Shell, BP and Centrica have talked of backing EU emissions target but withheld support

The UK’s largest energy companies have withheld support for a legally binding target to reduce the EU’s emissions to net zero by 2050, even while publicly backing the plans.

Royal Dutch Shell, BP and British Gas’s owner, Centrica, have all publicly thrown their weight behind more ambitious EU emissions cuts, but none supported the Brussels proposals for a tougher target in an official consultation.

The new target, to be debated by EU leaders in Brussels on Friday, would increase the bloc’s carbon-cutting ambitions from 80%-95% below 1990 levels by 2050, to a carbon neutral target.

The European commission said a climate-neutral future is in line with the Paris climate agreement objective to keep the global temperature increase to well below 2C and pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5C.

Although BP and Shell have both voiced public support for the Paris commitments, neither backed the EU’s plans for a net zero carbon target by 2050 in their response to an official consultation.

The companies’ decision to withhold support for the target has reignited criticism that major polluters are “greenwashing” their plans for the future while remaining opposed to ambitious climate action.

“You can’t claim to be playing your part in tackling the climate emergency and then refuse to back the legislation we need to succeed,” said John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK.

“While Big Oil CEOs proclaim their support for climate action, their rigs are still heading out to drill for more oil and their lobbyists are still busy undermining climate action.”

Read more: The Guardian