Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

36 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

For Immediate Release


Josh Eisenfeld, Corporate Accountability Campaign Manager 

Press Release

Report: Oil & gas majors overstate their climate emissions reductions by factor of two

The same companies that say they are in line with the Paris Agreements are not providing data to back it up, falling far short of IPCC targets, and reducing their emissions by passing them off to other companies and claiming them as progress.

A new report released today by Earthworks tracks climate commitments from eight of the leading oil and gas companies operating in the United States—Shell, bp, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Equinor, Occidental, TotalEnergies, and ConocoPhillips—and compares their rhetoric to actions taken to reduce global climate pollution.

The “Tricks of the Trade - Oil and Gas Accountability Report” finds that in 2021 between 40-60% of the claimed emissions reductions for Shell, Bp, Total, and ConocoPhillips were from divestiture of polluting assets, which means that, while pollution emissions disappear from major producers' books, it does not reduce pollution in our atmosphere.

Additionally the report finds:

  • Every company’s climate ambitions fall far short of the IPCC’ directive to cut emissions in half by the end of the decade.
  • No company is providing the data necessary to compare its commitments to reality or to understand what they are committing to in terms of total emissions, especially for their most immediate and critical 2030 goals. Additionally, climate commitments lack consistency in vernacular and reporting, making accountability extremely difficult.
  • Every company is calculating emissions reductions using a reporting process which is known to underestimate methane emissions by as much as 100%.
  • Every company is falling short of achieving the goals they have set.

“By passing off their pollution rather than reducing it, oil and gas companies are showing us why the cannot be part of the solution and signaling that they care more about their image than the climate." said Josh Eisenfeld, Corporate Accountability Campaign Manager at Earthworks. “At best what we found was a small handful of companies are making inadequate climate commitments, providing inadequate data transparency, and continuing their long history of deceptive PR tricks.”

The report includes climate commitments from each company in their own words and where possible attempts to calculate what those commitments mean in terms of absolute emissions reductions. It also compares those estimates to important IPCC benchmarks that must be hit to keep global warming below 1.5 °C.

The report also examines common industry trends that help companies overstate their emission reductions or create an illusion of progress. The contrast between companies' actions and words at a time when the IPCC is signaling a code red for humanity demonstrates that strong government intervention is needed immediately to reduce methane emissions and begin a managed decline of fossil fuels.

“Solving the climate crisis will require strong government intervention on multiple fronts ” said Lauren Pagel, Policy Director at Earthworks. “There is an opportunity and an urgent need for the Biden Administration to quickly correct the problems the oil and gas industry has created by declaring a climate emergency and beginning a managed decline of fossil fuels.”

Quotes by Endorsing Organizations:

"Fossil fuel industry greenwashing has become one of the greatest barriers to climate action. These 'tricks of the trade' show how oil companies use deceptive language and false promises to pretend they're solving the climate crisis, when in reality they're only making it worse. Policymakers should study this report closely and get to work on solutions that really work: keeping fossil fuels in the ground and transitioning to 100% renewable energy for all."  - Jamie Henn, Fossil Free Media Director 

"Merely abiding by existing regulations does not provide residents adequate protection from the pathways that lead to health consequences of exposure to the toxicity present in the oil and gas industry, nor will mere adherence to existing regulations protect us from the broader impacts of climate change." - Tammy Murphy, Medical Advocacy Director 

"Our Latino communities must be protected from the disproportionate hardship that fossil fuel extraction imposes upon them. This report underscores the deception that oil companies have been leading around reducing emissions and sends a clear signal that regulations are essential to keep our communities safe. Ultimately, our families won't be safe until there is no more extraction happening on our ancestral lands" - Irene Burga, Climate Justice and Clean Air Program Director

"Major fossil fuel polluters are continuing exploration, hoarding leases, increasing production, and dodging responsibility for emissions from their products.  They then cloak this failure in deliberately misleading "zero emissions" claims meant to deceive the public and policymakers. This report is another wake up call that these lying corporations must be held accountable."
- Richard Wiles, CCI President 


Earthworks is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while promoting sustainable solutions.

'We Will Fight! We Will Win!': Nearly 200 Abortion Rights Defenders Arrested in DC

"If people don't see the rage," said one woman at the protest, "nothing changes."

Jon Queally ·

Federal Abortion Ban Desired by GOP Would Increase Maternal Deaths by 24%: Study

"Pregnancy shouldn't kill people—in fact, in other rich countries it very rarely does," said the lead author of the new analysis.

Jake Johnson ·

Naomi Klein: The US Is in the Midst of a 'Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup'

"The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over," warned the author of "The Shock Doctrine."

Jake Johnson ·

Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·

Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo