What are the big Oil and Gas companies doing about climate change?


The large multi-national oil and gas companies have made astronomical profits for over one hundred years, while emitting whopping amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. But climate change now demands that they redirect their strategic focus to becoming carbon neutral. The analogy is that of a large and lumbering oil tanker taking several kilometres to make a U-turn. International oil companies (IOCs) are coming under increasing pressure from shareholders and other stakeholders – internally through shareholders’ wishes to be green and reduce carbon emissions, and externally through court action and public protest. Conversely, national oil companies may have a different focus, especially where the national economy depends on the profits from these companies.

From a customer perspective, we have to wean ourselves off the addiction to petrol and diesel cars and trucks. But a viable alternative is not yet in sight. Yes, there are electric cars, but with a limited range and battery life. Our hopes lie on the introduction of hydrogen fuel cells (FCs) which are economically comparable  to internal combustion engines (ICEs). Honda, Toyota and Hyundai seem to be leading the way in this regard, while FC trucks and buses are already appearing on the market in places where refueling infrastructures have been introduced on established routes.

What are the International Oil Companies (IOCs) actually doing to get to net zero emissions by 2050?

A number of IOCs have declared that they will be carbon neutral by 2050. This is easy if only Scope 1 emissions are being looked at i.e. direct emissions from energy and other sources owned or controlled by the company. It does not cover scope 2 – indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy, or scope 3 emissions – indirect emissions from sources not owned or directly controlled but related to their activities. Scope 3 includes the emissions from our vehicles.

I’ve divided some of the IOCs into two groups to facilitate this discussion: American and European.



Chevron’s overall engagement with renewable energy is low, with no specific targets or commitments. It is more oriented towards the expansion of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology, with investments in two of the world’s largest CO2 injection facilities: the Quest CCS project in the Canadian oil sands and the Gorgon project in Australia. 


Likewise, ExxonMobil has shown little engagement in renewable energy and instead has focused only on limiting emissions through investments in biofuels or CCS. However, investment company Engine No. 1 has started to influence ExxonMobil through its board by nominating board members with sustainability track records, and subsequently getting three board members elected.

European IOCs

Royal Dutch Shell Holland

Over the past decade, Royal Dutch Shell has changed the emphasis of its activity by evolving from just producing oil to producing mainly natural gas. Only in recent years has Shell strengthened its alternative energy division and created a strategic framework for resilience by investing in green energy, as a way to play a relevant role in the energy transition. Like Equinor, Shell is entering the power sector and announced in 2019 that the company aims to become the largest electricity company in Europe by 2035.

Shell has been under pressure to change direction by its institutional shareholders and, more recently, even the District Court in The Hague ruled that it must do more.

Equinor Norway

In 2018, the Norwegian oil major Statoil changed its name to Equinor, to support the company’s strategy and development as a broad energy company. Equinor is now leveraging its expertise in operating offshore platforms in the North Sea. Equinor plans to expand its acquisition of wind acreage while continuing to leverage its position in offshore wind and  CCS development.

ENI Italy

In 2017 ENI signed an agreement with Statoil (now Equinor) to explore the integration of renewable energy solutions (mainly offshore wind) into existing oil and gas fields. With renewables playing a central role in its strategy, ENI aims to invest in, and develop, renewable energy projects where the company has technological and geographical synergies with its core business, such as solar PV, wind and biofuels.

Total France (now TotalEnergy)

Total is one of the main actors and a front-runner among oil companies in its attempts to adjust its core business from producing just oil and gas, to a full-blown energy company. The company’s main strategy is to diversify its portfolio of investments across the entire energy value chain, as well as in various renewable technologies. Like Equinor and Shell, Total is also laying the foundation for further expansion into the electricity supply chain. In contrast to other IOCs who have only focused on net-zero emissions for their own production, Total have set a goal of achieving net-zero emission
intensity not only in its own production facilities, but across its energy products used by European customers, by 2050.


BP has one of the largest renewable energy portfolios among its peers. BP aims to slash oil output by 40%, or about 1 million barrels per day, an amount equal to the UK’s entire average daily output in 2019. At the same time, BP intends to boost its capacity to generate electricity from renewable sources to 50 gigawatts, a 20-fold increase and equivalent to the power produced by 50 nuclear power units.


The International Energy Agency (IEA) message is clear: no more oil exploration. However, the likes of Shell continue to explore for oil. As recently as December 2021, a court ordered Shell to stop undertaking seismic testing for oil off the Wild Coast of South Africa.

Shareholders, customers and the general public have to join forces to get the major IOCs to become sustainable. Finnish company Neste is already obtaining more than 70% of its profits from renewables.

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