Report pokes holes in fuel company plans for net zero

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson |

A study has called into question the net zero plans of major petrol companies servicing Australia.
A study has called into question the net zero plans of major petrol companies servicing Australia.

The net-zero plans of some major petrol companies understate their real emissions, rely on “dirty” energy sources to meet targets and fail to provide clear information to the public, a report claims.

Plans from eight major fuel companies that provide products in Australia have been analysed by the Fuelling the Climate Crisis study, released by the Environmental Defenders Office on Saturday.

And while it congratulated some of them for investing in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and identifying climate risks, the report found many of their energy transition plans featured serious flaws and one failed to publish any climate targets.

Environmental Defenders Office safe climate managing lawyer Kirsty Ruddock said the organisation decided to probe petrol companies to provide consumers with clear guidance about their climate targets.  

“The purpose of delving into these reports is saying ‘these are the tricks that companies are up to when they’re making their net-zero plans’, otherwise people might be misled by headline statements,” she said. 

“The average, everyday person who buys their fuel at Ampol or BP or wherever is not going to make distinctions.”

The report analysed decarbonisation plans from Ampol, BP Australia, United, Chevron Puma, ExxonMobil, Viva Energy, EG Group and 7-Eleven. 

All companies except 7-Eleven published net-zero and energy transition plans but many, the report found, featured problems or omissions. 

Most of the net-zero plans failed to detail plans to reduce scope-three emissions, it noted, which were “the biggest challenge for the fuel industry” and made up most of the pollution from their products.

Viva Energy’s net-zero plan, the report found, only detailed plans to address 3.5 per cent of the company’s emissions by excluding this measure, while Ampol’s plans only addressed 2.1 per cent of all emissions.

Ms Ruddock said failing to detail or address pollution caused by the petrol or diesel fuel they provided meant the companies were not fully addressing their climate impact. 

“The elephant in the room is scope-three emissions because we know it’s the motorists – whoever is putting petrol or diesel in their vehicle, burning it in their car – that is causing most of the emissions,” she said.

The EDO report also questioned BP Australia’s use of “fossil gas” to cut pollution, which it found was “not a much cleaner way of generating electricity” than using coal.

It also questioned ExxonMobil and Chevron’s use of non-green hydrogen, and Ampol, Viva, BP and Chevron’s reliance on carbon credits or offsets to meet emissions cuts.

The report did commend Ampol, Viva, EG Group, BP and United for committing to install electric vehicle charging stations, however, which the EDO called a sign “fuel retailers acknowledge the eventual need to shift to renewable, non-fossil fuel technologies”.

It comes days after the federal Treasury department launched a consultation into climate-related financial disclosures for large companies, and also follows draft guidance from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission into how businesses can avoid greenwashing. 

The ACCC’s recommendations include eight principles such as detailing evidence-backed goals, explaining qualifications, and avoiding broad claims.

Consultation on the Treasury guidelines are due to close on December 1, with rules expected to begin in July 2024.

Gre

AAP