Greenwashing Alert: Big Oil’s ‘Decarbonization Charter’ at COP28 is a Farce

In an audacious display of greenwashing, fossil fuel giants at the COP28 climate talks in Dubai have unveiled a so-called “Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter.” This move has ignited a firestorm of criticism from civil society groups and frontline activists worldwide, who are calling it a cynical industry-backed smokescreen designed to perpetuate massive carbon, methane, and other greenhouse gas emissions.

David Tong from Oil Change International, voicing his concerns from Dubai, didn’t mince words: “We need legal agreements, not voluntary pledges. The science is clear: staying under 1.5ºC global warming requires a full, fast, fair, and funded phase-out of fossil fuels, starting now.”

The pledge, supported by around 50 state-run and private oil and gas companies, aims to cut upstream emissions of methane to “near-zero” levels and end “routine flaring” by 2030, with a target for “net-zero operations” by 2050. However, what’s glaringly omitted is the fact that it does not address 80-90% of the emissions produced by the industry, which is the downstream consumption of their products.

A damning open letter from 320 groups denounces Sultan al-Jaber, the president of COP28 and CEO of the UAE’s national oil company, for allowing this pledge to masquerade as progress in the face of the hottest year in 125,000 years. The letter states, “Releasing another set of hollow voluntary commitments will not make COP28 a success. Voluntary efforts are insufficient, and are a distraction from the task at hand.”

What’s even more alarming is the Charter’s narrow focus on “operational emissions” without addressing overall fossil fuel production. Recent findings from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Climate and Clear Air Coalition have made it abundantly clear that to meet the 1.5ºC target of the 2015 Paris Agreement, we need to completely and rapidly phase out fossil fuels.

In a parallel development, 118 nations pledged to triple renewable energy by 2030, a commitment that, while welcome, pales in significance if fossil fuels continue to be part of the equation. Kaisa Kosonen from Greenpeace International’s COP28 delegation points out, “The future will be powered by solar and wind, but it won’t happen fast enough unless governments regulate fossil fuels out of the way.”

Veteran climate organizer Bill McKibben sums it up perfectly: “If your company digs stuff up and burns it, you’re the problem. It’s time to wind down your business. Past time.”

The message from environmental activists and green critics is loud and clear: the very architects of the climate crisis should not be dictating the terms of our energy transition. The “Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter” is a dangerous distraction, a greenwashing facade that threatens to derail genuine efforts to tackle the climate emergency. As we navigate COP28, it’s crucial to see beyond these industry ploys and focus on real, legally binding agreements that prioritize the health of our planet and future generations.