by Ian Angus
“Net Zero” is the misleading name given to schemes under which polluters keep on polluting and “offset” their greenhouse gas emissions by investing in projects that supposedly reduce emissions elsewhere. In practice, the reductions are at best hypothetical, and often non-existent. A recent investigation by The Guardian found that 90% of the rainforest offset projects run by Verra Carbon Standard, the largest offsetting company, are worthless: “Only a handful of Verra’s rainforest projects showed evidence of deforestation reductions … with further analysis indicating that 94% of the credits had no benefit to the climate.”
This week, the non-profit group Corporate Accountability published a devastating report on one of the largest users of Verra’s offsets, Chevron Corporation. Destruction is at the heart of everything we do demonstrates that Chevron Corporation’s ‘net zero’ plan actually avoids emission reductions and harms communities and ecosystems, particularly in the Global South.
Chevron’s 2022 revenues totaled US$227.1 billion, making it the world’s seventh-largest oil company. Corporate Accountability describes its actions as a “triple threat” — junk offsets, reckless expansion, and policy obfuscation.
The report’s findings include:
- More than 90% of the carbon offsets Chevron has retired through the voluntary carbon market to ‘cancel out’ its emissions appear worthless — presumed junk until proven otherwise.
- The company’s ‘low carbon’ schemes appear to be failing to capture the emissions promised, in some cases missing targets by 50%.
- A major proportion of the schemes it is investing in as part of its ‘net zero’ plan are linked to claims of local community abuse and environmental degradation.
- Chevron’s ‘net zero’ pledge — even if fully implemented to the greatest effect without causing harm — omits 90% of the total emissions associated with its business practices.
- Chevron ignores the scientifically founded need for a fossil fuel phase out, projecting emissions for 2022-2025 equivalent to 10 European countries.
In 2022, Chevron’s total greenhouse gas emissions were 725 million tonnes CO2 equivalent, up from 672 the previous year. At the same time as it is ramping up emission-intensive production, it plans to offset only 10 million tonnes, down from the 13 million it promised in 2021.
Real Zero, not greenwashed ‘net zero,’ is essential. As the Corporate Accountability report concludes, it’s time to reject the big polluters’ agenda and implement programs that rapidly phase out fossil fuels and truly eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.