Oil Company Claims "Net Zero' Emissions Goal

CC BY-SA 2.0. Luca Mascaro

And yet it still plans to sell more oil...

It's already been established that I'm a stubborn optimist. In general, that optimism tends to extend itself to corporate greenwash efforts—I'd rather have even the most polluting of polluters doing something to reduce their impact, as every little bit makes the required lift a little lighter for the rest of us.

That said, news from Business Green that Italian oil major Eni is aiming for 'net zero' emissions should be met with a significant dose of skepticism. No doubt, the basic commitment to reducing operations-based emissions such as methane leaks, investing more in renewables, and then pouring considerable resources into major reforestation projects that could be sequestering as much as 20Mt a year of carbon emissions by 2030 is certainly a substantive move compared to previous "corporate responsibility" efforts by oil companies. But the fact that this commitment is accompanied by a promise to deliver 2.5 billion barrels of new oil by 2022 certainly puts a major damper on things.

Given the increasingly urgent nature of the climate crisis, it seems hard to reconcile the short-term expansion of emissions through oil expansion with the slow motion mitigation that's delivered through reforestation efforts. Yes, of course we have to plant more trees—but we also have to keep oil in the ground.

Still—optimism alert—I do see announcements like this as one more sign that the conversation is shifting. Much like the inadequate responses to climate strikes from law makers, even minor concessions are still a sign of a shifting balance of power.

So plant away, oil majors. And do keep putting money into renewables. Meanwhile the rest of us will do what we can to make your core business model obsolete.