Green image dented by rise in emissions

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The Independent Online

BP's emissions of greenhouse gases increased last year on a like-for-like basis, dealing a blow to the company's attempts to portray itself as the world's most environmentally friendly oil major.

BP's emissions of greenhouse gases increased last year on a like-for-like basis, dealing a blow to the company's attempts to portray itself as the world's most environmentally friendly oil major.

Presenting its annual "sustainability report" for 2004, BP said that leaving aside disposals and acquisitions and changes in methodology, its carbon dioxide emissions rose by 1.7 million tonnes to 85.1 million.

The increase comes as a setback to BP after a period of several years when its greenhouse gas emissions were on a downward path. Between 1998 and 2001 its emissions fell by 10 per cent. The company blamed the rise in CO2 last year on the overall expansion of the group, which had more than offset the cut in emissions achieved by environmental initiatives such the reduction in the flaring of unwanted gas at oil fields.

In an attempt to reverse the upward trend, BP has embarked on a $350m (£185m) programme to develop technologies and processes which will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 1 million tonnes a year.

Lord Browne of Madingley, the chief executive, admitted that the launch of the report, which also covers BP's ethical record and safety performance, had been overshadowed by the explosion last month at its Texas City refinery which killed 15 workers and injured more than 70. "It is a forcible and tragic reminder of how things can go wrong, and how safety is something which has to be newly secured every day," he added.

The report shows that BP's safety performance improved last year, with 11 workers killed in accidents compared with 20 in 2003.

However, the number of employees sacked for "unethical behaviour" rose by more than half to 252. The main reasons for dismissal were theft, fraud and harassment but BP said the increase was partly due to better collection of information from its businesses around the world.

BP said it planned to spend $1bn over the next 10 years to improve safety levels in its Russian oil fields and make them more environmentally friendly. It is also seeking to improve its human rights record in Indonesia where construction is scheduled to start on a giant liquified natural gas plant at Tangguh.

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