BP sets target to become net carbon zero by 2050

The new chief executive of BP has set out a plan to “reinvent” the oil company within a new global energy system to help tackle climate change – to a mixed reaction.

Bernard Looney announced a series of ambitions as part of a shake-up, insisting “we want to change” though that pledge was ridiculed by climate activists.

BP said the strategy included a goal of becoming net carbon zero by 2050, if not before. It is the first oil major to make such a commitment.

But that target would not include eliminating the intensity of the carbon emissions in the products it sells.

BP said it aimed to slash those gases by 50% within 30 years.

Bernard Looney, the chief executive of BP, succeeded Bob Dudley. Pic: BP
Image: Bernard Looney, the chief executive of BP, succeeded Bob Dudley. Pic: BP

The company said it would scrap the traditional oil company model of upstream and downstream divisions to better concentrate the focus on change.

It essentially means bringing together the unit that currently extracts oil and gas with the unit that refines, trades and markets the product.

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There was a commitment too to increase the proportion of investment into non-oil and gas business, but Mr Looney admitted that would take place “over time”.

The chief executive outlined his plan as traditional energy companies come under heavy pressure from investors and climate activists to fall in line with the 2015 Paris climate accord which aims to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

BP has been no stranger to that backlash.

Police officers stand near activists locked to dirty oil barrels who have blocked BP's headquarters to mark the first day of the oil giant's new chief executive
Image: Activists locked themselves to dirty oil barrels in front of BP’s HQ last week

Just last week, Mr Looney’s first day in the job was overshadowed by a Greenpeace-led protest that shut down the company’s headquarters in London.

He said on Wednesday: “”The world’s carbon budget is finite and running out fast; we need a rapid transition to net zero.

“We all want energy that is reliable and affordable, but that is no longer enough. It must also be cleaner.

“To deliver that, trillions of dollars will need to be invested in replumbing and rewiring the world’s energy system.

“It will require nothing short of reimagining energy as we know it.

“This will certainly be a challenge, but also a tremendous opportunity.

“It is clear to me, and to our stakeholders, that for BP to play our part and serve our purpose, we have to change. And we want to change – this is the right thing for the world and for BP.”

Rachel Kennerley, climate campaigner at Friends of The Earth, said of the plan: “This is clearly an inadequate, as well as cynical, response to climate breakdown from one of the world’s biggest polluters.

“It’s an obvious, bare-faced act to maintain their dirty business and it’s this short-sighted vision that has contributed to the crisis we face.

“BP’s new plans, like its shiny sponsorship deal with the British Museum and hypocritical promises of future action, is a distraction.

“The world is burning, and they want to carry on supplying the fuel.

“Governments must call time on dirty gas, coal and oil, and on those companies wanting to keep the fossil-fuel addiction alive and kicking.”

But Edward Mason, head of responsible investment for the Church Commissioners at the Church of England, tweeted: “Many congratulations to @BP for announcing their ambition to become a net zero emissions company by 2050 or sooner – the first of the super majors to do so.

“This is the ambition that the world needs & that the Church Commissioners have called for #Leadership.”

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