Eni to offset CO2 emissions by saving African forests

Paul Burkhardt and Chiara Albanese May 03, 2019
Photo: Namibia Quiver forest.

JOHANNESBURG (Bloomberg) -- Eni SpA’s plan to offset emissions from its oil and gas operations will focus on working with African communities to prevent deforestation.

The project is part of the Italian energy giant’s goal of removing the equivalent of 20 MMtpa of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2030. On top of efforts to improve operational efficiency and minimize waste, the forest initiative would result in net zero emissions from its upstream fossil fuels business, Eni says.

The company has clarified its plans after the initial announcement in March appeared to involve planting 20 million acres of new forests, an area roughly the size of the U.S. state of South Carolina. While Eni’s initiative will involve planting some new trees, the main focus is on preserving mature forests “which play a crucial role to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere,” the company said.

“We pursue an approach which aims at the sustainable management of forests, their conservation, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks, also leveraging local population as crucial players,” an Eni spokesperson said.

Industry plans

The Italian company will spend about $1.1 billion (1 billion euros on “circular economy” initiatives to reduce emissions over the next four years. Other oil majors have also turned to the forests to offset their climate change footprint.

Eni’s European rival Royal Dutch Shell Plc plans to plant and conserve trees to offset emissions through a $300 million investment over three years. The company will provide carbon credits to its diesel and gasoline customers in the Netherlands. Total SA expects to invest about $100 million in forests starting in 2020.

The oil and gas explorer said it will develop forestry projects through REDD+, a program to reduce emissions stemming from deforestation or forest degradation. The company has formed partnerships with Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Mexico and Brazil. Talks are underway to develop new initiatives in Congo, Indonesia, Mozambique and Ghana, it said.

The strategy includes growth in Eni’s portfolio of low- or zero-carbon energy sources, with an increasing share of gas, biofuels, solar, wind, and “a circular approach to maximize the use of waste as a feedstock and to transform and extend the life of industrial sites,” the company said.

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