A prominent Dutch climate change activist accused BP of “ignoring the elephant in the room” at its annual general meeting in Aberdeen yesterday.
Mark van Baal, from shareholder group Follow This, said the Paris climate agreement goal would not be met if oil companies only tackle emissions from their own operations – known as “scopes one and two”.
Mr van Baal said BP had to follow in competitor Shell’s footsteps and start taking responsibility for emissions which come from the use of its products, such as natural gas petrol and diesel – “scope three”.
He added that BP’s plan to reduce emissions while increasing oil and gas production was equivalent to “smoking less but selling more cigarettes”.
BP chief executive Bob Dudley said it was not the company’s job to set targets influencing how its products are used.
BP’s board did support a resolution calling for the company to show how its strategy fits in with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
But Follow This’s resolution asking BP to start setting targets for scope three was not supported by the company’s board, and was back by just 8.35% of shareholders at the AGM.
Mr van Baal said addressing scope three emissions was a “crucial component of meaningful action on climate change”.
He also said BP had the “resources and the brain power” to “make or break” the Paris agreement, which seeks to limit the rise in global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with an aspiration to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
He said: “Scope three is the elephant in the room. These are the emissions caused by the burning of BP fossil fuels.
“The goals of the Paris climate agreement will only be achieved when these go down rapidly.
“But BP’s board does not want to take responsibility for emissions from its products.”
Mr Dudley said: “If we set a target on scope three, that would mean a family of four in a small car comes up to the petrol pump and drives to London – that has a certain carbon footprint.
“The next person drives up in an SUV and drives alone to London. The carbon footprint is very different on that.
“You want us to set targets to say you cannot sell to the SUV owner. This is not for us, it’s for government. We cannot set targets for how people use our products.”
Mr van Baal replied: “You are a powerful company. We have more trust in you than you have in yourselves. You can do this.”