Chart: How much are oil and gas firms spending on clean energy? Not much

Fossil fuel companies accounted for just 1% of global climatetech funding last year — while continuing to invest lavishly in their planet-warming products.
By Maria Virginia Olano

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An oil pumpjack next to a solar array. A graphic overlay reads "chart of the week."

Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

Oil and gas companies, eager to distance themselves from the planet-warming reality of their core business, aren’t shy about touting their investments in clean energy and other low-carbon technologies. But new data shows that their effort on this front remains meager.

According to a new report by the International Energy Agency, last year oil and gas companies accounted for just 1.2 percent of the more than $1.6 trillion invested into low- and zero-carbon technologies worldwide. The industry spent $20 billion on such investments in 2022, equal to only 2.7 percent of its total capital spending for the year. More than 60 percent of that investment came from just four companies: Equinor, TotalEnergies, Shell and BP.

To be fair, fossil fuel companies have increased their climatetech spending significantly over the past three years — in 2019 they spent only $3 billion on climatetech. Most of that growth has come from a surge of investment in biofuels, which accounted for more than half of what oil and gas companies invested in low-carbon technologies last year.

But the industry remains squarely at odds with the Paris Agreement targets meant to keep global warming to a manageable level. Even as the planet wraps up the hottest year on record, the industry is still investing 97 percent of its capital in maintaining and expanding fossil fuel operations. That’s a fact that needs to change, rapidly and radically, in the years to come.

The industry needs to come to terms with [the fact] that successful clean energy transitions require much lower demand for oil and gas, which means scaling back oil and gas operations over time — not expanding them. There is no way around this,” writes Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA. The report goes on to state that a reasonable ambition is for 50 percent of capital expenditures to go towards clean energy projects by 2030.”

Maria Virginia Olano is editorial producer at Canary Media.