‘Nugatory’: Chevron’s carbon offsets are principally junk and a few might hurt, analysis says | Local weather disaster

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The Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California.

A brand new investigation into Chevron’s local weather pledge has discovered the fossil gas firm depends on “junk” carbon offsets and “unviable” applied sciences, which do little to offset its huge greenhouse fuel emissions and in some instances may very well be inflicting communities hurt.

Chevron, which reported $35.5bn in income final 12 months, is the US’s second-largest fossil gas firm with operations stretching from Canada and Brazil to the UK, Nigeria and Australia.

Regardless of main expansions in 5 continents, Chevron has stated that it “aspires” to realize internet zero upstream emissions by 2050. To do that, it’s principally counting on carbon offset schemes – environmental initiatives meant to cancel out its greenhouse fuel emissions – and carbon seize and storage (CCS) applied sciences.

New research by Corporate Accountability, a nonprofit, transnational company watchdog, discovered that 93% of the offsets Chevron purchased and counted in direction of its local weather targets from voluntary carbon markets between 2020 and 2022 had been too environmentally problematic to be categorised as something aside from nugatory or junk.

A carbon offset is characterised as having low environmental integrity, or being nugatory, if it’s linked to a forest or plantation or inexperienced power venture, together with these involving hydroelectric dams, that doesn’t result in further greenhouse fuel reductions, exaggerates advantages or dangers emitting emissions, amongst different measures.

Lots of Chevron’s offset purchases deal with forests, plantations or massive dams.

In keeping with the report shared solely with the Guardian, virtually half of Chevron’s “nugatory” offsets are additionally linked to alleged social and environmental harms – principally in communities within the world south that are additionally usually probably the most affected by the local weather disaster.

“Chevron’s junk local weather motion agenda is harmful and reckless, particularly in mild of local weather science underscoring the one viable manner ahead is an equitable and pressing fossil gas phase-out,” stated Rachel Rose Jackson from Company Accountability.

The report, Destruction Is on the Coronary heart of Every little thing We Do, comes amid per week of world protests by communities affected by Chevron’s oil and fuel companies, because the California-headquartered firm prepares for its annual shareholders assembly on 31 Could.

On Sunday in Richmond, a majority Black and brown metropolis of 115,000 folks simply north-east of San Francisco, activists gathered in entrance of the sprawling Chevron oil refinery. In 2012, 15,000 folks required medical assist after an enormous fireplace attributable to the corporate’s felony negligence. Bronchial asthma charges are far greater in Richmond than the state and nationwide averages.

The Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California.
The Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California. {Photograph}: Chuck Nacke/Alamy

The report argues that the widespread use of nugatory offsets severely undermines Chevron’s local weather motion ambition, which in any case is proscribed to a tiny fraction of its enterprise. Chevron’s internet zero aspiration solely applies to lower than 10% of the corporate’s carbon footprint – the upstream emissions from the manufacturing and transport of oil and fuel, whereas excluding downstream or finish use emissions from burning fossil fuels to warmth properties, energy factories and drive vehicles.

“Any local weather plan that’s premised on offsets, CCS, and excludes scope 3 [downstream] emissions is certain to fail,” stated Steven Feit, fossil financial system authorized and analysis supervisor on the Heart for Worldwide Environmental Regulation. “It’s clear from this report and different analysis that internet zero as a framework opens the door for claims of local weather motion whereas persevering with with enterprise as traditional, and never transferring in direction of a low-carbon Paris [agreement]-aligned 1.5-degree future.”

Chevron’s projected emissions between 2022 and 2025 are equal to the emissions from 364 coal-fired energy crops yearly – and dwarf the overall emissions of 10 European nations mixed for the same three-year interval: Austria, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Lithuania, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Iceland.

The Guardian despatched Chevron detailed questions concerning the report’s findings, however the firm declined to remark.

Chevron’s net zero goals, scopes 1 through 3

It’s the newest analysis to name out carbon offsets and carbon seize as false local weather options, on condition that each allow – even encourage – polluters to maintain emitting greenhouse gases.

Earlier this 12 months, a Guardian investigation revealed that the forest carbon offsets accepted by Verra, the world’s main certifier which is utilized by Disney, Gucci, Shell and Chevron, are principally junk and will make world heating worse.

Consultants say that the findings shine a lightweight on the broader technique to undermine and delay significant local weather motion. “That is how we lose a planet: by means of company dishonesty and obstruction,” stated local weather scientist Peter Kalmus.

“This deeply documented historical past of greenwashing and malfeasance ought to make each human on Earth who isn’t paid by the fossil gas business livid,” added Kalmus, a knowledge scientist at Nasa.


The Worldwide Power Company (IEA) warned again in 2021 that there could possibly be no additional growth of oil, fuel and coal manufacturing if the world is to remain inside the secure limits of world heating at 1.5C and have any likelihood of avoiding catastrophic local weather breakdown.

But fossil gas corporations akin to Chevron have continued to increase apace, and a latest examine discovered that the world is on observe for a rise of two.7C, which can result in “phenomenal” human struggling.

In recent times, huge quantities of time and assets have been invested into schemes and applied sciences that commerce, cap and seize – moderately than lower – greenhouse fuel emissions.

As we speak’s report into Chevron’s local weather motion discovered:

1. Chevron depends virtually completely on junk carbon credit to offset its upstream greenhouse fuel emissions

A carbon offset credit score is a tradable “proper” or certificates that permits the purchaser to compensate for 1 ton of carbon dioxide or the equal in greenhouse gases by investing in emissions-reducing environmental initiatives elsewhere.

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The voluntary carbon offsets market is worth $2bn – and rising quickly – regardless of little proof of constructive local weather impression.

Between 2020 and 2022, Chevron “retired” or cashed in 5.8m carbon credit – principally by means of 4 main voluntary carbon market venture registries, in line with the AlliedOffsets database.

Company Accountability discovered that just about the entire carbon offsets Chevron purchased and counted in direction of its local weather targets had “low environmental integrity” and will subsequently be presumed to be junk.

Tasks categorized as junk offsets embody these licensed by a carbon customary with demonstrated low environmental integrity.

Analysis of Chevron’s carbon credit projects

Virtually one-third of Chevron’s voluntary carbon market credit had been cashed in by means of Verra’s “verified carbon customary” registry – the world’s leading carbon standard. The Guardian investigation discovered that over 90% of Verra’s rainforest offset credit – among the many mostly utilized by corporations – are more likely to be illusory. Verra has rejected the findings as “vastly overstated”.

Giant scale plantations and enormous hydroelectric dams had been amongst Chevron’s different offset initiatives additionally categorized as having low environmental integrity. This was as a result of it seems probably that the initiatives don’t result in further emissions reductions that wouldn’t have occurred in any other case, danger truly releasing (moderately than absorbing) emissions, overexaggerate venture impacts or contain underpriced credit.

Activists in Ecuador affected by Chevron’s business activities demand accountability and justice.
Activists in Ecuador affected by Chevron’s enterprise actions demand accountability and justice. {Photograph}: Union of Folks Affected by Texaco (UDAPT)

This comes as no shock for communities impacted by Chevron’s oil and fuel operations. “Chevron’s shareholders hold signing off on the continued toxification and destruction of communities in Richmond, Africa, Ecuador, Australia – all around the globe,” stated Katt Ramos, 43, managing director of Richmond Our Energy Coalition. “It’s laughable that we’d look to an organization inflicting a lot hurt for the options.”

2. Chevron more and more depends on massive hydropower dams for offsets

About half of the carbon offsets that Chevron purchased between 2020 and 2022 are related to hydroelectric dams.

Studies have discovered that enormous dams don’t result in new or further emissions reductions, and in some instances have been related to land disputes, elevated poverty and environmental harm – together with substantial greenhouse fuel emissions. A 2019 study discovered that “some hydropower reservoirs are literally carbon sinks … whereas others have carbon footprints equal to or higher than fossil fuels.”

Chart showing share of Chevron’s carbon offsets 2020-2022

Chevron’s offsets embody two massive hydropower dams in Colombia – El Quimbo and Sogamoso – which have each been mired in allegations of main flooding, pressured displacement and severe acts of violence, in line with Andrés Gómez Orozco from Censat, a Colombian environmental group.

Chevron continues to increase its fossil gas operations in Colombia – one of the crucial lethal nations on the planet for environmental activists and one of the crucial weak to the impacts of the local weather disaster – with two main offshore exploration initiatives within the Caribbean.

It’s additionally the place a big proportion of all the corporate’s carbon offset applications are primarily based. “This important report unmasks the techniques and lobbying utilized by Chevron as a way to hold increasing its fossil gas extraction operations on one hand, whereas telling the world that it’s offsetting its emissions by investing in initiatives in Colombia that we all know don’t work,” stated Gómez, a petroleum and geothermal engineer in Censat’s power and local weather justice program.

3. Chevron makes claims about its inexperienced credentials – whereas increasing its oil enterprise

Regardless of Chevron’s “aspiration” to turn into internet zero by 2050, it’s planning to speculate $57.4bn in oil expansion by the top of 2030.

Amid document income in 2022, Chevron spent tens of millions of {dollars} lobbying the US authorities on greater than 150 payments or points – principally towards insurance policies that may both have strengthened local weather accountability and emissions-reducing actions, or for efforts selling carbon offsets and carbon seize and storage (CCS).

But virtually half of Chevron’s public communications embody inexperienced claims, in line with research by InfluenceMap – regardless of allocating lower than 1 / 4 of 1% of its capital expenditure on low-carbon investments like CCS applied sciences.

CCS has a “lengthy historical past of “overpromising and underdelivering”, in line with the Heart for Worldwide Regulation lawyer Steven Feit.

Chevron’s Gorgon fuel facility in Western Australia is the positioning of the world’s largest industrial CCS venture, which throughout its first 5 years missed its carbon seize targets by about 50%. The Guardian just lately reported that emissions on the fuel facility have truly risen by 50%.

“As this report makes clear, these offsets and sequestration schemes don’t work, are an affront to physics and economics in addition to justice, and function cowl for but extra growth of their enterprise,” stated Invoice McKibben, environmentalist and founding father of 350.org and ThirdAct.org. “All of this comes all the way down to the truth that Chevron and its friends refuse to alter their enterprise mannequin, even within the face of the best menace we’ve ever confronted.”