Fifty oil and gas companies, representing more than 40 per cent of global oil production, made pledges on methane and carbon dioxide at the Cop28 climate conference on Saturday.
The companies, of which 60 per cent are national oil companies, signed on 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 charter was launched by the Cop28 Presidency and Saudi Arabia at the UN climate summit as part of efforts to decarbonise the oil and gas industry, which directly and indirectly accounts for 42 per cent of global emissions.
The signatories include national oil companies such as the UAE's Adnoc, Bahrain's Bapco Energies and Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil-exporting company.
Italy's Eni, ExxonMobil, Occidental Petroleum, Shell and TotalEnergies were among the international oil majors that signed the charter.
The Cop28 Presidency also said it would mobilise $1 billion for methane abatement projects.
“The launch of the OGDC is a great first step – and while many national oil companies have adopted net-zero 2050 targets for the first time, I know that they and others, can and need to do more. We need the entire industry to keep 1.5°C within reach and set even stronger ambitions for decarbonisation,” said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Cop28 President.
“I am committed to both inclusivity and transparency. If we want to accelerate progress across the climate agenda, we must bring everyone in to be accountable and responsible for climate action,” said Dr Al Jaber, who is also UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology.
After CO2 emissions, methane is the second largest contributor to climate change, caused by humans. It is a greenhouse gas that warms up quickly, more than 80 times faster than carbon dioxide.
Climate experts say that reducing the international output of methane emissions is the most effective and least disruptive way to slow down the increase in global temperatures over the next few decades.
"The announcement mentions investing in energy systems for the future but all oil and gas companies are already doing this. It’s about how much they are doing, compared to fossil fuel developments," said Antony Froggatt, deputy director of the Environment and Society Centre at Chatham House.
Investments worth $75 billion will be required to reduce global oil and gas methane emissions by 2030 under the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero by 2050 scenario.
Major polluters yet to make pledge
More than 150 countries participated in the Global Methane Pledge that was launched at Cop26 in 2021.
The pledge aims to achieve a reduction of methane emissions by at least 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030.
However, India, Russia and China, who are among the world’s largest methane emitters, have stayed out of it.
The US, the world's largest oil producer, on Saturday announced final rules aimed at cracking down on the oil and gas sector's releases of the gas.
The safeguards are expected to reduce tens of millions of tonnes of methane and other pollutants from oil and gas leaks, venting and flaring.
Global oil companies have been investing billions of dollars into carbon capture technology and hydrogen as part of their decarbonisation plans, but the IEA has warned against “excessive expectations and reliance” on carbon capture or storage.
If oil and natural gas consumption were to evolve as projected under the current policy settings, this would require an “inconceivable” 32 billion tonnes of carbon capture utilisation and storage by 2050, including 23 billion tonnes through direct air capture, the Paris-based agency said in a report last month.
“The idea that the oil and gas producers can carry on doing what they do, while diverting some emissions through massive deployment of CCUS is, I will say, a fantasy. It will never happen. The numbers don't add up,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director said.
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 reduce 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.
The Cop28 Presidency said that more than 110 countries had signed the global renewables and energy efficiency pledge.
The countries will commit to work together to triple the world’s current renewable energy generation capacity to at least 11,000 gigawatts by 2030, considering “different starting points and national circumstances.”
They will also aim to double the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements to 4 per cent from 2 per cent currently amid efforts to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C, the key Paris Agreement goal.
"We should see it as providing momentum, a means not an end, for landing the global target to triple renewable energy by 2030," said Andreas Sieber, associate director of policy at environmental organisation 350.org.
"It is crucial that the global renewable energy transition occurs at the scale and speed necessary and does not exclude wide parts of the Global South substantial support,” Mr Sieber said.