New research reveals the true quality of Chevron’s purchased carbon offsets associated with the oil company’s net zero climate action plan. The analysis, as reported by the Guardian, is published by Corporate Accountability – a non-profit, transnational corporate watchdog and is titled “Destruction is at the heart of everything we do: Chevron’s junk climate action agenda and how it intensifies global harm.”
After analyzing Chevron’s carbon offsets bought and counted towards its climate targets from voluntary carbon markets between 2020 and 2022, the report concludes that 93% of these offsets are too environmentally problematic to be classified as legitimate and are considered worthless.
According to the analysis, between 2020 and 2022 Chevron “retired” or cashed in 5.8 million carbon credits mostly through four major voluntary carbon market project registries. About half of them are associated with hydroelectric dams.
Two projects that Chevron has selected to purchase offsets from are large hydropower dams in El Quimbo and Sogamoso – both in Columbia. The projects have been accused of flooding, forced displacement and serious acts of violence, according to Andrés Gómez Orozco from Censat, a Colombian environmental group.
Because of the controversies associated with projects like large-scale plantations and large hydroelectric dams, they are categorized as having low environmental integrity. It appears likely that these projects don’t lead to additional emissions reductions and are associated with risks like environmental damage, land disputes, and increased poverty.
Chevron has based a large proportion of all the company’s carbon offset programs in Columbia where the company also continues to expand its fossil fuel operations.
“This essential report unmasks the tactics and lobbying used by Chevron in order to keep expanding its fossil fuel extraction operations on one hand, while telling the world that it’s offsetting its emissions by investing in projects in Colombia that we know don’t work,” said Gómez, a petroleum and geothermal engineer in Censat’s energy and climate justice program.
Chevron responded in a statement saying: “The majority of the offsets referred to in the report are compliance-grade offsets accepted by governments in the regions where we operate.”
The report by Corporate Accountability also accused Chevron of greenwashing tactics. The company announced in 2021 it aspires to achieve net zero upstream emissions (Scope 1 and 2) by a 2050, yet it continues to invest heavily in fossil fuel expansion and set aside a very small proportion of its record profits towards green initiatives.
The company is planning to invest $57.4 billion in oil expansion by the end of 2030 and allocate less than a quarter of 1% of its capital expenditure on low-carbon investments like carbon capture and storage technologies. The company hit record profits in 2022 but it appears the money will not be spent on decarbonization or an energy transition but rather continued fossil fuel expansion.
According to the analysis, Chevron also spent millions of dollars lobbying the US government on more than 150 bills or issues which were mostly against policies that would either have strengthened climate accountability and emissions-reducing activities, or efforts promoting carbon offsets and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Chevron’s largest carbon capture and storage project – the Gorgon gas facility in Western Australia is an example of the company’s failure to mitigate part of its carbon footprint via CCS, as the project had missed its capture target by 50% during its first five years.
“All of this comes down to the fact that Chevron and its peers refuse to change their business model, even in the face of the greatest threat we’ve ever faced,” commented Bill McKibben, environmentalist and founder of 350.org and ThirdAct.org.
The majority of fossil fuel companies continue to invest heavily in business-as-usual expansion ignoring their negative impact on life on the planet, refusing to change their business model and transition to a green future. An increased push is needed towards expanding clean energy, green infrastructure and real emission reduction projects, with or without participation from the oil and gas industry.