Oil giants want to plant their way to Net Zero

10 July 2020 — DeSmog UK

You’d be hard-pressed to find an environmentalist who doesn’t want to see more of the planet covered in forests – there’s a reason why that “tree-hugger” label has stuck over the years.

Given all their carbon dioxide absorbing potential, any efforts to plant more trees should be warmly welcomed by climate campaigners, surely?

It doesn’t matter who’s doing the planting, right? Individuals in their back garden, councils, national governments, companies, you name it. Even if the oil industry grabbed a spade and started helping out, you’d pat them on the back, wouldn’t you?

Well, it turns out that’s exactly what’s been happening, as an investigation we published this week shows.

European oil giants have begun spending millions on “nature-based solutions”, with Shell leading the pack: the company last year pledged to invest $300 million in “natural ecosystems”.

Environmental groups have concerns, to put it mildly, and some are accusing the companies of greenwashing their fundamentally unsustainable activities.

For a start, the amounts of money being put into the schemes are tiny compared with what Big Oil spends on new fossil fuel developments every year, and nowhere near enough to offset the emissions these produce.

Experts also warn that trees only gradually absorb CO2 over decades and decades, when we need action now. To make matters worse, there’s no guarantee they’ll survive all that time anyway.

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s a completely lost cause – if the right rules are put in place, experts say, there’s potential.

But they also planting trees is no substitute for moving away from fossil fuels as fast as possible. We need both.

As Tracey Cameron from Ceres, an organisation which helps big investors force companies to become more sustainable, told DeSmog:

“If you’re just looking at offsetting business as usual and not changing your fundamental business model, it’s like eating a sundae on a treadmill.”

Dig into the full investigation:

The Problem with Big Oil’s ‘Forest Fever’

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  Elon Musk, Greta Thunberg, Rishi Sunak, Donald Trump — trees suddenly have an eclectic mix of fans, all drawn to the apparent simplicity of their carbon-locking power. Now Big Oil has joined the party, in a big way.

Over the past year, BP, Total, Eni, Equinor and ConocoPhillips have invested millions of dollars in forest projects to offset their greenhouse gas emissions. Shell, in particular, has taken a lead, promising to spend $300 million on “natural ecosystems” as part of its market-leading net-zero emissions plan. Read more…

UK Offered £760m of Support to Overseas Fossil Fuel Projects Last Year

  The UK has provided up to £760 million worth of financial support for “climate-wrecking” fossil fuel projects around the world in the past year, compared with six schemes related to renewable energy, according to analysis by the campaign group Global Witness.

Data published by the government’s export credit agency at the end of June show the Department for International Trade helped to finance a total of 51 oil and gas projects. Read more…

Church of England Fund Drops Remaining Fossil Fuel Investments

  One of the Church of England’s three investing bodies has quietly sold its last remaining shares in fossil fuels, worth an estimated £8.4 million, DeSmog UK has learned.

CCLA, a leading fund manager which invests on behalf of charities including Anglican dioceses, said it had dropped its investments in oil giants Shell and Total earlier in the year for financial reasons. Read more…


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