Despite committing to achieving net zero emissions, Woodside has significantly increased its investment in oil and gas exploration.
Woodside Energy, the biggest oil and gas company in Australia, has broadened its attention towards searching for fossil fuels and has raised its emissions of greenhouse gases since declaring its goal of achieving net zero emissions as an “aspiration”.
According to a report by the Australian Conservation Foundation, Woodside’s expenditure on exploration for new oil and gas reserves was $160 million in 2019. This amount decreased to $96 million in 2021 due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, but then increased to $418 million in 2022.
The increase was mainly caused by the corporation acquiring BHP’s worldwide oil and gas properties in the middle of 2022. This occurred after the company announced its goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.
The objective only includes emissions from “scope 1” and “scope 2” – those produced by its activities and in producing the electricity it consumes. Woodside reported a reduction of 11% in these emissions in 2022, compared to the average from 2016 to 2020.
The report from the conservation foundation, published on Monday, stated that the reported decrease in emissions was achieved by purchasing controversial carbon offsets, primarily through investments in land-based conservation initiatives. However, the carbon pollution released into the atmosphere from the company’s operations actually increased by 3%.
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According to the report, Woodside’s stated goal did not account for 92% of their impact on the climate crisis. This is because it failed to address the “scope 3” emissions caused by the consumption of the company’s oil and gas by their customers, primarily in North Asia.
Audrey van Herwaarden, the corporate environmental performance analyst for the foundation, accused Woodside of making false claims about reducing climate pollution while simultaneously expanding their fossil fuel operations. She warned that this “net zero greenwashing” could have dire consequences for our ability to address global warming, as it diverts attention and postpones effective action.
Woodside’s strategy for growth involves the development of the Scarborough and Browse gas fields located off the coast of northern Western Australia, as well as the extension of its North West Shelf gas processing facility on the Burrup peninsula until the year 2070. In addition, the company has plans for oil ventures in Senegal and the Gulf of Mexico.
A representative from Woodside stated on Friday that the company’s strategies, actions, advancements, and data related to climate change are outlined in a report for 2022 and will be revised in their 2023 plan for transitioning to a more sustainable climate, which is set to be published later this month.
The CEO of the company, Meg O’Neill, has stated that they offer dependable, cost-effective, and eco-friendly energy. The gas industry in Australia claims to be aiding in tackling the issue of climate change by replacing coal with lower-emission gas, but they have not presented evidence to support this claim.
Based on data from Our World in Data, the amount of electricity generated from coal-fired power plants in Japan, which is the largest market for Australian gas, has not decreased despite a substantial increase in gas generation.
According to Climate Analytics, the use of gas has increased significantly as the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide in the past decade. Although gas is projected to remain a prominent energy source for many years, the International Energy Agency’s world energy outlook suggests that investments in oil and gas must be reduced by approximately 50% by 2030 in order to achieve net zero emissions by the middle of the century.
Van Herwaarden stated that while nature restoration projects are valuable, they cannot fully mitigate the impact of burning oil and gas on the climate.
A United Nations export committee has determined that in order to prevent greenwashing in net zero emissions promises, significant efforts must be made to reduce absolute emissions by 2030. This includes implementing carbon offsets, which allow organizations and governments to pay for emission reductions in other areas instead of reducing their own pollution, only for additional cuts beyond the required amount.
According to the group, using offsets would not be a valid reason for expanding the use of fossil fuels if governments and companies are truly committed to achieving the objectives set forth in the 2015 Paris agreement.