Oil and gas should not be demonised in the short term, Elon Musk says

Gradually reducing carbon emissions over several decades is what really matters, billionaire says

Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, at the Atreju convention in Rome. Bloomberg
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Oil and gas should not be “demonised” in the short and medium term, Elon Musk, the founder and chief executive of electric vehicle maker Tesla said on Saturday, as climate activists continue to call for an urgent phase-out of fossil fuels.

“The climate change alarm is so much overblown in the short-term. It's still a concern in the long term, but I think it's exaggerated in the short term,” he told attendees at a political gathering in Italy.

The oil and gas industry directly and indirectly accounts for 42 per cent of global emissions.

Mr Musk said that the shift to a sustainable energy future would take “several decades”, but added that it would gradually happen.

His remarks came days after about 200 countries agreed to transition away from fossil fuels by 2050 at the Cop28 climate summit in the UAE.

The global stocktake calls for the speeding up of efforts towards the “phase-down of unabated coal power” and “phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”.

The International Energy Agency expects global demand for oil and gas to peak by 2030 with an increasing adoption of renewable energy technology and electric vehicles.

The current annual investment in the oil and gas sector of $800 billion is double what is required by 2030 in the 1.5°C scenario, the agency has said.

“What really matters is that over the long term, over the course of the next several decades, that we gradually reduce how many millions or billions of tonnes of carbon that we move from underground to the atmosphere,” Mr Musk said.

“Because we're running sort of a climate experiment that is dangerous.”

The Global Carbon Budget has forecast a record increase in carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels this year, mainly due to higher emissions from India and China.

Fifty oil and gas companies, representing more than 40 per cent of global oil production, made pledges on methane and carbon dioxide at Cop28.

The companies, of which 60 per cent are national oil companies, signed the Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter, which calls for net-zero emissions by 2050 or before.

They will also aim for “near-zero” upstream methane emissions and zero routine flaring by 2030.

The oil and gas charter is a part of the global decarbonisation accelerator, a series of initiatives aimed at speeding up the energy transition and drastically reducing global emissions.

It focuses on scaling the energy system of the future; decarbonising the existing energy system; and targeting methane and other non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

Updated: December 17, 2023, 6:26 AM