations in Colombia: Reforestation with Rubber on degraded lands of Colombia (Verra); and Proyecto Forestal MAVALLE en plantaciones de Caucho natural (BioCarbon Registry).
These are monoculture tree plantations. Rubber trees are productive for somewhere between 25 and 40 years, after which the tree plantation is cleared and any stored carbon is released to the atmosphere.
Corporate Accountability notes that,
“These plantations can actually create cumulatively worsening conditions for local ecosystems and biodiversity and are not effective carbon offsetting strategies.”
More than half of Chevron’s carbon offsets were generated by large hydropower dam projects. Corporate Accountability notes that these projects are not additional because they would have gone ahead without a market for carbon credits. The offsets are therefore meaningless.
In 2022, almost all (97.53%) of Chevron’s carbon offsets came from large hydropower projects.
More than 37% of Chevron’s carbon offsets came from two hydropower projects in Colombia: Proyecto Hidroeléctrico El Quimbo; and Sogamoso Hydropower Project.
17,000 people were evicted from their homes for the El Quimbo dam project. The Environmental Justice Atlas reports that, “Throughout 2011 there were demonstrations, marches, public complaints, questions about legal procedures and the way in which communities have been treated and evicted from their lands, including violence and public force.” In 2012, communities blockaded the construction site.
16,000 people were affected by the Sogamoso dam, and 1,000 people were evicted. The dam was completed in 2014. In 2022, Mongabay reported that, “locals repeatedly complained about the impacts and rights violations endured by the most marginalized members of the community. Fishers and farmers say they haven’t been included or received compensation beyond symbolic short-term employment”
Carbon capture and storage
In 2021, Chevron announced that it would invest US$10 billion in “lower carbon projects”. The reality is that Chevron invests only 0.23% of its capital on low-carbon investments. About half of that goes on carbon capture and storage technologies.
Chevron’s Gorgon project off the coast of Australia highlights the problems with these technologies.
The Gorgon gas development was approved on condition that Chevron stored four million tons of CO₂ every year. Chevron has missed this target every year since it started operations in August 2019. Chevron has actually stored only about 50% of the target.
Even worse, in April 2023, The Guardian reported that,
Emissions from Chevron’s Gorgon gas development off Western Australia have increased by more than 50% despite it being home to the world’s largest industrial carbon capture and storage system.
There has been a sharp drop in the amount of CO₂ stored underground at the liquefied natural gas plant over the last three years, data released by Chevron showed.
Climate analyst Ketan Joshi sums up the problems with carbon capture and storage technologies: “Whether it ‘works’ or not, it’s a homeopathic droplet of reduction designed to magically and absurdly distract from a much larger increase elsewhere.”
Chevron simply ignores 90% of its emissions
In its October 2021 statement about “net zero” Chevron writes that,
Chevron’s 2050 equity upstream Scope 1 and 2 net zero aspiration builds on the company’s disciplined approach to target setting and action. The path to this net zero aspiration anticipates partnerships with multiple stakeholders and progress in technology, policy, regulations, and offset markets.
So, Chevron kind of hopes it might, perhaps, with a bit of luck and some green pixie dust, reach net zero by 2050.
And Chevron’s net zero “aspiration” only applies to scope 1 and 2 emissions. Scope 1 emissions are from facilities, equipment, vehicles, and buildings that Chevron owns. Scope 2 emissions are from the energy that Chevron uses.
What’s missing from this are scope 3 emissions. These are emissions from burning the oil and gas that Chevron extracts to generate its eye-watering profits. They are also the emissions that are driving the climate crisis.
Corporate Accountability’s graphic illustrates just how ridiculous this is:
To make matters even worse, in 2022, Chevron’s total greenhouse gas emissions increased to 725 million tonnes CO₂ equivalent, up from 672 tonnes in 2021.
Rachel Rose Jackson from Corporate Accountability told The Guardian,
“Chevron’s junk climate action agenda is destructive and reckless, especially in light of climate science underscoring the only viable way forward is an equitable and urgent fossil fuel phase-out.”
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I have just read a pre-press climate science paper and in a while, when you get to see it, you will also see how badly all these "net zero aspirations" stink. We are now in such deep doo-doo you can't imagine. And all these corporatists and their highly-paid lobbyists just keep pushing their glorified version of the past. It is going to be SO HARD to undo all this environmental damage; yet all we get is more and more "energy" projects, pipelines, etc. It CANNOT go on!