ConocoPhillips Has An Ambition Is to Be Net-Zero by 2050-ish — It's a Start

Foley Hoag LLP - Environmental Law
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Foley Hoag LLP - Environmental Law

Last week, ConocoPhillips announced a goal of reducing its emissions to net-zero by 2045-2055.  It’s a significant step and so it is important to note both what is in the plan and what is not.

First, what is in the plan?

  • ConocoPhillips has set a 2030 target of reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 35%-45%
  • It has an “ambition” to be net-zero by 2045-2055
  • It has signed on to a World Bank initiative to eliminate routine flaring by 2030
  • It will implement continuous methane emissions detection
  • It addresses emissions from the use of its products by supporting the Carbon Leadership Council – which presumably means supporting the CLC proposal for a “Carbon Dividends Plan”

All of these are good steps.  What’s missing?  There are two very important qualifications to the ConocoPhillips plan:

  • The plan only covers Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. In other words, it does not address emissions from ConocoPhillips customers when they combust ConocoPhillips products
  • Even the net-zero goal for its operational emissions is phrased only as an “ambition” and not as a “commitment”

So how meaningful is this announcement?  I’m firmly in the scientific camp that says we have to be as aggressive as possible.  In that light, this announcement falls short of what is necessary.

At the same time, I’m also firmly in the camp that says we need to encourage corporations with large carbon footprints to start taking steps in advance of federal legislation that would drive us towards net-zero emissions economy-wide.  For that reason, I applaud the ConocoPhillips announcement and wait for the start of a serious game of leapfrog, as each big energy producer makes ever-more aggressive carbon reduction commitments.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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