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  • Writer's pictureSuvarna Satish

European Oil and Gas Companies Lead the Way in Path to Carbon Neutral Targets by 2050

Climate change and environmental degradation are existential threats to the world. The consequences of climate change are evident with extreme weather conditions such as drought, heat waves, heavy rain, floods and landslides becoming more frequent. Furthermore, rapidly changing climate include rising sea levels, ocean acidification and loss of biodiversity.

Carbon neutrality means having a balance between carbon emission and carbon absorption from the atmosphere in carbon sinks. Removing carbon oxide from the atmosphere and then storing it is known as carbon sequestration. In order to achieve net zero emissions, all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions will have to be counterbalanced by carbon sequestration.

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) has suggested that reaching carbon neutrality by mid-21st century is essential in order to limit global warming to 1.5° Celsius. This target is also laid down in the Paris agreement signed by 195 countries, including the European Union. In December 2019, the European Commission presented the European Green Deal, its flagship plan that aims to make Europe climate neutral by 2050. The European Green Deal is the EU’s plan to make its economy sustainable. They plan do this by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities, and making the transition just and inclusive for all.

[EU Climate Strategy until 2050]

Climate-neutrality by 2050 means going through a deep transformation within just one or two investment cycles. Investors and policymakers worldwide are rapidly increasing their focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. Oil and gas companies risk losing billions of dollars in investor capital if they do not adapt. European integrated oil majors have led the charge, acknowledging the inevitability of the transition, as well as the scale of the challenge, as they face the possibility that petroleum demand could peak in the next decade.

Norwegian oil giant Equinor has promised carbon neutrality for its operations outside Norway by 2030 and a reduction to “near zero” of its emissions in Norway, where most of its activities are based, by 2050. The company also said that it was planning on acquiring more “wind acreage” for offshore wind power farms. This will enable it to increase its renewable energy production to 4.0–6.0 gigawatts (GW) and then to between 12–16 GW by 2035.

The European British Petroleum (BP) Company says it will reduce carbon emissions — roughly the same as Britain’s annual emissions — to net zero by 2050. The net zero target does not cover crude and refined products that BP trades but which are initially brought out of the ground by other producers, a total which is much larger than the oil and gas BP produces itself. It says it aims to halve the carbon density of all energy that it trades by 2050.

Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has also pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050, matching a commitment by rival BP as climate change looms large over the energy sector. The company said it planned to have net zero emissions from the manufacture of all its products by 2050 “at the latest”. Shell will look to reduce what it described as the “net carbon footprint” of its energy products by around 65 percent by 2050, and by 30 percent by 2035. It will also try and pivot towards serving businesses and sectors that also aim for net-zero emissions by 2050.

World demand for power has outweighed the growth in clean energy leading to a rise in global emissions. Setting a mid-century goal and a concrete strategy for meeting it are crucial steps for guiding the global low carbon transition. Decarbonization strategies have to be honest — building up a variety of alternative fuel sources, phasing out coal, electrifying and instituting efficiency measures for transport and buildings, and exchanging technology and knowledge to do so are among the ways available for driving the low-carbon transition.

The majority of countries in Europe back the adoption of a net-zero GHG emissions goal — and with further steps to address remaining concerns from the few that have stalled it, there is a strong indication that the region can continue to lead on climate. Every country’s commitment to long-term decarbonization and enhancing their national climate plans — or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) — is an important step in the right direction to a much-needed transformation.



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