Exxon Mobil CEO calls on COP28 to focus on reducing emissions – not phasing out fossil fuels –

  • Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods said on Saturday the “issue” countries need to focus on at the COP28 climate summit is reducing emissions.
  • For many at the summit, COP28 can only be considered a success if there is an agreement to “phase out” all fossil fuels.
  • “I think what society should focus on is the real problem here, which is emissions,” Woods told CNBC at the UN conference.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods said on Saturday the “issue” countries need to focus on at the COP28 climate summit is reducing emissions, as opposed to calls for a collective commitment to Phase out all fossil fuels.

For many participants at the summit taking place in the United Arab Emirates, COP28 can only be considered a success if there is an agreement to “phase out” all fossil fuels, the burning of which is the main cause of the climate crisis.

The text of the final agreement, expected by the end of the conference on December 12, will be closely monitored. A “phase-out” commitment would likely require a move away from fossil fuels until their use ceases, while a “phase-out” could mean a reduction in their use – but not an absolute end.

There is also an ongoing debate about whether a deal should focus on “abated” fossil fuels, which are captured and stored using carbon capture and storage technologies, or on “unabated” fossil fuels, which are widely believed to be are produced and used without significant reductions in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted.

When asked by CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick at COP28 whether it would be the wrong scenario if countries agreed to phase out reduced fossil fuels, Woods replied: “I think what society should focus on is the real issue here, namely the emissions.”

“The challenge is to avoid emissions,” he continued. “How we do that depends on where the technology goes, what the circumstances are and where those emissions are emitted.”

In a speech to world leaders on Friday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres unequivocally called for a complete halt to the burning of fossil fuels to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

“We cannot save a burning planet with a fossil fuel fire hose,” Guterres said. “The 1.5 degree limit is only possible if we finally stop burning all fossil fuels.

However, not everyone agrees with the calls to phase out fossil fuels. Russia has previously said it would oppose the use of that language in the final deal, while COP28 host the United Arab Emirates has signaled its preference for an “exit” instead.

Darren Woods, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Exxon Mobil Corp, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, November 15, 2023. Executives of major multinational companies gather this An audience with the Chinese president and other Asian leaders will be held on the sidelines of APEC in San Francisco this week, as long-frosty U.S.-China relations show only tentative signs of warming. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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“I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution. I actually think part of what has slowed us down is our focus on making a step change and getting out of our existing energy system and starting something completely new.” “It’s going to be a long, expensive process , which will be very, very expensive,” said Exxon Mobil’s Woods.

“Instead, we should be looking at how we can move from where we are today to a lower emissions future, and this will require significant change in some areas. These certainly include wind, solar and… [electric vehicles]but it’s also about decarbonizing what we currently have.”

Woods said there are currently opportunities to reduce the carbon intensity of existing technologies “at a much lower cost.”

“So focus on the issue of emissions. “Be open to a variety of different solutions and make sure that the work that everyone puts into this is focused on the areas where we can achieve the greatest reductions most quickly,” he added.

Executives at major oil companies have previously tried to defend their core business model from climate criticism, saying it would not be possible to please everyone in the transition away from fossil fuels. Officials from major oil-producing countries, including the United Arab Emirates, have also advocated for energy security and the affordability of using fossil fuels while transitioning to the exclusive use of green energy.

Tengku Muhammad Taufik, president and CEO of Malaysia’s state-owned energy company Petronas, said in early October: “So the debate has always been going on here, I remember an old saying: ‘If you want to make everyone happy, sell.’ Ice cream.’ We’re not in the ice cream business – and I remember there are people who are lactose intolerant.”

Exxon announced in mid-October that it had agreed to buy shale rival Pioneer Natural Resources for a whopping $59.5 billion in an all-stock deal. The deal was Exxon’s largest acquisition since its takeover of Mobil nearly 25 years ago and appeared to leave no doubt about its future support for fossil fuels.

Asked about criticism the US oil giant has received from climate activists over the Pioneer deal, Woods said: “Well, from our perspective, there is a demand for oil and gas today, and there will be a demand for oil and gas for the future.”

An Exxon Mobil gas station in Washington, DC, USA, on Tuesday, November 28, 203.

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“Exactly what that level is we all have different views on, but as long as there is demand out there I think society wants the most responsible operators to meet that demand. And what we commit to is.” [to] Be the most responsible operator,” he added.

“Essentially, we will produce more oil at lower cost, more efficiently and with a smaller environmental footprint. This is a win-win-win situation. And we are improving U.S. energy security, so there are many reasons why this deal is good,” Woods said.