New reporting Monday based on leaked internal documents reveals ExxonMobil has been planning to notably increase annual carbon dioxide emissions—a revelation that did not shock climate campaigners but still elicited fresh condemnation.
"To no one's surprise, Exxon is continuing to drive catastrophic climate change by putting profits before people and our planet," the advocacy group Food & Water Watch declared in response to the exclusive reporting by Bloomberg Green.
"What a slap in the face for fire-fighters, doctors, nurses, and frontline communities around the world," tweeted the nonprofit Avaaz. "The climate crisis is here, now—it's time for Exxon to wake up and smell the reality!"
Exxon has been planning to increase annual CO2 emissions by as much as the entire output of Greece, according to leaked documents reviewed by Bloomberg.
— Bloomberg QuickTake (@QuickTake) October 5, 2020
ExxonMobil, whose own scientists knew about the threat its products posed to the planet a half-century ago, has not publicly committed to lowering oil and gas output or disclosed its forecast emissions—even as European oil majors like BP and Royal Dutch Shell have announced net-zero goals, Bloomberg notes.
According to the leaked materials obtained by the outlet, ExxonMobil's internal assessment of a seven-year, $210 billion investment plan adopted in 2018 by CEO Darren Woods shows the company's annual CO2 emissions increasing 17%—or 21 million metric tons—by 2025 compared with 2017.
Absolutely huge story from @climate - leaked documents from @exxonmobil show that they plan to massively increase their emissions, sabotaging all of our efforts to fight climate change -->> https://t.co/1r3cIJUPbL pic.twitter.com/lZM9kWVtHb
— Ketan Joshi (@KetanJ0) October 5, 2020
As Bloomberg reports:
These internal estimates reflect only a small portion of Exxon's total contribution to climate change. Greenhouse gases from direct operations, such as those measured by Exxon, typically account for a fifth of the total at a large oil company; most emissions come from customers burning fuel in vehicles or other end uses, which the Exxon documents don't account for.
That means the full climate impact of Exxon's growth strategy would likely be five times the company's estimate—or about 100 million tons of additional carbon dioxide—had the company accounted for so-called Scope 3 emissions. If its plans are realized, Exxon would add to the atmosphere the annual emissions of a small, developed nation, or 26 coal-fired power plants.
The projections are "an early assessment that does not include additional mitigation and abatement measures that would have been considered as the next step in the process," ExxonMobil told Bloomberg in a statement. "The same planning document illustrates how we have been successful in mitigating emissions in the past."
The company also recognized the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic while ignoring indications from within in the industry that oil demand may have already peaked. "As demand returns and capital investments resume," the oil giant added, "our growth plans will continue to include meaningful emission mitigation efforts."
These "self-help" measures, as the company documents calls them, include carbon capture and storage, efforts to reduce methane leaks and flaring, and the use of renewable energy. According to Bloomberg, without factoring in such projects, "Exxon's direct emissions in 2025 would surge to 154 million tons of CO2 equivalent—a 26% increase from 2017 levels."
Richard Brooks, a campaign coordinator at the advocacy group 350.org, responded to the reporting on Twitter, writing, "I'm not surprised by this but I hope, please, that this puts to rest any belief that institutional shareholders 'engaging' @exxonmobil to try to get it change its stripes is NOT GOING TO WORK. The company is going the opposite way on #climate."
And all the rest of you pension funds and endowments who sign on to letters and resolutions at Exxon, pls #divest. @CalPERS @CalSTRS @ColoradoPERA @blackrock @cppinvestments @Harvard @NorgesBank @Vanguard_Group @LGIM
It must be embarrassing at a certain point, no?
— Richard Brooks (@RichBrooks350) October 5, 2020
Sharing a reaction from 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben—who said that "even among omnicidal oil companies, Exxon manages to stand out"—Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the company's plans "outrageous" and highlighted the THRIVE Agenda, a proposed green recovery from the pandemic which he unveiled last month with other Democratic lawmakers as well as labor unions and progressive groups.
We need to fight climate change and reduce fossil fuels, not let Exxon run rampant with emissions.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) October 5, 2020
Greenpeace USA climate campaign manager Anusha Narayanan suggested that Twitter users "reply with this article every time you get a greenwashing ad from @exxonmobil."
Meanwhile, other climate action advocates pointed to the reporting as further evidence that Bil Oil executives should be prosecuted.
we should probably arrest Exxon executives and put them on trial for crimes against humanity, in my opinion https://t.co/Xbd8okWJuk
— Rob (@robrousseau) October 5, 2020
Exxon understands and accepts the science of human-driven climate change.
Despite that, the company is planning on massively increasing emissions.
It's time to nationalize these oil companies and prosecute their executives.https://t.co/JnibdJfLJI
— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) October 5, 2020
"Exxon is conspiring to end life of this planet for the sake of profitable growth strategy," said Truthout's Candice Bernd. "This is a crime against humanity."
Bloomberg's exposé comes on the heels of a wave of climate lawsuits filed last month by local and state governments against fossil fuel giants, including ExxonMobil.
Writer Ketan Joshi noted a recent Oil Change International analysis that detailed the inadequacy of oil majors' climate pledges and charged that if they "were serious about the Paris agreement they would need to end new oil and gas exploration and extraction now and phase out production from existing developed reserves."
Exxon is easily the worst of the fossil fuel majors, btw. Here's a @PriceofOil estimate of future production. Also, Exxon and Chevron both score 'GROSSLY INSUFFICIENT' on every measure. https://t.co/rGL9LDUdpr pic.twitter.com/TnUyjyxZpP
— Ketan Joshi (@KetanJ0) October 5, 2020
Climate scientist Peter Kalmus took aim at the fossil fuel industry more broadly, tweeting Monday that "these people are literally greed-blinded genocidal maniacs, and that includes all the majors, not just Exxon."