Italian Oil and Gas Company Will Plant Forests to Make Up for Polluting

(Bloomberg) -- Eni SpA committed to eliminating all carbon dioxide emissions from its oil and gas exploration and production operations by the end of the next decade, in part by planting forests on a large scale.

The Italian giant’s plan, which entails planting 20 million acres of forest in Africa, is the latest example of major oil companies bowing to pressure to do more to prevent runaway climate change. Its European peers Total SA and Royal Dutch Shell Plc have also set targets to reduce the carbon emitted from their own operations.

“Our objective is to achieve net zero emissions in our upstream business by 2030,” Chief Executive Officer Claudio Descalzi said in the company’s strategy update on Friday. “We will accomplish this by increased efficiency to minimize direct upstream CO2 emissions and offsetting residual upstream emissions through large forestry projects.”

The forests planted in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Ghana should be removing about 20 million tons a year of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2030, Eni said. That would offset residual emissions from the company’s upstream business, which it also plans to reduce through greater operational efficiency and minimizing waste. Eni will spend about 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) on “circular economy” initiatives such as these over the next four years.

Beyond forests, Eni has been investing in converting two of its crude oil refineries in Italy -- Gela and Venice -- to instead use vegetable oils. Venice is the first refinery in the world converted from processing traditional fossil fuels to biofuels, the company said.

Unlike Shell and Total, Eni didn’t offer any plans to target emissions from the products they sell to consumers, the biggest portion of these companies’ impact on the climate. Eni also announced on Friday that it will reward investors with a four-year share buyback and an increase in its dividend.

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