Energy & Environment

Exxon Mobil eyes ‘net-zero’ carbon by 2050: report

the exxon mobil logo on a gas storage tank

Exxon Mobil is considering imposing a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, which would represent a sharp about-face after a hedge fund secured three seats on the energy giant’s board earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The target, which remains under consideration, would represent a marked contrast from March 2020, when CEO Darren Woods said European energy companies’ net-zero targets were “beauty competitions” rather than practical strategies.

“All you’re doing is moving out from one company or one country to someplace else,” Woods said in reference to moves by BP and Shell. “It doesn’t solve the problem.”

Since then, however, the company has lost three board seats to Engine No. 1, a hedge fund that has pressed the company to take more aggressive action toward reducing its carbon footprint. The company’s earlier pledges had only involved reductions of carbon intensity, or emissions relative to overall energy produced.

One of the board members from Engine No. 1., Alexander Karsner, has been particularly strident in urging Woods to reorient the company toward reducing the effects of climate change, according to the Journal. A discussion of the issue at a July virtual board meeting reportedly turned combative, the Journal reported, with Karsner saying the company was working to reduce emissions at an unacceptably slow pace.

Exxon Mobil has yet to make a final decision on emissions targets, according to the newspaper, citing people familiar with the matter.

In a statement to The Hill, an Exxon Mobil spokesperson said board deliberations were private.

“However, we reiterate our commitment in working to decarbonize high-emitting sectors through our new Low Carbons Solutions business and our ongoing investments to develop and deploy the technologies that will help society achieve a net zero future,” the spokesperson added. “To further those efforts, we are also advocating for supportive policies, including carbon pricing and cost-effective methane regulations.”

The report comes the same week a group of Senate Democrats announced legislation that would tax major emitters to pay for the costs of pollution and climate change.

Legislation introduced by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) would require companies responsible for at least 0.05 percent of global carbon and methane emissions this century to pay $300 billion into a fund over 10 years. Companies like Exxon Mobil would pay an estimated $5 billion to $6 billion a year under the bill, according to Van Hollen’s office.

–Updated at 12:16 p.m.

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