23 September 2020

David Tong, david.tong [at] (NZT)
Hannah McKinnon, hannah [at] (CET)
Kelly Trout, kelly [at] (ET)
David Turnbull, david [at] (PT)

Big Oil Reality Check: New paper finds ‘failure across the board’ in oil industry climate plans

A new comprehensive analysis released today shows that not a single climate plan released by a major oil company comes close to aligning with the urgent 1.5ºC global warming limit. The discussion paper measures oil and gas company climate plans against ten minimum criteria for 1.5ºC alignment, underlining that commitments to stop expanding extraction and to significantly decline production by 2030 are critical near-term tests. It finds that each of the eight major companies assessed are failing, scoring grossly insufficient or insufficient in a majority of criteria.

“An arsonist pledging to light a few less fires is still an arsonist,” said Kelly Trout, senior research analyst at Oil Change International. “As families across the United States and around the world flee fires and floods supercharged by fossil fuel pollution, BP, Shell, and Total are still drilling us into a deeper climate emergency, and that has to stop before they can claim any credibility.”

The paper, titled “Big Oil Reality Check,” was released today by Oil Change International in collaboration with 30 organizations from across the globe. While some existing analyses have rated oil companies’ plans against each other, today’s analysis is the first to focus squarely on the level of ambition required for a 1.5ºC-aligned phase-out of oil and gas production.

The rubric includes ten minimum baselines to ensure proper ambition, integrity, and transition planning in the commitments, with a focus on stopping expansion and planning a significant decline in production by 2030. These imperatives have emerged as a new norm for fossil fuel producers and financial institutions, as seen in a new set of “Paris Principles” for the finance sector, issued last week by a global set of 60 climate and rights groups. Past Oil Change International research shows that even if global coal use were phased out overnight, the oil and gas reserves in already developed fields and wells could still push the world beyond 1.5ºC.

Notably, BP has received some plaudits for its recent announcements. BP took a critical step in the right direction as the first oil company to commit to reduce oil and gas production by 2030. However, when BP’s plan is held up against the ten criteria laid out in this analysis, it joins the rest of the industry in failing to meet the bar of what is required. In particular, BP’s plans omit the company’s stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft, meaning its announced production cuts could be less than 30% by 2030 when science indicates global carbon dioxide pollution must be halved in that time frame.

“Oil companies are responding to pressure from the public to get real on climate, but their response is, as ever, deceitful and geared toward protecting their bottom line,” said David Tong, senior campaigner at Oil Change International and lead author of the paper. “A critical reality check has been urgently needed, lest investors and the public be misled much in the way Big Oil has been misleading the public for decades.”

The report can be found at

Oil Change International is releasing the report in collaboration with Amazon Watch, Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, BankTrack, Bold Alliance, BothENDS, Christian Aid, Centre for International Environmental Law, Culture Unstained, Earthworks, Environmental Defence Canada, Friends of the Earth US, Global Catholic Climate Movement, Global Witness, Greenpeace USA, Hip Hop Caucus, Indigenous Environmental Network, Les Amis de la Terre, Milieudefensie, Power Shift Network, Rainforest Action Network, Reclaim Finance, Recourse, ShareAction, Sierra Club, SOMO, Sunrise Project,, Urgewald, Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, and


Additional quotes from organizations partnering in the release of this new analysis:

Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director, Stand.Earth: “Net zero alignment by oil companies planning to expand production is climate denial 2.0. To put out a fire you don’t add more fuel.  It’s simple really. Are you phasing out fossil fuel production and increasingly spending more on renewables or not?”

Regine Richter, energy campaigner with Urgewald: “This report makes it clear that the Big Oil and Gas majors with their current business models should not be part of the portfolios of climate-conscious investors and banks. Those investors shouldn’t be fooled by the nice sounding yet empty announcements of the oil and gas majors.”

Rhodante Ahlers, SOMO: “This report clearly shows that urgent political responsibility and action from our governments to reshape the Oil and Gas sector is needed. This industry refuses to change. A century of toxic practices, exploiting people and planet, and refusing to pay their dues by avoiding taxation, should be enough reason to demand that the industry must change today and pay reparation for yesterday.”

Donald Pols, Friends of the Earth Netherlands: “On the first day of December, Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) and Shell will be facing each other in court. In four public hearings, we will demand that Shell stops exacerbating dangerous climate change. This research clearly supports our stand that this court case is a necessity: the Dutch government has failed to act — and without public pressure and legal mandates, the oil majors will not do their part to stop the climate crisis.”

Dr Katherine Kramer, Christian Aid’s climate policy lead: “Oil Change International have done an excellent job showing the gross insufficiency of the oil majors’ climate plans. Investors should abandon these companies and governments should help create a just transition for their workers, so that the fossil fueled era of climate heating can be stopped and the climate impacts, of which the poorest suffer the most, can be mitigated and minimized”

John Noël, Senior Climate Campaigner, Greenpeace USA: “Unless climate commitments from major oil companies lead to a swift decline in the production of oil and gas and reparations for the communities who have borne the brunt of fossil-fueled pollution, they’re little more than lip service. Exxon, Chevron, and their peers in the oil industry are some of the most polluting companies in the history of the world, and we expect them to come out with more than corporate double-speak. As this report clearly finds, Big Oil’s business plan is still out of sync with the kind of fossil fuel phaseout we need to avoid climate catastrophe.”

Catherine Collentine, Associate Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign: “Corporations are feeling the pressure to take action on climate, but it’s clear that their plans fail to match the scale and urgency of the moment. While these plans are a step in the right direction, they are no substitute for strong federal action to keep oil and gas in the ground and ensure a livable planet for future generations.”

Lauren Pagel, Policy Director at Earthworks: “The oil and gas industry is infamous for saying one thing then doing another. But now we have a quantitative accounting showing every major oil and gas company is on track to increase climate and health pollution in the next decade when science insists that means catastrophe. We need no more proof that governments should stop permitting new operations and strong safeguards put in place to cut existing pollution.”

Moira Birss, Climate and Finance Director at Amazon Watch: “The Amazon is one of the most critical ecosystems to maintain climate stability and home to hundreds of distinct Indigenous nations. Yet the oil industry continues to expand oil operations in the Amazon, and around the world, running roughshod over Indigenous rights and ignoring climate impacts. Oil companies need to take meaningful action before it’s too late for the Amazon and the entire planet.”