Africa: COP28 President’s ‘Hypocritical’ Oil Firm Failing to Acknowledge Full Extent of Their Carbon Footprint

The fossil fuel giant run by the president of the forthcoming UN climate summit – Sultan Al-Jaber – this week reported only a fraction of its carbon pollution, despite him saying companies need to “attack all emissions”, according to new analysis.

Taking into account emissions from burning the oil and gas it produces, Al-Jaber’s company, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), produced 14 times more emissions last year than it reported.

As president of COP28, Sultan Al-Jaber is charged with shepherding nations closer towards policies that will limit global heating to 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial levels, largely through sweeping cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Al-Jaber’s appointment as the UAE’s climate tsar has alarmed environmental groups as well as US and EU lawmakers.

In a first, ADNOC last week disclosed the emissions from producing its oil and gas for last year. These emissions – known as Scope 1 and 2 – amounted to 24 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2022, according to the company.

Greeting the announcement, the state-run Abu Dhabi media office heralded ADNOC’s disclosed emissions as an “industry-leading low carbon intensity achievement.”

Scope 1 and 2 emissions do not include pollution released when fossil fuels like oil and gas are burned for energy. These – known as Scope 3 – typically make up the vast majority of an oil company’s carbon footprint. Although most oil and gas majors do not traditionally track Scope 3, some such as BP and Chevron do include Scope 3 reductions in their climate targets.

Analysis of production data from Rystad Energy shows that ADNOC in 2022 produced over 650 million barrels of oil – enough to power China’s oil demand for six weeks – and over 40 billion cubic metres of gas.

Emissions from those products alone are calculated to just over 340 million tonnes of CO2 – more than the UK produces each year, and 14.1 times higher than the emissions the ADNOC disclosed this week.

Al-Jaber, who has called for nations to be “brutally honest” with each other during COP28, last month told senior officials from China, the EU and Canada that country and company emissions reductions plans must include “all emissions, everywhere. (Scope) 1, 2, and 3.”

“This is a classic case of hypocritical fossil fuel firms saying one thing and doing another,” said Patrick Galey, senior investigator at Global Witness, which conducted the analysis. “Sultan Al-Jaber is on one hand asking companies to include all emissions in their climate strategies, while his firm is patting itself on the back for disclosing only a tiny fraction of its true climate impact.

“Fossil fuels account for 90 percent of the carbon emissions that are heating the planet and inflicting misery and loss on millions of people. The climate doesn’t respond to clever accounting,” said Galey.

“While conceding publicly that a liveable future means cutting all emissions, Al-Jaber’s firm is refusing to acknowledge the vast majority of its products’ emissions as its own.”

Al-Jaber and ADNOC have been plagued by controversy since he was appointed as COP28 president in January. The company recently brought forward a planned production capacity increase from 4 million to 5 million barrels a day, prompting criticism from green groups.

ADNOC says it plans to invest $15 billion in low-carbon energy by 2030, and Al-Jaber has consistently stressed that energy companies have a key role to play helping the world achieve the emissions cuts needed to limit global heating to 1.5 Celsius – the goal outlined in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Al-Jaber, who is also head of renewable energy firm Masdar, told an energy conference in Houston in March that the energy sector needed to address its Scope 3 emissions.

“Making a dent in the climate crisis is not just about decarbonising oil and gas operations… the oil and gas industry has the capacity and the resources to help everyone address scope 3,” he said.

Methodology

  • The data on ADNOC’s oil and gas emissions for 2022 was sourced from energy business intelligence agency Rystad Energy’s UCube database. UCube is an integrated field-by-field database of the global upstream oil and gas market, covering the time span from 1900 to 2100. Rystad’s data is widely referenced by major oil and gas companies, the media and international bodies such as the IEA.
  • Using Rystad we ascertained that ADNOC produced 653.103 million barrels of oil equivalent in 2022, and 42.47363 billion cubic metres of gas
  • UCube takes into account oil and gas demand to project asset-level supply. Projections are based on data sources including company reporting (e.g., earnings and profits reporting) and policies, government sources, energy service reporting, energy agencies and academic research and news articles. Where reported data is unavailable, data is modelled based on the above sources and supported by a comprehensive database of global oil and gas fields.
  • We sourced the data of production from 2022. The data includes all assets that are currently producing, those under development (assets for which development has been approved but production has not yet started), and discovery (assets where discoveries have been made, but are not yet in a phase of further development). We did not include Rystad’s undiscovered life cycle category, which covers assets where discoveries have not yet been made.
  • The data covers only crude oil and gas production, not NGL and condensate, making these conservative production estimates. Please note that the carbon emissions relate to end-use emissions only ; it does not include the upstream emissions that arise from oil and gas production.

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