Sustainable Energy

Oil giant BP says it wants to have net-zero emissions by 2050

Key Points
  • BP's announcement sparked questions from environmental groups.
  • The oil and gas giant has a new CEO in the shape of Bernard Looney.
A BP company logo is displayed on a fuel pump on the forecourt of a gas station operated by BP Plc in London, U.K.
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Oil and gas major BP said Wednesday it was aiming to become "a net zero company by 2050 or sooner," adding that it also wanted to "help the world get to net zero."

In an announcement detailing its plans, BP listed a number of aims it had for the business. These included: Cutting the carbon intensity of products it sells by 50% by 2050 or earlier; installing methane measurement at its major oil and gas processing sites by the year 2023 and halving the methane intensity of operations; and upping the proportion of its investment in non-oil and gas businesses.

In order to push the world toward net zero, BP said it would undertake actions such as "more active advocacy" for policies supportive of net zero, like carbon pricing.

"The world's carbon budget is finite and running out fast; we need a rapid transition to net zero," new CEO Bernard Looney said in a statement.

"We all want energy that is reliable and affordable, but that is no longer enough," he added. "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."

BP said its goal to be a net-zero business covered, on an absolute basis, greenhouse gas emissions from global operations as well as the carbon in the oil and gas it generates. "This is what we mean by making BP net zero," Looney said. "It directly addresses all the carbon we get out of the ground as well as all the greenhouse gases we emit from our operations. These will be absolute reductions, which is what the world needs."

A note from Wells Fargo Securities' Equity Research group described BP's move as a "modestly positive event" for the company.

"By directly addressing the ESG elephant-in-the-room with a clear forward path BP may see a greater universe of potential investors willing to kick the tires on this carbon-intensive sector," the note said.

"Alternatively, some investors that might have encountered pressure to dispose of direct investment in oil & gas may get a reprieve."

BP's announcement did, however, spark questions from environmental groups. "BP's 'ambitions' and 'aims' all seem to apply to Looney's successors, and leave the urgent questions unanswered," Charlie Kronick, oil advisor at Greenpeace U.K., said in a statement.

"How will they reach net zero? Will it be through offsetting? When will they stop wasting billions on drilling for new oil and gas we can't burn? What is the scale and schedule for the renewables investment they barely mention? And what are they going to do this decade, when the battle to protect our climate will be won or lost."